I hope your weekend was sugar-filled and not nearly as cold as it was here in Chicago. Winter arrived on Halloween night with freezing rain and 35 mph winds. I salute the trick-or-treaters who made it out.
But luckily there was cake. We had cake for breakfast, cake as a snack, and cake for dessert and that made the colder weather just a little more bearable. Right around this time of year is when I start warming up to pumpkin spice everything. October is for fresh pumpkin and squash in all sorts of savory creations. Why use the packaged goods when all that seasonal produce is just becoming available? It’s not until November that I begin making use of the pumpkin puree, doctored up with all those warming winter spices. It’s the comfort food parallel to flannel shirts and wool scarfs and just feels right.
This cake is loaded with pumpkin spice flavor. Almost a whole can of pumpkin puree is added, reducing the amount of butter used in the recipe and creating a cake that is gooey and soft. Studded with walnuts and dates, I’ve named it a “tea cake” because in my mind that is the perfect way for it to be served, along side a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon. The crumb texture is tender but not quite as dense as a quick bread. The cake is lightly sweetened and I think perfect as a snack or for breakfast rather than dessert. If glazed I imagine it could be elevated to a delicious dessert finale to a fall themed dinner. (An apple cider glaze comes to mind.)
I based this recipe off the persimmon spice cake in a recent cookbook addition: Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan. As mentioned before, I’ve been a little cookbook obsessed and have been adding new volumes faster than I can read them, let alone cook from them. While persimmons (a fruit most common in Japan, sweet and resembling a small orange tomato) would have been lovely, I couldn’t find the Hachiya persimmons called for and pumpkin seemed like a decent substitute. I was tempted to increase the sugar from the original recipe but in the end decided not to as it could change the texture. In the end, this cake was exactly what I was looking for and I was so happy with the results I knew I had to share the recipe.
This cake comes together pretty quickly and keeps well for 3-4 days if tightly wrapped.
Pumpkin Spice Tea Cake
1 1/2 cups (360 grams) pumpkin puree
juice from 1/2 of one lemon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves (I was out and substituted all spice, either is fine)
1/2 cup (110 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 cup (220 grams) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (120 grams) walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup (150 grams) dried figs or dates, chopped (original recipe called for dates, I could only find figs at Trader Joe’s)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Special Equipment Needed: Stand mixer with whisk attachment
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Butter and flour a 9 inch or 10 inch cake pan. The cake can be lined with parchment paper as well but I skipped this step. (I almost always do and never have a problem)
Stir together pumpkin puree, lemon juice and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and the spices. Set aside as well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, on medium high speed. This is an important step to ensure the final texture of the cake so do not skimp! Next stir in the pumpkin puree mixture and then the egg mixing until incorporated. Finally add the flour, pausing to scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX! Since we’re using a lower percentage of butter in this recipe it’s very easy to create a tough texture/crumb if the batter is over mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan. Spread with the back of a spoon to make as even as possible. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool for 15 minutes and then carefully transfer to a plate. Be extra careful with this step, using two plates to flip the cake out and then onto it’s serving platter. I was careless and my cake ended up with a crack in the top. Luckily it was just Matt and I digging in so it didn’t bother us too much but would have been a bummer if I was planning on serving it.