It's the end of October and the pumpkin patches near our home are strewn with plump pumpkins just asking to be carved, roasted, and enjoyed. For the last two weeks, my husband has regularly brought up pumpkins from our garden (of varying shapes and sizes) and we've made at least two forays to local pumpkin patches to support various farmers in our area. I love this time of year!
Thus, a cake is a great way to celebrate the season. This pumpkin cake comes from my friend, Tanja, whom I consider to be a resident cake expert and the queen of all baked goods. It was she who taught me that cake should be simple – the celebration of the everyday, a quotidian pleasure – and that sharing good cake can be nourishing to the soul.
Since she published the recipe in a delightful little cake book more than a decade ago, it has topped the list of my favorite autumnal goodies. (Alas, the collection of cake recipes is no longer in print, but the recipes continue to make regular appearances in my kitchen.)
I'm publishing the recipe here exactly as she prescribes, which produces a wonderfully tender crumb and luscious texture, but if you'd like to make substitutions with more traditional foods, I've included a few suggestions at the end.
Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Pumpkin Whipped Cream
For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
3 Tbls sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
powdered sugar (optional)
Beat eggs with a fork; mix in the sugar. Continue whisking while slowly pouring in the oil. Beat until thick and smooth. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Stir into batter just until blended. Scrape batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 5 minutes.
While cake is baking, beat chilled cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar to stiff peaks. Fold in remaining 1/2 cup of pumpkin by hand. Serve whipped cream with cooled cake dusted with powdered sugar, if desired.
How to Make Pumpkin Pureé
You may certainly use canned pumpkin in this recipe, but if you have a plethora of pumpkins in your kitchen (as I currently do) or you just want to utilize fresh, local ingredients, here's how to easily make pumpkin puree.
- Rinse the pumpkin under warm water, removing any dirt or debris, then cut the pumpkin in half. (The ideal pumpkin for roasting is about 3-4 pounds, as they are sweetest, but you may use any pumpkin or squash you have.) If you are working with a larger pumpkin or would like the pumpkin to cook faster, you may cut it into a few smaller pieces.
- Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon and set aside. Don't discard the seeds, as you can make a lovely, nourishing snack by roasting them with sea salt or savory spices.
- Lay the pumpkin face-down in a large baking dish and cover with 1/4 inch water.
- Bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes (depending on size) or until tender.
- Remove from the oven and scoop out the insides, discarding the skin.
- The roasted pumpkin is now ready to use, but if you'd like a smoother texture, puree it with an immersible blender or food processor. (It's a bit thick for a standard blender, unless you use a Vitamix or Blendtec blender.) For an ultra-smooth texture, pass the mixture through a sieve or tamis, although I'll admit that I rarely have the patience for this step!
- The pumpkin can be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a glass mason jar or other container that won't absorb or leach odors, for up to 5 days.
While I am definitely an advocate of avoiding conventional vegetable oils, namely any oil that is hexane-expressed, hydrogenated, or genetically modified (which, unless it's marked otherwise, you can be assured nearly every oil on the market falls into one of those three categories), please note that switching from oil to butter in this recipe will most definitely change the crumb structure. Oil-based cakes tend to be moist and tender while butter-based cakes are slightly denser and richer.
Changing the sugar will also change the moisture content of the cake, so be prepared to adjust the dry ingredients accordingly. Your final batter should be thick but pourable.
Oil Substitution Suggestion #1: Replace the 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil with 1 cup clarified butter at room temperature + 1/4 cup coconut oil softened. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, then add the sweetener and beat again. Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time. Continue with recipe as directed.
Oil Substitution Suggestion #2: Use an expeller-pressed, non-GMO vegetable oil. This is not a traditional food, but you'll at least be using a minimally-processed product.
Sugar Substitution Suggestion #1: Substitute 1 cup maple syrup for the 2 cups sugar in the cake and 2 Tbls maple syrup for the 3 Tbls sugar in the whipped cream. Pumpkin and maple syrup are a match made in heaven, but it will bring a different flavor to the cake and a distinct change in the moisture content. Again, be ready to adjust your dry ingredients accordingly.
Sugar Substitution Suggestion #2: Try sucanat, rapadura, evaporated cane juice, or any other minimally processed crystallized sweetener at a 1:1 ratio for the sugar.
Flour Substitution Suggestion #1: Soak your flour first, then continue with the recipe. To soak, place all the flour, the pumpkin puree, the sweetener, and the oil in a large bowl. Mix everything together thoroughly, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Incorporate the rest of the ingredients, increasing the baking powder to 2 1/2 tsp.
Flour Substitution Suggestion #2: Use 1 cup fed sourdough starter and 1 3/4 cups of either all-purpose or spelt flour. To use this method, combine the starter, the flour, and 3/4 cup of milk; mixture will be extremely thick. Let sit for 6-8 hours at room temperature. Make recipe as directed, adding the starter mixture when the flour is called for; reduce the butter or oil to 1 cup and reduce the eggs to 3 eggs unless the mixture is exceedingly thick. And no, you won't taste the sourdough. It will heighten the other flavors, though, so even more pumpkin-y goodness!
If these substitutions don't work for you, please write me to let me know! I live at sea level in a moderately humid climate, so what has worked for me may not work for you and I'd like to know if my suggestions don't work where you live.