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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Unintentionally crunchy Pumpkin Cake

When we carved the pumpkins, I thought I was going to be able to make pumpkin puree from what we scooped out of the insides. Turns out that pumpkin puree which is used in pumpkin pie, bread, cake, etc is actually from the inner walls of the pumpkin shell and needs to be roasted first. Since my pumpkin is a jack o lantern on display, I cannot roast and scoop him. So to make some pumpkin sweets, I went the old fashioned route of buying a can of Libby's Canned Pumpkin.

This cake was very moist and delicious but had a strange unintentional occasional gritty crunch. I think the crunch was being caused by sugar crystals that were not fully dissolved.  Given my past experiences of cakes not rising due to what I assume was my over beating of the batter, I was conservative on the beating step.  This may have resulted in the sugar not being given ample opportunity to really merge with the other ingredients. 

Auntie's Pumpkin Spice Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs (I only had 3, so I went with that)
2 cups pumpkin pie filling
1 cup applesauce (or oil for the traditionalists)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Mix together dry ingredients. Add eggs, pumpkin and applesauce (or oil if using oil). Blend in nuts. **Grease and flour 2 9 inch pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

**I actually used a bundt pan, so my bake time ended up being 45 minutes....but I went with 30 minutes originally and then kept checking every 5 minutes after that.

The recipe was listed with a cream cheese frosting but we just went with Cool Whip again for the topping.

More gingerbread goodness

Unfortunately, we ate this whole cake and failed to take a photo. But it was really tasty and easy to make so I am posting the recipe anyway. I got the recipe from and then substituted applesauce for the oil. We served it with Cool Whip and it was quite delicious.

Gingerbread Cake
1 cup applesauce (or oil)
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
3 eggs beaten
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnomon
3 cups flour
1/3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Place 3 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Immediately add to batter. Mix well. Pour into 9x13 inch pan (I used some olive oil spray on the pan). Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Serve with vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip (do not use icing).

Carving Cravings

This may be a little off the baking topic, but I haven't carved a pumpkin in years. Last year I decided I wanted to carve one but I was traveling for work every week and never found the time. So, this year I bought two pumpkins so Victor and I could each carve one. It was fun and we were happy with the results but we probably pushed our pending carpal tunnel syndrome up a few years! Guess who did which pumpkin....

Actually, there was some baking involved in this effort. We saved the seeds that we scooped out from inside the pumpkin and roasted them in the oven with a little salt. Roasted pumpkin seeds are high in protein and fiber!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Come in for a bite...

Now that the air has turned a little bit crisper, it's time for gingerbread! I am also up to the letter G in my A to Z cookie quest, so it all worked out nicely.

Building a gingerbread house is a unique process. It's fun to put the concept together, work out the design, purchase all the accents, do the baking, assemble and then surprise yourself that it's actually staying together. Then after it's all completed, the question is: now what? How long to leave it on display? Do we eat it or give it away?

As is typical of all my projects, I had a few shaky moments. The right side roof started to bow inward when I was decorating. After baking, I had put all the pieces back in the oven for a while at 200 degrees to make them really dry and hard...but that last piece of roof only really got 1 hr in the oven and it remained a tiny bit soft. To make this bowing less obvious, I put the ghost peeps on the roof, cutting them so that they appear to be popping through the roof. That's the beauty of the gingerbread house: creativity in decorating can cover most problems.

There are a ton of gingerbread recipes out there, some more complicated than others. I saw some with eggs, some with whipping cream...I used a recipe from which worked out pretty well for me. I made 1.5 batches for the house you see above. I ended up having to do the front wall 2xs (the first one collapsed me when trying to get it off the baking sheet), so it's helpful to have a little extra.

Gingerbread recipe for Gingerbread House (,173,156176-249195,00.html)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I always buy dark)
1/2 cup molasses (I like Grandma's Dark Molasses)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup water

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in molasses. Blend all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternately blend dry ingredients and water into the butter/sugar mixture. The dough will become too stiff for the electric mixer, so the final addition of dry ingredients will need to be blended in by hand. Work dough until smooth in consistency.

When dough is easy to work with, you can roll it out. If you refrigerate the dough (as I did), give it 3 hrs to come to room temp so it can be easily rolled out.

You can either create your own house template using cardboard, or you can download one from the internet. I got my template from

Key step to make sure your gingerbread is sturdy enough to assemble:
After baking, leave pieces in the oven for about 4 hours (or over night) at 200 degrees. This will make the pieces solid and dry (like bricks).