Freegrace Fridays: Pumpkin Drama

Today would usually be an update on Freegrace hijinks but as I've been away for a few days doing a little work on the other side of the country, I'm as bereft of news from my beloved farm as you are.  More soon, I promise.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a recipe from my latest The Talk segment wherein I made, among other things, a pumpkin version of my Because You're Mine cake.

One thing I can tell you about Freegrace is that my sugar pumpkins are patiently waiting for me to pluck them from the vine.  They are ready to rumble!

Speaking of my pumpkins (and no, that isn't a euphemism...but maybe it should be), our tractor recently broke down and I had to contract out the mowing.  I was teaching all day at King Arthur and I returned home to the wonderful scent of freshly shorn grass.  I puttered out back to see how my various plots were fairing and I noticed that in the far distance, my pumpkin vines weren't looking so well.  They had been perky and flourishing in the wee hours of the morning but upon my return, they looked forlorn and, well, saggy.  As I got closer, I came to realize that not only did I get a mow but some areas got manicured with a weed wacker.  They wacked right through the stems of 3/4 of my pumpkin harvest.  Mind you, it took some effort to cut through the stuff because the lead vines were easily 4 inches in diameter.  All that work, almost 5 months worth of cultivating and growth, gone.  All but 4 of my sugar pumpkins obliterated.

Who knew that inside all that white down was a heart of gold?

I did what any sane woman would do.  I sat down on the soggy ground and wept like a colicy baby.  For 10 minutes I allowed myself extravagant, wet sobs.  I may have repeatedly wailed, "Why?  Why would they do this?" with great drama.  Taken completely by my horticultural loss, I didn't notice that mama had been nudging me and softly murmuring goosey condolences.  Not to be ignored, she crawled into my lap and gave me sweet nibbles, tucking her one eyed head under my chin.

That, my sweet friends, made the slaughter of innocent gourds a small trifle compared to the feathered love my sweet goose displayed.  I'm a lucky farmer to have such friends in my fowl.

But back to the dessert.  Here's the recipe for the cake.  Click here if you missed the segment on The Talk.

A very happy fall to all of you.  I wish for you an unmolested pumpkin harvest and I send you sweet goose nibbles.



For the pumpkin cake
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup cornstarch (helps to keep cake flexible for rolling)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup maple syrup
8 eggs, separated
1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup canola oil
2-3 drops orange gel food coloring (optional)

For the vanilla cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-fat buttermilk

For the filling

2 (8 ounce) packages Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the icing

5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch salt


For the pumpkin cake

• Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

• In a very clean bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, combine the salt and egg whites.  Whisk until light and foamy and slowly add 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar, very slowly, until the egg whites hold a stiff peak and shiny.  Don't over whip to the point that they become dry.
• Transfer the whites to a clean metal bowl.
• In the original mixing bowl (you don't have to clean it) add the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the remaining sugar the maple syrup, pumpkin puree, the oil, and the dye (if using).  Whisk until just combined. 
• In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for at least 30 seconds to distribute the leavening and then sift over the egg yolk mixture.  Fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture until smooth and well combined.  Add 1/4 of the egg whites and stir to lighten.  Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain
• Transfer the batter into the prepared sheet pan and using a large offset spatula, smooth the batter evenly in the pan.
• Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently poke and just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool completely.

For the vanilla cake

• Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spray a 10" round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment.  Set aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter and beat on high until light and fluffy.
• Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to incorporate between each addition.  Add the vanilla.

• In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder, whisk for 30 seconds to distribute the leavening.
• Add half the flour to the mixing bowl on slow, just to combine.  Add the buttermilk and then the remaining flour.  
• Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springs back lightly when touched.  Allow to cool completely.  Once cool, split the cake evenly in half horizontally.

For the filling

• Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whisk until smooth.

For the buttercream icing

• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt.  Place the bowl over a gently simmering saucepan of water, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture reaches 180ºF on a sugar thermometer.
• Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on high until the bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff, shiny and white.  
• Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until the buttercream thickens and becomes smooth.  You may not need all the butter.  If the mixture looks as if it's beginning to curdle, this is a sign that the buttercream is about to come together.  Add another small hob of butter and let the mixer do its thing.

To assemble

• Leaving the pumpkin cake in the pan, cut each sheet of cake into long strips, 4 inches wide; you'll get 3 strips from each pan, altogether.
•Divide the cream cheese filling among each strip and smooth evenly.
• Roll the first strip, cream cheese filling side in, into a tight roll.  Move the roll over to the start of the next strip and continue rolling, with the end of the first roll touching the beginning of the second.  Keep adding strips to make a big fat spiral of cake!  You may have more cake than you need.  Stop when the spiral is 10… in diameter.  Save the left over cake and carefully scrape off any filling on it.  
• Spread a thin layer of buttercream over one of the vanilla cake layers, just enough to cover the top (save the rest of the buttercream to ice the outside of the cake).  Place your giant spiral cake on top of the buttercream.  Smear a thin layer of buttercream over the top of the spiral and top with the remaining layer of vanilla cake.  If you have a 10" cake ring, secure it around the cake to protect while it sets.  Otherwise, wrap it in plastic wrap.  Place the cake in the freezer to set for 1 hour.
• While the cake sets, preheat the oven to 200ºF.  Tear up the extra pumpkin cake with the filling taken off and place on a sheet pan.  Bake for 5 - 10 minutes in the 200º oven in order for it to dry out but don't let it brown.  Allow the cake pieces to cool and then place in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until the cake turns into a powder.  Set aside.
• Remove the cake ring or plastic wrap and cover the entire cake with a thin layer of buttercream.  Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to set.  Smooth the remaining butter cream over the cake in an even layer.  Cut leaf patterns from a piece of parchment to create a stencil, about 6-10.  Smooth the leaves over the surface of the cake.  Gently press the cake "powder" over the cake.  Once the cake is coated, gently remove the parchment to reveal the leaves.

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