pumpkin

basic bundt series: spice cake

Hey guess what!
It’s finally officially fall, y’all!

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again).

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. It’s clearly, obviously, indisputably the best season ever, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.
I told you it was indisputable okay?
The only negative thing I could ever say about fall, if I had to come up with something, is that it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cooler weather means we can finally turn off the air conditioner and open up the windows. It means layered clothing, and finally giving up on the “beach body” I’m never going to have. It means beautiful brightly colored foliage, falling leaves, crisp fresh air, and spending as much time outdoors as possible before it’s too late.

It also means all of my favorite foods are back in season. Squash and pumpkins and root veggies and soups and stews and braises and apples and pears and fresh sweet cider and sugar-coated cider doughnuts and everything infused with warm homey baking spices.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, I’m well aware that Martha Stewart thinks pumpkin spice is for basic bitches only, but I also happen to know that she has a thing for a well baked spice cake. And hey, this is the basic bundt series after all, so why not embrace the basic and just go for it?

Basic or not, the classic combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, & clove will never go out of style. I mean, can you think of any better flavor to usher in the best season of the year?

No.
You can’t.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyways, not to toot my own horn or anything (toot toot), but this is one seriously delicious freaking cake!

It’s tender and moist with a soft delicate crumb, a refined subtle sweetness, and the perfect amount of spice. I tested this recipe half a dozen times to get it juuuust right, and I seriously couldn’t be happier with the results. My coworkers, for that matter, couldn’t have been happier that I baked so many cakes to get the recipe just right either. The poor dears.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite thing about this recipe though, is just how versatile it is.

The whole idea behind the basic bundt series was to come up with simple and straightforward, but completely flawless, cake recipes that can either be baked and enjoyed as is, or gussied up and personalized with a few easy additions or substitutions.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I did my recipe testing this time around, I didn’t just play with the spice levels to perfect them, I also experimented with different “liquid” ingredients to change the flavor profile. I started with and perfected a simple buttermilk-based spice cake, but then I tried swapping the buttermilk for other ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, grated fresh apples, and canned pumpkin puree.

Without changing a single other ingredient, swapping out the buttermilk for something else produces an entirely new and distinctly different cake! I promise that I’ve tried and tested all of these substitutions and they’re all equally delicious and perfectly spiced.
The pumpkin version was definitely a favorite with my (decidedly basic) coworkers.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The endless variations you can put on this recipe don’t have to stop with swapping out the buttermilk either. This cake is just screaming for a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans, or a bit of buttery streusel. Even changing the glaze could make a difference in the flavor profile. I decided that a tangy cream cheese glaze would pair perfectly with any one of the buttermilk, apple, or pumpkin versions of the cake; but I think that a thick caramel glaze would be heavenly too. You could also do a bourbon glaze, or maybe even just sprinkle the cake with cinnamon and granulated sugar.

No matter what variation you choose to bake though, this perfectly spiced basic bundt is sure to satisfy the basic bitch in all of us this fall.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spice Cake Bundt

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk *see note below for alternatives

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan (or spray with a baking spray that includes flour), and refrigerate while preparing the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, & nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, & brown sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping between additions. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together oil, vanilla, & buttermilk (or substitution). In the bowl with the butter and sugars, alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures at low speed, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until combined and do not overwork the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth out the top, and firmly pound the pan against the countertop several times to tap out any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before turning the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Once cool, drizzle with cream cheese glaze (recipe below) if desired. Cake should keep, in an air tight container at room temperature, for about 3 or 4 days.

*baker’s note:
Changing the flavor profile of this cake couldn’t be simpler.
Just omit the buttermilk completely, and substitute with one of the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • an entire 15 oz can (1 3/4 cups) of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups grated baking apples, well packed (peeled and cored before grating)

The applesauce cake should bake for the same time, and the pumpkin and grated apple cakes may take about 5 extra minutes or so.

Cream Cheese Bundt Glaze: 
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 6 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, gently tapping the tray on the counter to smooth it out if necessary.

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bourbon ginger pumpkin pie

There’s just something about pumpkin pie.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was a kid I was completely obsessed with pumpkin pie and had a really hard time understanding why we only ate it at Thanksgiving and not, say, every single day of the year.

My grandmother would always make her pies a day ahead and stash them in her sewing room, usually one of the coolest rooms in the house, to rest until after dinner on turkey day. She always covered them with an oversized square of waxed paper, and when no one was looking I’d sneak into the sewing room, close the door behind me, and lift the paper up and just stare at those pies.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I knew I couldn’t eat them until after dinner, but that didn’t stop me from just standing there taking in their earthy, homey aroma. I was tempted but I never touched them. I just wanted to look.

Of course, once dinner was over wild horses couldn’t have kept me from tearing into those rich, earthy, custardy pies.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was trying to decide what to serve for my fakesgiving dinner, the pumpkin pie was the menu item I had the most trouble with.

I think that my love for pumpkin pie was clouding my judgement. I wanted to do something sort of elevated and innovative, but I just couldn’t make up my mind. I took to pinterest to soak up some inspiration, and quickly realized that anyone who has ever posted a recipe on the internet has their own way of making pumpkin pie, and that any and every type of dessert ever invented and has had pumpkin and spice added to it at some point.

