I’d planned to put this recipe together and write this post about a month ago, during our school holidays. It seemed a suitable gap in the bustle of family life and a timely mark of the changing season. It wasn’t to be, however, as we decided to take advantage of the glorious crisp and golden Scottish autumn weather, headed for the hills, and simply enjoyed spending time with one another in the fresh air. I can thoroughly recommend it.
I love autumn: it’s my favourite season. And autumn in Scotland is stunning, especially once you leave behind the cities and head to the Trossachs and the Highlands. I think it’s the best season to visit and explore Scotland and, as with this year, we often get a late surge in pleasant sunny weather, that makes roaming about outside a far more pleasant experience.
I also, like many, find the change in season a good excuse to dig out those more traditional and comforting family recipes. I find this with baking too. The late summer and autumn berries and orchard fruits feature heavily in pies, crumbles and cakes.
Nuts, caramel and warming spices also come to mind when deciding what to bake at this time of year.
Like many other aspects of life in the UK, the season of autumn has become heavily influenced by America, including seasonal celebrations and our choice of food and bakes.
When I was a child growing up in Scotland, it was customary to (attempt to) hollow out and carve a scary face on a turnip (or swede if you’re English: don’t even ask). Nowadays, our greengrocers and supermarkets stock an abundance of pumpkins, squashes and other shapely gourds for carving and decorating. When once we “guised”, kids now go out “trick or treating” and few people get the kids to dook for apples in exchange for a handful of Monkey Nuts (unshelled peanuts) and a tangerine. God forbid the dreaded allergen is proffered to your local five year old witch. Instead, ready made bags of chocolate, sweets, crisps and sometimes even money (yes, money!) are doled out from elaborately decorated doorsteps with only the shyest whisper of a joke or turn as payment.
I have no problem with most of this, to be honest, though I insist on keeping the tradition of “guising” alive in my household. I am a sucker for a theme and decoration, and confess to buying purple spider fairy lights for the first Halloween after my first child was born. And if you know me at all, you will know that I *love* to find out about, make, bake and try foods from all over the world.
I suppose that was my round about way of getting on to the subject of baking with pumpkin. Tins of pumpkin, so greatly loved and used by my U.S. baking buddies, are available in a few shops now (at a scandalous price). I’ve used fresh pumpkin too, though can’t resist snapping up a can of Libby’s when I see it, as it is one of those food products that seem so authentically American and therefore, in my eyes, slightly glamorous. No, really!
I made my first Pumpkin Bundt about three years ago (it was nice, but a little dry) and last year I started experimenting with pumpkin in cakes even more after enjoying some of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Loaf (that is only on sale for a short, few weeks.) I’ve since mixed up my own Pumpkin Pie Spice mix (not as easily available in the UK) using Jamie at My Baking Addiction’s recipe (link at the bottom) and tried a few seasonal bakes. If you’re not sure about the whole idea of a cake containing pumpkin, let me assure you that it’s not far from carrot cake and its spice notes, but without the need to grate a bag of them before even lifting a mixing spoon.
I decided to build on last year’s pumpkin cake that was topped with a cream cheese frosting and a gentle sprinkling of Pumpkin Pie Spice. Between the cake and the frosting I lathered some caramel, then made the welcome addition (to my taste) of chopped pecans on top of the frosting.
The recipe is adapted and cobbled together from various places, and believe me, is very straightforward. But it’s sweet, gently spiced and great with a cup of coffee on a cool autumn morning. Make like this or make two cakes, double the quantity of frosting and turn it into a fancier layered cake if you like. It’s certainly tastes decadent enough for such a treatment.
110g of butter, softened
220g of dark brown sugar
135g of bread flour
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 medium eggs
175 of pumpkin purée
200g of caramel (I used half a tin of Carnation Caramel but Dulce de Leche would also be excellent or make your own)
A handful of toasted pecans (6-8 or more if you prefer) chopped
The Cream Cheese Frosting
120g of butter, softened
100g of sieved icing sugar
300g of full fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or, if you prefer, a teaspoon of gingerbread syrup)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8″ square of 9″ round baking tin.
- Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Sieve the dry ingredients together.
- Gently mix the eggs then add them and all the other ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar and mix together thoroughly. The mixture will be quite slack at this stage. Pour it into the prepared tin and spread evenly.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely. The cake will rise and then sink a little whilst cooling.
- Once cool spread the caramel over the top then make the frosting.
- Mix the softened butter with the icing sugar and vanilla until very soft and smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix in gently. I prefer to do this with a spoon as cream cheese frosting can easily turn to liquid (from which there is no return) if overbeaten.
- Either spread or pipe the frosting on top of the caramel and sprinkle with the chopped nuts and any other decorations that you fancy. You may want to make fondant leaves, sprinkle gold sugar on top or scatter some toasted pumpkin seeds over it. You may even want to put the frosting on first then drizzle the caramel over the top. And like I said earlier, it is easily doubled and turned into a layered cake instead of a shallow traybake style as I made here.
Anyway, by the time I got round to making this I ran out of natural daylight to take decent photographs, so apologies for these dull efforts which make the cream cheese frosting look very yellow indeed (which it is not in reality). But you get the idea. I hope you try this and enjoy it as much as my colleagues at work did. 😉
If you fancy, check out my Facebook page, or head over to my Instagram account to see some of the other autumn bakes that I’ve made, including Gingerbread Buns, Gingerbread Latte Macarons, Snickerdoodle Muffins, or Pumpkin and White Chocolate Snickerdoodles.