Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Friday, 19th October 2012
Chocolate and pumpkin? Who would’ve thought it could taste so good? Definitely not me. I have to admit I’m not a huge pumpkin dessert lover (in fact, I don’t like pumpkin desserts) but this Chocolate Pumpkin Cake changed my mind. Pumpkin isn’t a typical ingredient that I turn to when I’m preparing desserts but since I was in charge of the dessert table for Thanksgiving dinner I thought I should take heed of the tradition.
I decided to prepare the typical dessert fare, deep-dish apple pie (I think I may have gotten a little carried away with the pie – it was huge, towering – what a sight), pecan pie (one of my favourite pies) but I wasn’t too keen about preparing a pumpkin pie.
Remembering that I had to have a chocolate dessert on the menu (my nephew, Steven never would’ve forgiven me if I didn’t bring a chocolate dessert of some type) I thought why not combine chocolate and pumpkin. Steven isn’t a pumpkin lover either but I thought I might just get away with.
When it was time to cut the cake to say I was nervous is a complete understatement. Of course Steven was the first in line and I was hoping I wouldn’t disappoint. I couldn’t help but stare, it was like watching something in slow motion, it seemed to take forever for his fork to cut into the cake and for it to make it’s way into his mouth. I waited with bated breath for, “I don’t like this cake” - whew…it never came.
In fact, he never made mention of the pumpkin flavour, which only made me more nervous because then I was concerned that the pumpkin lovers would be disappointed. Did the flavour get lost amidst the intense chocolate flavour?
Well I didn’t have to be concerned for too long, Liana (my daughter) was second in line and she was quick to say, “Mom what did you put in this chocolate cake, it tastes weird!” I can always count on Liana for an honest critique. Her reaction didn’t come as a big surprise; Liana doesn’t enjoy pumpkin in any form.
The cake is extremely moist and not too sweet. I did soak the cakes with a vanilla bean simple syrup, not because it needed it but because for one, I love the taste of vanilla, two, it added a little sweetness to the cake and three, it was a great way to make use of the leftover bean from the frosting.
I used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to flavour the cake, which paired beautifully with the pumpkin and chocolate. I decided to add a cup of freshly brewed espresso to intensify the chocolate flavour (always a good thing).
I made use of Shirley Corriher’s (author of BakeWise) tip; I added heavy cream to the cake batter, which helped to make the crumb soft and moist. I also added applesauce for added moisture (adding fruit purées to your cake batter will add moisture and also flavour).
To add more vanilla flavour, I decided to layer the chocolate pumpkin cake with Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The tiny specks of vanilla dotted throughout the orange-tinted frosting are beautiful and tempting, I had to resist the repeated urge to dive in with my finger.
If you want to wow your guests at your next holiday gathering this cake embodies all the qualities of a good cake – moist crumb, flavourful and it would make a stunning centrepiece for your dessert table.
Chocolate Pumpkin Cake and Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes 1 three-layer 20-cm (8-inch) cake or 1 three-layer 6-inch cake and 10 cupcakes or 36 standard cupcakes
- Chocolate Pumpkin Cake and Cupcakes
- Vanilla Bean-Simple Syrup
- Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Chocolate Pumpkin Cake and Cupcakes
Adapted from Country Living
- 283 g (1¼ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, extra for greasing tins
- 96 g (1 cup) double-dutch dark cocoa (or Dutch-processed), extra for dusting tins
- 313 g (2½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 300 g (1½ cups) golden yellow sugar (light brown sugar), packed
- 338 g (1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 60 ml (¼ cup) freshly brewed espresso
- 120 ml (½ cup) heavy (whipping) cream, 35%
- 120 ml (½ cup) applesauce
- 355 ml (1½ cups) pumpkin purée
- 5 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F). Grease 3 20-cm (8-inch) round baking tins with softened butter. Line the base of the tins with non-stick baking paper. Lightly grease paper. Dust tins with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If preparing cupcakes, line three standard muffin tins with paper liners. If preparing 15-cm (6-inch) cakes, prepare three tins as above and fill each tin with 480 ml (2 cups) batter.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, sift cocoa powder onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Sift again. Then sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Whisk together to combine well.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together brown sugar, caster sugar and butter at low speed until combined; scrape sides, bottom of bowl and paddle attachment. Add the vanilla; increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat, scraping down sides, bottom of bowl and attachment as needed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, dissolve espresso powder in the freshly brewed espresso; cool slightly.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together espresso mixture, heavy cream, applesauce, and pumpkin purée.