Just try typing the words “pumpkin dessert” into the search bar on pinterest. I dare you. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin custards, pumpkin flans, pumpkin trifles, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream served inside a hollowed out pumpkin…

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

My head spinning, I moved on from pinterest and decided to check some of my favorite food blogs and websites for ideas. Eventually I stumbled across an entire opinion thread on serving these fancy pants pumpkin desserts for Thanksgiving.

Someone had written to say that he was invited by some foodie friends to a Thanksgiving potluck and he was in charge of the pumpkin pie. He wanted to impress his friends and take pumpkin pie to the next level, and was asking for some help with ideas and inspiration.  (sound familiar?)
The answers he got back were a total surprise to me, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Everyone was basically saying either:
A) just make a damn pumpkin pie because that’s all people really want to eat anyway.
or
B) go ahead and make your fancy pants “elevated” pumpkin dessert, but you should make a damn pumpkin pie too and bring both, because that’s all people really want to eat anyway.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, I tossed all the recipes for pumpkin tarts and custards and trifles out the window, and started thinking about why I was so enamored with Grandma’s pumpkin pie in the first place. It was all about the buttery crust, the earthy sweet pumpkin, the warm spices, and the rich creamy custard. Why complicate things?

Of course I did want to do something just a little special with my pie this year, but was looking for a subtle twist on the classics rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Just a touch of (totally optional) bourbon and some grated fresh ginger was all I needed to take things to the next level.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I also thought it would be fun to make some more work for myself by roasting my own sugar pumpkins instead of using canned. To save some time and a few dishes I tried mashing the pumpkin flesh rather than completely pureeing it in the food processor. You guys. Don’t do this. Just puree your pumpkin. (Or use canned)

When I started mixing in the rest of the ingredients, I realized that my pumpkin was kind of lumpy and had some strands of fiber in it.  Not wanting to end up with a funky lumpy pie filling, I decided to toss the entire bowl into the food processor to smooth it out. What I didn’t realize was that doing this would also whip the cream in my filling and make it sort of frothy. While the texture of the filling wasn’t changed, it did make the top of the pie look sort of funky and pitted. Not a big deal really, just a little funny looking.

A few days later I read online that in a blind taste test, most people preferred the taste and texture of pies made with canned pumpkin puree over homemade. Ugh. Whatever.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whether you decide to roast your own pumpkins or reach for the can, this pumpkin pie is everything you could ever want in a Thanksgiving pie. Rich, thick, creamy, custardy, earthy, & warmly spiced. A little slice of heaven with a buttery flaky crust.

Because I don’t usually keep evaporated milk in the house, the filling is made completely from scratch, using only eggs and cream and milk instead of evaporated or condensed milk for the base of the custard. A splash of  bourbon adds a touch of warmth and depth without necessarily making it taste “boozey”, and using grated fresh ginger adds an edge of zingy heat that you wouldn’t otherwise get. When sliced and served a few of our friends noticed the hint of bourbon, others the touch of ginger, and others still didn’t notice anything until I told them. Neither of these flavors is overpowering, nor do they really change or alter the flavor profile of the classic pie everyone is craving on Thanksgiving day. If you’re looking for a classic pumpkin pie with a subtle something extra, this is the recipe for you.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Bourbon Ginger Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

1 single pie crust * see note
2 cups (or 15oz can) pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 and 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or rum would work too)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425F.
Roll out pie crust and gently transfer to a 9.5″ or deep dish pie dish (** see note). Trim and crimp the edges and freeze the crust for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Fit the crust with a large square of parchment paper and fill the dish with pie weights, dried beans, or even pennies. Bake the crust at 425 for about 15 minutes or until the crust is set and the edges are beginning to brown. This is called blind baking the pie shell. For more info, the Kitchn has a great tutorial.

If you have any leftover dough from trimming and want to get fancy, you can use a cookie cutter or pastry stamp to create fall leaves for decoration. This is totally unnecessary but kind of fancy and fun. Cut the leaves out and bake on a parchment lined sheet pan in the same oven as the pie crust for about 10 minutes. You want them cooked through and nicely browned, but not burned. They won’t really brown any further once you add them to the pie filling.

Let the leaves and the pie shell cool and turn the oven down to 375F.

For the filling:
Whisk or stir the pumpkin, eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add all remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously until everything is well combined.

Pour filling into the pre-baked shell. Bake until the center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes or so. It’s okay if a small part of the very center is still wobbly, it’ll continue to cook and set as it cools. After about 25 or 30 minutes of baking, Add the pre-baked fall leaves if desired.

Cool completely before serving. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes:
*You can use any recipe you like, or even a store bought crust, but I think all butter crusts have the best flavor. I used my favorite crust recipe, but it makes two single crusts so you can freeze one, make another pie, or use the other for your maple walnut pie.

**If you don’t have a 9.5″ or deep dish pan, you’ll likely have a bit too much filling. Do not overfill or it may run and drip. Any extra can be baked separately in ramekins if necessary.