You really should go visit a local pumpkin patch. Don’t get lazy and just buy one at the grocery store. I had a charming morning encounter with a couple of sprightly old men when I walked into the Episcopal church pumpkin sale in our town. The pumpkins were grouped by size and shape on several of the flat gravestones in the 18th century churchyard. I wandered around, enjoying the views of exotic gourds and enormous pumpkins before I bought a couple of decorative white pumpkins to put on the kitchen table, and a small pumpkin for making my own pumpkin purée. I’m sorry, Libby’s, but we are going full homemade for baking this week.
Pumpkins are not just for Halloween decorations and Thanksgiving pie. It’s time to expand our repertoires and use some of our local produce with seasonal gusto. I love a nice spicy pumpkin cake, and even though I have it all gussied up as a fancy cupcake in this week’s illo, it tastes just as deelish when baked as a utilitarian sheet cake, slathered with un-photogenic swathes of cream cheese icing. Behind-the-scenes homely sheet cakes are every bit as wonderful as the fancy shop cupcakes, and easier to pack in lunches, too.
You will need to make pumpkin purée. It is messy and fun, and for your first batch you can employ child labor. After that they will be wise to your ways, so enjoy yourselves for an afternoon. It is an early lesson in farm-to-table. They can pick out the pumpkin, bring it home, carve it up, bake it, purée it, and bake a pumpkin cake. So artisanal! So Union Square Greenmarket!
Be sure to choose smaller pumpkins, weighing 2 to 4 pounds, for making purée. Larger pumpkins tend to be dry and stringy. An ice cream scoop is a handy tool for removing the seeds and membrane from inside the pumpkin – but I once used an electric jig saw for jack-o-lantern carving, so use whatever makes you happy. You can store the purée in bags or in freezer-proof dishes, which means you can whip out homemade purée for almost any occasion. I know some people use it for making homemade dog treats, but Luke the wonder dog is just going to have to be happy with store-bought kibble!
The Pioneer Woman has a nice and easy step-by-step post about making pumpkin purée: https://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/make-your-own-pumpkin-puree/
Pumpkin Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. I always use this glass pan.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-36 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top or edges of the cake is/are browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
Remove the cake from the oven and set the entire pan on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. After about 45 minutes, I usually place the cake in the refrigerator to speed things up.
Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it). Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This helps sets the frosting and makes cutting easier.
Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/best-pumpkin-cake/
Pumpkin cake from Martha – she calls for canned pumpkin purée: https://www.marthastewart.com/1128115/pumpkin-bars
Grown-up pumpkin bundt cake (no frosting!):
Pumpkin cupcakes: https://beyondfrosting.com/2018/09/17/moist-pumpkin-cupcakes/
Luke insists that I include this recipe for dog treats: https://www.spendwithpennies.com/pumpkin-dog-treat-recipe/
I found this recipe at the Redman Farms Facebook page: https://www.cookingwithmaryandfriends.com/2012/09/oooo-i-just-love-fall-and-all-yummy.html?
“Like many indelible family memories, carving a pumpkin begins with someone grabbing a really sharp knife.”
– Dana Gould