Confession time: I am extremely type A and tend to be a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my baking. My family has stood wide-eyed, mouths gaping in horror as they watch me toss out a perfectly good bake with the slightest of imperfections that others would probably not have noticed. So for me to share a picture of a test recipe is huge! BUT I’m so excited about this one that I had to get it to you immediately. To celebrate the fall, I wanted to make a non-traditional, traditional pumpkin cake. Confused yet? What I mean is that I wanted an old fashioned pumpkin layer cake with a twist. This is it people! I created a pumpkin cake, but instead of the traditional pumpkin pie spices, I used a Chinese five spice blend with fresh orange zest and layered it with maple cream cheese frosting. OH. MY. GOODNESS. It’s so delicious. It has all the warmth and comfort of your grandma’s cake but with a really interesting and unique flavor profile. Here it is, my imperfect picture of a really great recipe that I hope you will share with your family like I did with mine. And as I have learned living in the south, the proper greeting for this season is “Happy Fall Ya’ll!”
3 cups (410 grams) all purpose flour, preferably unbleached
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice blend
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (420 grams) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature, preferably organic
zest of 1 orange, preferably organic
1 can (15 ounces/444 ml) pure pumpkin, preferably organic
½ cup (4 ounces/118 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Preparing the pans for baking is a crucial part of the baking process. It’s a technique that once mastered will become a habit every time you bake. There is nothing more disappointing than baking a perfect cake only to have it stick and fall apart when you try to take it out of the pan. Trust me, I’ve been there, it’s not fun. I use two, 8 inch round pans for this recipe and this pan preparation technique.
In a medium size bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the Chinese Five Spice together until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Beat the butter using a paddle attachment if using a stand mixer on medium speed until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Scrape your bowl and add the brown sugar one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed after each addition until each cup is incorporated. Beat for another 3 minutes until completely smooth. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating on medium speed to incorporate well after each addition. Add the orange zest and beat to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and beat in on medium-low speed. Note, when you add the pumpkin the batter will immediately look curdled. Don’t worry, the batter will all come together when you add in the remaining ingredients.When making cake batter you always follow the same technique when incorporating the dry and wet ingredients. With the mixture on the stir setting or the lowest possible setting on your mixture, you begin with the dry, adding 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Then add in the wet, pour in half of the buttermilk and stir until incorporated. Repeat with another 1/3 of flour. Add in the remaining half of the buttermilk. Finish with the remaining 1/3 of the flour. It’s always dry-wet-dry-wet-dry, while mixing on low and stopping just when all of the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.
By the way, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, don’t fret. You simply add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar for each 1/2 cup of milk you are using, stir and in a few moments you will have perfect buttermilk without the need to run to the store makeupless in your pajamas and then of course run into every person you know in town!Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and smooth the top, I used a small offset spatula for that.Bake the cakes for approximately 40-50 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Invert the cakes on to cake boards or a flat surface, gently remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
Make this Maple Cream Cheese Frosting recipe and place in the refrigerator while the cake is cooling.
To prepare the cake for layering and frosting, trim the rounded tops from the cakes using a long serrated knife, and then cut each cake horizontally in half. Beginning with the bottom layer of one the cakes, gently spread 1/4 of the cream cheese frosting and repeat 3 more times, ending with the top of the last layer. If not serving immediately, chill in the refrigerator and remove the cake one hour prior to serving to allow it to reach room temperature.