- Reduce mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs, one at-a-time, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides, bottom of bowl and attachment as needed.
- Gradually add the flour mixture alternating with the cream mixture (make sure to begin and end with flour), blending well after each addition.
- Divide the batter evenly between baking tins or if preparing cupcakes, muffin tins. Gently tap the tins on the countertop to release any air bubbles that may have formed.
- Bake, rotating tins halfway through baking time, until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes for cakes and 15 to 20 minutes for cupcakes. Start testing the 15-cm (6-inch) cakes at the 25-minute mark.
- Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 20 minutes. Remove cakes; remove baking paper (cake tins) and return to wire rack. Let stand until cakes are cooled completely.
- For layer cakes, if needed, trim top of each cake layer to level.
Vanilla Bean-Simple Syrup
If you would like to soak the cupcakes with simple syrup, use a toothpick to poke holes on the tops of each cupcake.
- 113 g (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 120 ml (½ cup) water
- ½ vanilla bean, split and seeded
- In a small saucepan bring sugar, water and vanilla bean just to the boil over medium heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from heat. Let stand until cooled completely.
- Remove vanilla bean.
Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 338 g (1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 454 g (1 pound or 4 sticks) unsalted butter
- Orange gel paste food colouring
- In bowl of stand mixer, whisk egg whites, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds together until combined well.
- Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). Heat and continuously whisk the egg mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved, reaches a temperature of 70° C (160° F) and mixture is milky white, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and attach to stand mixer fitted with whip attachment. Beat the egg mixture, starting on low speed gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff and glossy peaks form, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the butter from the refrigerator and cut into 1-cm (½-inch) cubes. Let stand at room temperature (it’s important that the butter is cool but not cold).
- Add the butter, a few cubes at-a-time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. (Don’t be concerned if the mixture looks like it’s splitting with beating it will become smooth again.)
- After all the butter is incorporated remove the whip attachment and attach the paddle. Beat on low speed to eliminate any air pockets that may have formed, 5 minutes.
- Add the gel paste, one-drop at-a-time, until the desired colour is achieved.
Assembling and Decorating Layer Cake or Cupcakes
- Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup
- Brush away crumbs from the top of each cake layer with a pastry brush. Brush the tops of the cakes with simple syrup. Let stand until the tops of cakes are dry to the touch, about 5 minutes. (For best presentation, if you notice any light streaks on the sides of the cake layers, brush with simple syrup.)
- Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (Wilton 1M). Using a bowl scraper push the frosting down into the cone. Twist to seal the bag. Squeeze the bag over the frosting bowl until there is a burst of air and frosting comes out of the bag.
- Place one cake layer, trimmed side up, on cake plate/stand. Pipe a tight circle in a spiral pattern beginning in the centre of the cake working your way towards the edge.
- Carefully place a second cake layer, trimmed side up, on top of the buttercream layer. Repeat piping as above.
- Carefully place the last cake layer, trimmed side down, on top of the buttercream layer. This time pipe a tight spiral beginning at the edge of the cake and working your way towards the centre. If desired, pipe a rosette in the centre of the cake.
- To decorate cupcakes, hold pastry bag at a 90° angle about 6 mm (¼-inch) above the surface of the cupcake. Pipe three spirals of frosting without stopping working upwards, beginning and the outer edge and working towards the centre.
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Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Cakes & Cheesecakes, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Pastry Doughs & Batter, Recipes, Ricette di Base, Torte