November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Caramel Bundt Cake

This cake was a learning experience. I started with a vision of the perfect fall cake. I wanted pumpkin, preferably flavored with ginger and molasses. I wanted caramel, preferably with the deep flavor of browned butter and just a touch salty. And I wanted chocolate. I scoured my cookbooks. Nothing. I scoured the internet. Nothing.

I settled on a recipe for pumpkin cake with oat flour and set about making the necessary alterations. I chopped the sugar volume by a third and altered the spice ratios. Then I got distracted. I aimlessly scrolled down the page, and when I returned to the recipe, I was a few ingredients further along than I should have been. It wasn't until I poured the batter into the bundt pan and thought to myself, gosh, how strange that this cake didn't have either baking soda or baking powder, that I realized my mistake. I scraped the batter out of the pan back into the mix bowl, and whisked in the missing ingredients. Honestly, I'm not sure it made a difference. The cake was fairly flat, but so was the second one. That was mistake one.

I made mistake two with the caramel. Having already rejected the thin liquid caramel glaze the recipe called for in favor of a thicker spread, I got impatient (I was running late for an impromptu early thanksgiving potluck) and neglected to sift the powdered sugar. As you can see from the picture, the result was that my caramel was speckled with sugar pockets. Not bad to eat, but not great to look at either. That was my second mistake.

My third mistake is more subjective. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a huge chocolate fan. Almost every dessert I propose either has a chocolate bake or ends with, and then I'll drizzle on some melted chocolate. Any kind of ice cream or sorbet, add the chocolate. Ginger pudding? Add the chocolate. Gingerbread: douse it with chocolate. I took that approach here. I melted about 6 ounces of dark chocolate (70%) add a few tablespoons of butter and seriously doused the cake with it. Now, this liquid chocolate was delicious. And the cake tasted pretty great with it. There was one serious problem. The chocolate killed the caramel.

I started over the next day (having promised to bring in a cake to my office, as some of my coworkers had recently chipped in to a cake carrier replacement fund when my first cake carrier was stolen from office, thereby preventing me from bringing any more cake to the office). I added the baking soda and powder at the right time (no difference in height); I sifted the powdered sugar (nice smooth glaze, sorry I forgot to take any pictures of it), and, instead of the extra layer of chocolate, I melted a handful of dark chocolate (about an ounce) into the caramel. Perfect!

Because of the oats and the pumpkin, the cake itself is fairly hearty. Almost savory. The caramel is anything but. Next time I make it I might try it as the original recipe recommends, with a thin caramel glaze and candied pumpkin seed topping, which sounds delicious, but just wasn't what I was in the mood for this weekend. Or you could skip the caramel and serve this cake for breakfast. I bet it would be delicious dunked into hot chocolate!

Happy Thanksgiving!

- Franklin

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Icing
Adapted from Blommi and Food52
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Sweetness factor: 9 (frosting); 4 (cake); indulgence factor: 9 (frosting); 4 (cake); difficulty factor: 4; chance I'll make it again: 10.

For the cake:
1.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash cardamom
two eggs
1 fifteen ounce can pumpkin puree
healthy grating of fresh ginger (a few teaspoons)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 ounce chopped dark chocolate
3/4 cup SIFTED powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly butter bundt pan. Grind the oats in a food processor until they're as fine as you think they'll go. Add the flour and other dry ingredients and pulse to mix.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the pumpkin, freshly grated ginger, oil, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla. Note: if you use the same measuring cup for the oil and molasses and measure the oil first, the molasses should glide right out of the cup with none left behind. Whisk to combine. Slowly add the flour mix and whisk until well-combined. You'll now be able to see any of the large bits of oat that didn't grind down. Don't worry about these. Let the batter sit about ten minutes (so those bits of oat get saturated).

Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 35 minutes, until the tester comes out clean and the cake has started to pull away from the sides. Let cool in pan five minutes, then invert onto a rack and let cool completely.

Melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter simmer for 4-5 minutes until it starts to brown and smell a but nutty. Add the brown sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Add the cream. Stir frequently. Let mixture come to a bowl, and bowl for one minute. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate. Stir to ensure the chocolate melts completely. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the mixture reaches a thick consistency (thin enough to poor, but not so thin it will all fall of the cake). Pour onto cake. Let set before transporting.