o hell with decorative pumpkins. They’re for eating, not for displaying on the coffee table until the rot around Christmas. I love cooking pumpkin. I love the smell of it in the house, and it’s mild, sweet flavor. Using a real pumpkin is more effort than opening up a can of it, but I think there’s a difference in the end. And it’s nice to know that the pumpkin you’re eating hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long.
So I decided to try microwaving the pumpkin, instead of going the traditional route of roasting the pumpkin in the oven, just to take some of the work out of the lengthy pumpkin puree+cake making process (but I included all three ways of making pumpkin puree below). It was also a way for me to avoid spiking my utilities bill. 7 minutes per pound of pumpkin uses less time and energy than an hour and half in the oven (although I used much less than this). My pumpkin was 8lbs. I cut it into four section and microwaved each section for 8 minutes – about 4 minutes per pound instead of 7. It turned out great. The only downside was I didn’t get to dance around to the oven-baked pumpkin smell in the kitchen.
As for the cake, it couldn’t have turned out better. It was soft on the inside, and had a nice crunchy sugar crust on the top. My 8lb sugar pumpkin made 3 cakes! I ended up giving one to my neighbor, one to my friend as a housewarming gift, and kept one for myself for breakfast this week. I can only find two downsides: 1) It uses a lot of
oil. Not exactly the most healthy thing to eat. 2) After all the thanksgiving-y, christmas-y spices are added, you can’t taste much of the pumpkin. I think I’m going to make pumpkin bread next time, sans spices.
Anyway, enjoy making the cake, or just looking at the pictures. And maybe try microwaved pumpkin sometime.
Adapted from Tartine by Elizabeth Prueitt.
Makes 1 9×5 loaf serving 6 to 8.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin or squash puree (canned or homemade)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar for topping; I used crunchy turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons pepitas (optional but highly recommended)
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
3. In another bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed (or by hand–that’s how I did it) until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides again, then beat on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick purée. Make sure not to overmix, or you will end up with a coarse, tough crumb.
4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with half the topping sugar, then the optional pepitas, and then the rest of the topping sugar. Bake until a tester emerges clean from the center, about 1 hour (I left mine in about 15 minutes longer).
5. Let cook in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:
Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
Let the chunks cool, and then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.
Strain the puree to remove excess water.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. (Again, my pumpkin was 8lbs. I cut it into four section and microwaved each section for 8 minutes – about 4 minutes per pound instead of 7.) Process as above.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, enabling you to enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.
Making pumpkin puree (with microwave)
Here’s my cute little 4lb sugar pumpkin on the counter. I learned the hard way that the little pumpkins have more pumpkin flavor than the big jack-o-lantern kind. I bought him and ate him the next day so I wouldn’t have a chance to name him and get emotionally attached like I do with other cute vegetables that sit on my counter.
I removed the seeds. This isn’t part of the recipe – I just wanted to make toasted pumpkin seeds. Unfortunately, they got burned because I baked these at the same time with the cake, which took more than an hour.
Making the cake
the batter goes from the yellow-orange of the pumpkin and eggs to a rich brown color once all the spices are added in. Also to note – there’s a cup of oil in this recipe. I found that a bit excessive, but it worked out in the end. Although it may not seem like it, this is one of those once-in-a-while desserts.