Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: Redux

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Two years ago yesterday I made this post, and to date it’s my most popular post of all time. It didn’t garner a lot of attention when I stuck it up there, but daily it’s my most-visited, most-pinned item – by thousands. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. My second-most popular post of all time? Wattle fencing. Third? Cleaning your dishwasher. What is WRONG with you guys? You have seriously weird tastes.

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So the Pie thought it would be fun for me to re-create the post to see if it’s just as good the second time, so here I go: but with way more pizzazz than the first time. HOLD ON TO YER BUTTS.

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Making this for a second time, I’m reminded of how stupidly easy it is, which might be part of its allure. I mean, it feels like I’m making it out of a box, it’s so simple. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and spraying a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. I am doubling this recipe so don’t be alarmed by the sheer amount of pumpkin cake you see here.

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Grab a large bowl and dump in 1 15oz can of unsweetened pumpkin purée. Crack in 4 eggs,  tip in 1 cup vegetable oil, and plop in 1 cup sugar (I reduced this from the last recipe). Give it a thorough whirl with a whisk so it’s gloriously and uniformly orange. Next, in a whole other bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (that’s another small change from the last one).

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Dump that flour stuff carefully into the pumpkin stuff and be thorough with the mixing again.

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Smooth the batter (wasn’t that easy?) into your baking dish and shove it in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Set that glorious orange cake on a wire rack to cool completely. Now you can whip together your amazing cream cheese frosting. I’m doubling the icing amount on this one because I believe that cream cheese icing is the greatest thing in the world and everything needs more of it (this is also why I reduced the sugar in the batter).

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In the bowl of a mixer, plop 8oz/250g plain cream cheese that is room temperature (to avoid lumps) and 1/2 cup softened butter, with a few drops vanilla extract. Beat that smooth and then add in 2-4 cups icing sugar until it’s the consistency that you like.

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Spread that amazingness generously on your lovely dark orange cake and EAT IT.

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Thrifty me, I still had some cream cheese icing leftover from the General’s Spider-Man cake, so I used it on my second cake. It looks a little funny but it tastes just as good!

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Treats

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This is the last pumpkin post, I swear.  We’re finally rid of it.  Fortunately, there is one member of our family who will never tire of pumpkin, and that is The Short and Spoiled One.

Experimenting with Animal Portrait Settings
Have we met?

This is a quick recipe that I put together with inspiration from Betty Crocker and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups brown rice flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  It occurs to me after the fact that you could also use a mixture of brown rice flour and quinoa flour, seeing as quinoa is the new superfood for dogs these days.  Very trendy of you.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs with 1 3/4 cups (or 1 14 oz can) of pure pumpkin purée (not the pie filling) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (all natural, with no added salt or sugar, please).

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until a shaggy dough forms — you may need to use your hands.

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Sprinkle with more flour and stir that in if it’s still tacky.

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Take the dough and form it into a small ball with your palms.  Flatten it into a patty and place it on the baking sheet.  Angle your thumb sideways on one side of the cookie and press it into the dough.  Use the point of one of your fingers to make four indentations along the curve of your thumbprint.   So it looks like a wee paw print.  Cute, eh?

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Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookie.  A finished cookie is crisp and dried out.

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Allow them to cool completely on a rack and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple weeks.  At room temperature in an airtight container they’ll keep for about a week.

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Gren obviously enjoyed testing them.  Here he is waiting for my okay.

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Scarfing down the first piece.

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Discovering the second.

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Scarfing that one too.

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Are there no more?

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Gren was nice enough to share with some of my coworkers’ dogs, and this was the review:

Photo credit: E. Wright

Pumpkin Pie

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I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband.  The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?”  Well, I’ll tell you why.  And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating.  It’s really a great story.  I’ll tell it to you here:

One day, he told me that he really liked pie.

Yep.  That’s the whole story.  That’s why he’s called the Pie.  And now you know.  I hope you aren’t too disappointed.

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Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry.  Sometimes it’s apple.  I can’t keep track.  But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies.  And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely.  So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).

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So, now.  It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice.  If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial.  Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today.  And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies.  I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast.  That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong.  I like doing that.

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For the pastryyou need to make sure everything is cold.  If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy.  For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be.  Ingredients.  Tools.  Bowls.  You name it.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

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Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).

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Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces.  You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.

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Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.

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Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.

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Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.

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Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.

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You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob.  It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking.  You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.

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Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks.  Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.

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When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface.  Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.

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Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry.  You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan.  Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.

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Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough?  That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry.  As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.

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Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit.  If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good.  When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan.  I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.

Rolling pin:

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Folding:

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Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.

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Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.

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I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass.  Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.

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I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.

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I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut.  Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.

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It looks a little demented, but we’re not going for high quality here, just a snack.

For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée.  You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It.  Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.

Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have.  Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness.  Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two.  And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective.  So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.

Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.

Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them.  You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do).  I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.

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Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set).  You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can heat it up again if you like.  We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  Yum!

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Pumpkin Muffins

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The Pie is a huge, HUGE fan of muffins.  Not really sure why.  But he is.  And he requested that with the massive amounts of pumpkin purée we have that I make up some pumpkin muffins.  And I love the Smitten Kitchen so much that I knew I had to use her recipe for these delightful little things.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake cups.  I made these pre-Hallowe’en so the festive liners are TOTALLY justified.

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In one bowl, use a whisk to mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I told you we were going to need it again soon!).

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In yer other bowl, whisk together 1 cup pureed pumpkin (if you’re using a canned variety, make sure that it’s the pure stuff, not the stuff pre-mixed with spices), 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup vegetable oil.  I also added in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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Now pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and use that same whisk again until it’s fully combined.  The whisk means that you can get all the ingredients all mixed in but you don’t have to worry about overmixing.

