07 October 2009

Tartine's Pumpkin Tea Cake

Pumpkin Tea Cake (with title)
THANKS to everyone who read, commented, and most especially contributed from last week's post. I'll be replying to the comments soon, but for now I'm glad to have touched people enough to give in a time of despair. You are all so, so awesome, in case you didn't know that yet.

In college we once had an assignment in Communications class: think of one funny thing you witnessed. It can't be a funny story you heard from someone else, it can't be something you saw on television. It had to have happened to you (or, at least, in front of you). I think I must have written down the lamest story about how some lame teacher was tormenting me, thinking it was probably marginally funny. Well, it wasn't. Truth is, it was hardly that funny, and to no one's surprise, it was even less funny to everyone else.

The sad fact is, even though I am a laugher (I consider myself a sitcom guy) and I never fail to see the humor in everyday situations, I could only remember the laughs and the belly laughs, but not what made me laugh. Or if I could, it was from some line from The Simpsons or something.
Pumpkin Tea Cake (whole)
Bothered by my difficulty, I decided to play a game with my parents. It was easy for them: just a few months ago, they were having breakfast in a cafe with a family friend, but there was no newspaper. Someone with a newspaper did, and they immediately pounced on him, thinking he was a newspaper vendor. He was all, "Uh... Okay, you can borrow my paper." Yikes!

Said family friend tried the question on his employees, but they were having the same difficulty as me. "Can't you just ask what sad things happened to me this year? Those are easier to remember!" And really: how true. The tragedies tend to stick with us, and while it's healthy to have a good cry once in a while, we fail to invoke those memories that would be even more useful: those that uplift our spirits.

I have a recent one. I was at the dinner table with a family in Greenville when the 11 year-old son eagerly started sharing a story.
"Yesterday, I was in the shower scrubbing my butt, when I thought..."
"*****!" The mother said, "We're eating!"
Kind of morbidly curious and concerned, I told him to go on ahead; I'm not easily grossed out.
"Okay, so I was scrubbing my butt, when I thought, I'm not really that good at that many sports!"
"*****! Why did you have to share the details of your shower just for that?! They had nothing to do with each other!" The whole table was losing it laughing.
I'm not quite sure it's that funny written out, but I have the biggest smile on my face remembering happy times. Maybe my Communications teacher was onto something.

So, have any funny stories? ;)
Pumpkin Tea Cake (slice)
I would've started by saying this is the perfect recipe to finish that can of pumpkin puree with, but that wouldn't be fair to the cake. In reality, it's the first thing I made with my can of pumpkin, because if you haven't noticed already, I love cake. And tea cake, something you can snack on or have for breakfast without feeling like a pig, is just as good as a frosted cake. There are probably hundreds of pumpkin cake recipes out there, but I went with Tartine because, well, I love that book. And once again, it did not disappoint.

This recipe is again from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tartine. I recently reviewed it over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, finally!

I'm submitting this to Meeta and Aparna for Monthly Mingle: High Tea Treats. Send in your entry before October 15!

Pumpkin Tea Cake adapted from Tartine
I made this in two 8x3 inch (20x7.5cm) loaf pans, but the original recipe only calls for 1 9x5 inch loaf pan. If you're using the latter, increase the baking time to 1 hour. You could use an electric mixer for this, but it doesn't take much of an effort to do it entirely by hand, which is what I did. Just use a light touch if mechanically aided to avoid toughening the crumb.

  • 225g (1-2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 255g (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) pumpkin puree
  • 200g (1 cup) vegetable oil such as safflower (I used canola)
  • 270g (1-1/3 cups) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Line two 8x3 inch loaf pans with parchment paper (you may also just grease them if you like).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the oil, 270g sugar, pumpkin puree, and salt. Whisk vigorously until combined (if the mixture looks separated, just keep whisking and it will eventually come together). Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each so it is completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Sift the flour-spice mixture over this and stir with the spatula or a wooden spoon until just combined (don't be heavy-handed with it). Scrape down the sides every now and then to make sure it's evenly mixed.

Divide the mixture evenly between the pans and smooth the surface (I just strongly rapped it on the counter twice). Sprinkly each evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until a cake tester comes out with few crumbs clinging, about 44-48 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool on a rack completely. Serve at room temperature.

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