Pumpkin Spice Cake:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (270 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or canned pure pumpkin (about 1/2 of a 15 ounce can)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (200 grams) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
Note: To make your own buttermilk combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) of milk with 1/2 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes before using.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces (228 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (preferably Grade A dark amber)
3 - 3 1/2 cups (345-410 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (50 grams) toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans
Pumpkin Spice Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour (or spray with Baker's Joy) two - 8 inch (20 cm) cake pans.
Cake: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the pumpkin batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter in half and then pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then invert and remove the cakes from their pans. Cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of your food processor (or use a hand mixer) and pulse until smooth. Add the maple syrup and confectioners' sugar and process just to combine. (Do not over process or the frosting will be too thin.) Adjust syrup or sugar until you have the right consistency.
Assemble: Place one of the cake layers, top side down, on a serving plate. Frost with a layer of icing. Place the second cake, top side down, onto the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with chopped nuts, if desired. Refrigerate but bring to room temperature before serving.
Pumpkin desserts are especially popular during the fall and winter months. Of course, pumpkin pie is America's favorite pumpkin dessert, but this lovely orange colored Pumpkin Spice Cake, containing both pumpkin and its complementary spices; cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, is sure to please. It consists of two layers of moist and flavorful cake that, like a carrot cake, benefits from being filled and frosted with a cream cheese icing. This frosting does deviate from the traditional cream cheese frosting as it contains pure maple syrup. Now, do not confuse pure maple syrup with the corn syrup flavored with artificial maple extract, sometimes called 'pancake syrup', as it does not come close to the real thing and should not be used here. Pure maple syrup is a reddish-brown aromatic liquid that has a distinctive rich, sweet, nutty, flavor that Diana Henry in her book 'Roast Figs Sugar Snow' says is "reminiscent of burnt sugar and fudge". It is produced from the sap of maple trees (in February and March) grown in Canada and the Northeastern United States.
Today we are lucky to have excellent brands of canned pumpkin puree on the market which saves us the time and effort of having to make our own. But if you would like to make your own use the smaller pumpkin varieties like Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese Pumpkin (approximately 5-7 lbs., 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 kg.). To make the puree, first cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stringy fibers, and then place cut-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) for approximately 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours (depending on size) or until easily pierced with a knife. Scoop out the pulp and puree in a food processor until smooth. To extract all the liquid, strain through a cheesecloth lined strainer. Cool the puree before using.
This recipe is adapted from Cindy Mushet's excellent baking newsletter "Baking with the American Harvest". (Unfortunately, it is no longer in publication)