‘Tis the Season…

November 21, 2010

The Final Masterpiece!

Setting up for the bake-off!

I’ve always felt that Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick. I mean, by the time Halloween is done, Christmas supplies are already out! This is just plain wrong, but this year I made a vow to save Thanksgiving, at least in my household, by making a pumpkin spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting.

Back in my day...

I figured that Thanksgiving should combine the best of Halloween and Christmas, therefore, I chose to make a pumpkin layer cake. It had a Halloween theme and the quality of a Christmas dessert! (I also chose pumpkin because I’ve held that beautiful orange sphere of deliciousness close to my heart ever since I was a wee little tot.)

Preheating the Oven

I won’t bore you with the tales of my glory days, though back in my day I was quite the character… Anyway, we’re here to bake this cake, so let’s get started! First and foremost, preheat that oven! This is crucial if you actually want to bake something.

Creaming the Butter and Sugar

After spraying down two 8 inch cake pans, cream your butter and sugar together. The result should be light and fluffy like a cloud, only brownish. You should cream between 2 to 3 minutes.

Carefully Adding the Eggs

Next, go forth with confidence and add the eggs in one at a time. (This is for minimal splatter, or to prevent the dog of the house from vacuuming the scraps off the floor and getting sick later…).  I used the counter method, but feel free to use the bowl method for cracking your eggs.

Scraping with a Spatula

Also, keep in mind that you can scrape down the sides of your bowl every now and then with a rubber spatula. This ensures that some of the ingredients don’t get left out. On that note, add in the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract, and beat them until it’s fully incorporated.

Measuring and Leveling

Whisk = weapon of choice

Measuring the Buttermilk

With the beating done, turn towards the dry ingredients. First, measure the flour (remembering to level!), baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spice into a large bowl. Then, arm yourself with a whisk and have at it! Don’t forget to measure the buttermilk as well (in a wet measuring cup).

Adding the flour mixture

Adding the milk

Now, take a moment and appreciate how far you’ve come. After that small break, add the flour and buttermilk to the pumpkin batter in three alternative additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Dividing the Batter

Look at those puppies!

After mixing those ingredients in, take your new batter and pour it evenly in between the two cake pans. With that, go ahead and set those puppies in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Mixing the frosting

While those two bad boys are baking in the oven, let’s turn our attention to the frosting. To make the perfect maple cream cheese frosting, first mix the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then add in the maple syrup and confectioners’ sugar. (If you’re not happy with the consistency of the frosting, keep in mind that the sugar will thicken, and syrup with thin it out).

Oh Snap!

Testing with a toothpick

Oh snap! Looks like the baking time is up! To double check our cakes, let’s stick a toothpick in both of them. If it comes out relatively clean (a few crumbs are good), the cakes are ready to go. Before we get started though, allow the cakes some time to cool in their pans. Then flip them over gently and set the cakes right side up to prevent splitting.

Leveling the cakes

Typically, I let the cakes cool even more (sometimes in the freezer) so it’s easier to level them. This is just a matter of preference. Anyways, take that serrated knife and cut away. (Those scraps are where the saying “The journey is the reward” comes from.)

The beginnings of a filling layer

Now, go ahead and transfer your bottom layer to a cake plate. Spreading some frosting on the top of this cake will make a nice filling for your cake.

Finalizing the crumb coat

After completing the filling, bring over the top layer and stack ’em up! Hopefully the cake doesn’t resemble the leaning tower of Pisa, but if it does, that’s a-ok. (Ever heard of the saying, “it’s the inside that counts”?) Now take a bit of frosting and spread it out thinly to create a crumb layer. This traps all of the crumbs and prevents them from showing up on your beautiful frosting later on.

Getting intense... If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

With this over and done with, plop a big ol’ glob o’ frosting right in the center of that top layer. Spread outward with semicircle motions so that the frosting just crests over the edge. Then, use that frosting to spread around the sides. I find myself doing a variation of a ritualistic dance around the cake as I frost, but you could just as easily turn the cake around rather than going around it. (Be sure to act like you’re getting fancy with it. Large sweeping motions tend to impress an audience.)

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!

Finally, after a painstakingly, excruciatingly long process of frosting the cake to perfection, it’s time to go above and beyond with decorations. I went back to the frosting and added in some food coloring. (I mixed yellow and red to get orange, which I thought was fitting considering that the cake is pumpkin.) Then, I filled my piping bag with this colored frosting and added nice star-shaped spots around the edge of the cake and in the middle.

Just after completion!

And that, my friends, is how you make a pumpkin spice layer cake with maple cream cheese frosting.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup fresh or canned pure pumpkin (about 1/2 of a 15 ounce can)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (can be replaced by pumpkin spice)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Recipe by: Joy of Baking

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