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Pumpkin ginger pound cake

I think it’s safe to say that my recent move has changed my relationship to my stuff. In the weeks leading up to the big day, we had a yard sale and purged a ton of stuff. We dropped off loads of goods at the Goodwill. I even opened up the Boxes in the Basement. You know, the boxes full of lifetime detritus that you only ever look at when you’re packing up to move — and I sorted through them, culled some things, and made albums with old photos. I’m turning over a new leaf in my relationship with all the stuff I carry around with me, folks. I’m determined that if I’m going to have stuff in my life, I’m going to use it and enjoy it, not just resent it when it’s time to move.

All of this, in a roundabout way, was my motivation for making this cake.  (Well, that and a desire for cake.) I have this really cute jack o’lantern muffin tin, which of course only gets used at a particular time of year. This past weekend I realized that  it was the end of October and I hadn’t used it yet. And if the darned thing was going to get used this year, Sunday was the day. 

This recipe is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe that came into my life many years ago, and its appeal stretches far beyond Halloween.

I normally bake it as a Bundt cake, but in honour of the season, and the pumpkin-shaped tin, I made cupcakes and baked the leftover batter in a small loaf pan. The original recipe is very nice, but since I am a lover of all things ginger I boosted the fresh ginger content a fair bit, and added some ground white pepper for a spicy kick.  

Also, the original recipe tells you to separate the eggs, whip the whites and add them at the end for maximum volume. This has some merit, and will make a lighter cake. But what cake-baking mother of a three-month-old has time for that, I ask you? We all draw our lines in the sand.

This cake is delicious with vanilla ice cream or some custard. It is also excellent on its own. If you have the willpower, it even ages well over a couple of days as the flavours develop. Just keep it at room temperature and wrapped in plastic or foil.

Pumpkin ginger pound cake
(batter will make one Bundt pan, 24 small-ish cupcakes, or 2 small loaves.)

1 cup unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour; more for the pan (I used all-purpose flour, and it turned out just fine.)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice 
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée ( I roasted my own pumpkin, but canned will work just fine, too.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your pans by brushing them with butter, then dusting with flour.

Combine the dry ingredients: in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices; whisk to combine.

Make the wet mixture: in a large stand mixer, mix the butter at medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the brown sugar. Bringing the mixer back up to medium, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffly. On low speed, add the eggs, mixing  just to combine. Add the vanilla, grated fresh ginger, pumpkin puree and vegetable oil, and mix until smooth.

Dry meets wet: With the mixer on low speed, mix in one-third of the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears. Repeat with the flour in two more passes, making sure to scrape down the sides of bowl thoroughly. Mix just until combined.

Bake: Spoon the batter into your prepared pan (or pans). Your baking time will vary: 40-50 minutes for a Bundt cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, and 30-35 minutes for loaves. In any case, to test a cake for doneness, touch the top in the center with your fingertip. It should spring back when you take your hand away. Alternatively, you can insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake.  If it comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, it’s done.

Let cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake pan onto a cooling rack to finish the job.  To serve, a light dusting of icing sugar will make it pretty. But really, you’ll already have impressed everyone just by making this cake.

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