Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eat: Praline Pumpkin Cake

Everyone has their preferred season and autumn is definitely mine. What's not to love with all of the changing colors, unpacking of long forgotten sweaters, and multiple federal holidays? Not to mention that the season contains my birthday and wedding anniversary. Here in St. Louis, though, we’ve been enjoying an “Indian Summer” with average temperatures in the eighties. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I'm certainly glad to bask in the extended heat but it just doesn’t feel like fall yet. I have taken a few measures to battle this, including a significant collection of harvest décor in and around my home. I also brought my autumnal motivation to this week’s dish: Praline-Pumpkin Cake. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. Pureed pumpkin, candied pecans, pumpkin pie spice, and caramel sauce should definitely get you in the spirit of fall. Before you know it, you will be whipping up some apple cider and reaching for your warmest slippers and Snuggie.

Be forewarned that this dessert is seriously sugary. Depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is, you may want to skip some of the optional toppings or remember to cut thin slices. I opted to make a round two-layered cake for a more elegant presentation, but this cake could easily be modified for simpler construction in a 9x13-inch baking pan.

TIME: 2 hours & 15 minutes (including baking/cooling time)
YIELDS: 16 servings (small slices)
MY SOUNDTRACK: The Avett Brothers

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see below to learn how to make your own)
1 container cream cheese frosting
Optional: caramel sauce, additional chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 325°F. Stir together the butter (I cut it into smaller portions), whipping cream, and brown sugar. Cook over low heat in a 1-quart saucepan, stirring occasionally until the butter melts. Pour praline blend into two ungreased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. Sprinkle each evenly with the ¾ cup of pecans.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, water, oil, eggs, and 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice. If using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until moistened then on medium speed 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, stir for several minutes, taking care to break up any lumps.

3. Carefully spoon batter on top of pecan-praline mixture in each pan. The batter will be too thick to pour.

4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Cool approximately 5 minutes in pans, then remove the cakes and transfer them to a cooling rack. Let them sit for about an hour, cooling completely.

5. Stir the remaining ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice into frosting. Place one layer on a serving plate, praline side up. Cover the top with frosting. Top with the second cake layer, praline side up, and ice the entire cake with remaining frosting. The rough texture of the pecans will make it difficult to frost the cake completely (as you would a traditional cake) but it still presents nicely. An alternative is to use half of the frosting for the middle layer between cakes and the other half on the top of the cake.

Optional: drizzle the cake with caramel and sprinkle additional pecans on top.

This week's recipe can be found on Betty Crocker's wonderful website.

How to make your own Pumpkin Pie Spice…

Mix together:
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Yields 1 teaspoon

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