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Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, so that each cup is about 3/4 full, and combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon to sprinkle over top.

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Bake until they are lovely and puffy and gold and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre muffin comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

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Let those sit in the pan on a rack for about five minutes before you transfer them out of the pan and directly onto the rack.  Then you can go ahead and eat them.

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I love mine with butter.

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The Pie just loves them, period.

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Especially that glorious crusty top.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPPA!

Photo by Ian and Jacky Parker
Badass in a tuxedo at my wedding, holding ice cream.  (Photo by Jackie.)

Today my dad turns SIXTY-FIVE. He’s very well preserved. And still my go-to guy for all information regarding everything. Ever. How to replace a toilet. The exact reasons behind the Red River Rebellion. How to put a motion through City Council.  Which tools are the best for the job at hand. How to use a sextant. The correct procedure for loading and firing a torpedo. Yup, he knows all that stuff.  And more.

Office Reno
Like how to install crown moulding, for instance.

In fact, it’s usually a shock to my brain when I find out that he doesn’t know the answer to something. It’s just too weird.  He’s like prehistoric Google or something.

Dad and Me
Enjoying box seats at the Sens game a few years ago. I actually know more about hockey than he does.  Shocker.  (Photo by Doodle.)

I’m not where he is and he’s not where I am and I have to bake some stuff for the Sweet Treats group at work, so I’m baking today with Dad in mind. He loves cookies pretty much more than anything, and I hope you do, too.  Enjoy!

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I have so much pumpkin puree.  SO VERY MUCH.  I hacked up our carved jobbies from our pumpkin-off, because we only had them out for the day and they were totally salvageable.

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And then I boiled the crap out of them and mashed and blended what came out of it.  I know that I should have roasted them instead but the way that my pumpkin bits worked, that just wasn’t possible.  So boiling it was.

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I ended up with a full 14 cups of puréed pumpkin.  So be warned: there will be several pumpkin-related recipes in the days that follow.

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With the first bit of it, I’m going to make these pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies (recipe from Love From the Oven) for the good folks at work.  So to start, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.

In one bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin (if you’re using canned pumpkin, make sure it’s pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has its own sugar and spices already added), 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well-blended.

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In another bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats, 1 1/2 cups flour (you could use gluten-free flour here, as you don’t have to worry about rising), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and about 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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I like to use the cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg/allspice/clove combination I found at My Baking Addiction. If you’re feeling adventurous, try grinding and grating your own spices for it.

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Cinnamon is harder to grate than nutmeg.

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Some day I will have a dedicated spice grinder, but until then I just carefully wipe out my coffee grinder and chuck in my allspice and cloves.

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Then you just chuck it in a jar for the next time you need it — which, with the way we’re going, is going to be soon.

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Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Your dough is going to be very stiff, so make sure you get everything mixed in well.

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You can add in more spices, as well as raisins, chocolate chips, or nuts.  I decided to add some chocolate chips and pecans for a bit of extra sweetness and crunch.

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Use a spoon to drop the dough onto the baking sheets, and press them down a bit with your fingers (they won’t spread).  Bake them for about 12-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they start to brown.

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Store in a sealed container for a few days or freeze for comfort food cravings some time in the winter!

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Happy Hallowe’en Cupcakes

Hurray!  It’s Hallowe’en!

These spooky cupcakes come from my favourite cupcake book, Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake, and they’re easy as pie.  Or cupcakes.  And pumpkin is an awesome thing to bake with.

‘Twas an ominous storm a-brewing this afternoon when I made them up.  It almost ruined my light! 

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Beat together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sunflower oil, and 2 eggs.

Fold in 1 cup grated pumpkin or butternut squash (you can used canned pumpkin, and I usually add a little extra for moistness) and the grated peel of 1 unwaxed lemon.

Combine in a separate bowl 1 cup self-rising flour (or one cup minus one teaspoon all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder, though for this recipe regular flour works just fine), 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Sift flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and fold in.

Spoon mixture into 12 paper liners and bake for 18 minutes.  I only had medium liners (so I ended up with 24) but usually I make large ones.  Also, make sure to flatten out your batter so it’s level before baking, as the batter, having no butter to melt, won’t do it on its own.  Obviously, I forgot that step.

Cool completely on wire racks.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt 5 oz chopped white chocolate

In a separate bowl, melt 1 oz chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate.  Allow the chocolates to cool for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the white chocolate evenly to cover the top of the cooled cupcakes.

Make a parchment paper cone (fold it into triangles and snip off a corner, though don’t snip the corner until you’re ready to pipe the chocolate).

Pour the dark chocolate into the cone.  It’s easiest if you have an extra pair of hands, but we do what we can with what we have.  Fold over the opening of the cone several times to avoid gooey messes.

Pipe the bittersweet chocolate onto the cupcakes with a central dot surrounded by two concentric circles (you can use a spiral if you have difficulty making discrete circles).

Use a toothpick or skewer to drag lines from the centre chocolate dot out to the edge of the cupcake, about six or seven of them, to make a spiderweb pattern.  Normally they turn out better than this, but I’m not one to dwell on small mistakes.

You can also ice them however you wish, really.  It’s up to you after all.

The cupcakes are best eaten when the chocolate is still gooey, but they can also be chilled in the refrigerator until set.

And hark!  The sun makes a final, feeble attempt to burst through the clouds.

Alas, forces of darkness take over.

Have a very happy and safe Hallowe’en!