So, Tygh and I have officially – and permanently – decided we are done having kids. Two is it for us. I maybe could have squeezed out a third, but then likely he or she would have had to be raised by wolves, because Tygh and I are already stretched to the max for child-rearing time.
I was a little sniffly at first (how can this part of my life already be over?) but then I woke up from 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and thought, nah, good decision.
Plus, as Harvey and June get older, I’m finding I actually like them more. I know that sounds awful – but it’s true! Babies are adorable, snuggly little lovies that Hallmark cards are made of. But kids – with tantrums, opinions, thoughts, quirks, personalities– kids are, well, interesting. They push you, make you think, require you to be on your best behavior and often, the very best version of yourself (ok, this is the ideal in my head and lofty goals are important).
And while I realize this may sound incredibly naïve (I mean, I don’t have any teenagers yet), kids really seem to get better with age.
Which brings me to cake. I just adore making cakes. Mostly because I love eating them, but also because they are great – GREAT – do ahead desserts; like kids, they really get better with age. I can see your eyes narrowing in disbelief, but it's true. I routinely make my cake layers days or weeks in advance of when I need them, wrap them up well and freeze for future use. Somehow, a little time to rest tightens the crumb, making them easier to shape and frost, yet with no loss in flavor or texture.
I first read of this trick a few years ago when using Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible – a most amazing book filled with the chemistry and art of baking cakes - and have used this method pretty much ever since. With my day job often getting in the way of my hobby (isn’t that annoying?), this allows me to use free time on nights or weekends to get cakes ready for when I need them most.
This came up most recently as one of my besties from college threw what is becoming an annual Halloween party (I hope she’s reading so that she knows we are kind of planning on this forever). She works her tail off all week at her job, is raising two adorable little boys, and still finds time to handmake her costumes and throw a fabulous party filled with kid-friendly food and enough beer to make trick-or-treating exciting even for the adults. All with perfectly placed eyeliner and the most contagious laugh.
Needless to say, we do what we can to get an invite, then go and enjoy ourselves thoroughly. This year (finally) I offered to offload at least a little of the food burden. And bring a fall inspired cake. Made waaaaaay ahead of time.
The cake itself is vegan (though the frosting is not) and moist, full of pumpkin and spice, sweet but tempered with a classic cream cheese frosting. It was originally a pumpkin bread recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, but I tweaked it a bit to make it cake-friendly. I made the layers two weeks in advance, then wrapped them well and froze. I defrosted the layers in the fridge the night before the party, then threw together the frosting and assembled the day of. Could not have been easier.
Conclusion? This is the first year June has wanted to pick out her costume for Halloween, requesting to be a fireman, an astronaut and a princess fairy (no fucking clue what that last one is in real life besides a Pottery Barn construct). I let her pick one, though I appreciate her desire to be so many things at once, and princess fairy won out (tulle, tiaras, rhinestones and flowing capes versus polyester and plastic – who can blame her?). I love that she cares, partly because that effectively takes it off my list of necessary decisions, but also because a year ago she didn’t and these small assertions of self are so exciting to watch. Harvey could not have cared less about his costume, but I am content to enjoy the last of his opinion-less babyhood for the time being.
As for cake making, it looks like that's going to be my only punkin outlet from here on out...
Pumpkin Cake with Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
For the frosting:
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temp
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
4 C powdered sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
To make the cake:
Oven at 350F.
Lightly grease three 8" cake pans (can do 9" as well, although the layers will be a little shorter and baking times will vary a bit), then line the bottoms with parchment, greasing that as well.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and spices. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin with the wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and mix until just combined. Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans (I swear by a scale for this step), then bake 33-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let rest in pans 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks, removing the parchment, and let cool completely. If freezing, you will wrap each layer 3 times in plastic wrap, then once in foil. Put in ziplock bags and label, freezing for up to 3 months (some people say even longer but that's about my limit). To defrost, let sit overnight in fridge.
To make the frosting:
Cream butter and cream cheese together until light and airy. Add powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla extract and salt, incorporating thoroughly. Use right away, or keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature before using to frost.
Assembling the cake:
If your cake layers didn't cook evenly, level the tops while still cool. Then, invert your first layer on the cake stand or dish. Layer with about 1/3 of the frosting, letting it just come to the sides. Invert the second layer on the first, again topping with another 1/3 of the frosting. Lastly, layer your third layer (top up if not leveled), and frost with the remaining frosting. Garnish with gold leaf, real leaves or anything else that seems fall-ish!