Thursday, November 25, 2010

The whole, sentimental enchilada

Hi there. I doubt most of you are on your computers today, with things like turkeys and simmering cranberries occupying most of your free moments, but in case you are:

Happy Thanksgiving to you. May your turkeys be perfectly brined and your potatoes perfectly mashed.

I've always been a bit of an introvert when it comes to matters sentimental. Going around the table and saying what you're thankful for in perfect turn always seemed to me, as a child, akin to brute punishment.

But, since the day beckons for it, at a very fundamental level, I will say that I'm thankful for being able to cook for going on four days now. In a row. I've been eyeballs-deep in piles of mushrooms, onions, cubed and toasted bread for days, and it's been glorious.

So, then, I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for a day devoted simply and only to food. (If you're me, you will cleverly stretch this one day over the course of a week, organizing and participating in, at minimum, three different dinners.) I'm also thankful that pictures involving ceramic dishes with potato gratin can be semi-seductive. They deserve that.

And cake. Who isn't thankful for cake? If you're in need of a last minute Thanksgiving dessert, give this one a try. It's not pie, but traditionalism is a bore anyway. I baked it last week for a friend's going away party, and it was eaten so fast I never got a picture of it. It's that good.

I apologize to those Thanksgiving purists, those of you who would have me saying I'm thankful for love, and life, and faith, and that whole, sentimental enchilada. For now, I've done my part; I've gone around the metaphorical table. Plus, I'm giving you cake.

Over and out. Have a lovely day, readers.

Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger (I used fresh, but you could substitute ground)
1 3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1 15 ounce can pure pumpkin
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut plus additional for garnish

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
3 cups powdered sugar

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Dust pans with flour. Sift 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients into medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and oil in large bowl until combined (mixture will look grainy). For this step, I was without my mixer, and did everything by hand. Your arms will burn, but it will work just fine.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and orange peel; beat until well blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until incorporated. Stir in raisins and 3/4 cup coconut. Divide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack. Run knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks. Turn cakes over, rounded side up. At this point, you can trim the tops of the cake with a serrated knife if you like. I left mine just the way they were, for a slightly more "rustic" cake.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in orange peel and vanilla. Add powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating just until frosting is smooth after each addition (do not overbeat or frosting may become too soft to spread).

The recipe calls for the frosting to be divided in two parts, and spread just in between the cake layers and on the top. I found that there was more than enough to do the sides as well, so that's what I did. This part is up to you. Sprinkle with remaining coconut and serve.

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