November Cake and a little happy-dance
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know about the Visa Tango – after three years of a transatlantic long distance relationship, my dear husband and I decided to get it over with and tie the knot. After an excruciating round of paperwork (disclosing income to prove I could “support him,” pulling together “proof” of the authenticity of our relationship, and paying USCIS a staggering amount of money) and a wait of about six months, Dan finally boarded a plane and winged his way to me and our future together.
Fast forward two years. Dan has had his green card (which is actually white on one side and silver on the other) for almost two years and we’re at the stage where we apply to have his Conditional Status lifted. That means that we’ve managed to live together for two years and, pending review, they’ll finally trust that we’re not faking it, like in that movie.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t thought of our marriage thus far as Conditional, but it does feel like we’ve accomplished something, getting this far. It’s almost like we’re graduating with our Associates Degree in marriage. Like we’re a little more legitimate. Like this whole thing is for real, for real.
I don’t know about you all, but I’ve found my life the last couple of years feeling a little bit like an out of body experience – all of these things I’d always longed for are coming true – I have a man I deeply love, a couple of little dogs that amuse me to no end, an apartment I love despite its *ahem* flaws, and the beginnings of a career that challenges and fulfills me. This is all better than I ever expected my life would be at 28, but it seems unreal that things are so settled, so fast.
Anyway, this November cake is in celebration of mailing off what I hope will be the last big stupid round of paperwork. Do you know what a relief this is? Having this paperwork done makes me feel like this. If you’re reading this, USCIS (and why wouldn’t you be?), please lift my dear Dan’s conditions so that we can get on with life. I love him very much and we’re not the sort of people who would have a sham marriage to get a green card! Honestly! Readers, feel free to chime in! We’re for real, for real!
Now for the cake. This being the official Month Of Turkey and Of Pumpkin, I thought it would be appropriate to make a seasonal cake. And really, pumpkin seems like an Ur-American seasonal treat (See, Big Brother! We’re into American things!) This Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake comes from the latest issue of Fine Cooking – my go-to food magazine – and really couldn’t be more season-appropriate. If, like me, you have no great love for pumpkin pie (I know – sacrilege!) and are looking for a good substitute come Turkey Day – take this one under advisement. It makes a really beautiful dessert centerpiece and the taste has enough pumpkin-y-ness to keep you from being dubbed a Thanksgiving Scrooge and sent to sit in the corner while everyone else chows down on pie.
Furthermore, as I always say, I would double the spices next time I make this cake. And I’d add some nutmeg. But that’s just me.
For the cake
- 1 1/2 c canned pumpkin
- 3/4 c unsalted butter (keep the extra half stick handy to grease your pans)
- 2 c all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 t baking soda
- 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon (*I’d kick this to 2 t if you like spice)
- 1 t ground ginger (*In the future, I’d use 2 t)
- 3/4 t table salt
- 1/4 t ground cloves (*Suggest 1/2 t)
- 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 2/3 c packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 c buttermilk
For the frosting
- 1/2 c unsalted butter
- 8 oz. (1 brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 c powdered sugar
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
- 2/3 c pecans
- 1/2 c unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
- 2 T firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 t table salt
- 1 T ginger syrup
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. (Or spray with Baker’s Joy just before putting the batter in the pans!)
- Brown the butter – this is where the nutty almost caramel-y flavor comes from. First, cut the butter into 1 T chunks to help it melt quickly and evenly. Don’t just dump the whole stick and a half in. Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the butter stops foaming and the solids turn golden-brown, about 4 minutes. IMMEDIATELY pour the browned butter into a small bowl to stop it cooking and let stand until cool, about 15 minutes.
- While your butter is cooling, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the pumpkin purée (canned or homemade) with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended.
- With the mixer set on low, add the dry ingredients 1/2 c at a time, until just combined.
- Add the brown butter (be sure to get all of the delicious solids from the bottom of the bowl!) and mix until incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
- Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto racks and cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, you can make the (optional) topping. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Add the pecans and pepitas (or other nuts and seeds) and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are shiny and brown with sugar.
- Stir in the ginger syrup and continue stirring until evenly coated.
- Remove from the heat and spread on a baking sheet to cool.
- While the topping and cakes continue to cool, make the frosting.
- Beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar together until fluffy and light. (About ten minutes in a stand mixer set to medium-high.)
- Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
- Add the powdered sugar 1/4 c at a time until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to ensure the frosting is homogeneous.
- To assemble the cake, put one layer onto a cake plate or platter – I used a pretty cutting board since I still don’t have a pretty cake plate. *sob*
- Spread a thin layer of frosting on the first layer and top with the second layer – place the second layer bottom side (i.e. pan-side) up, as this will ensure a smooth and level top layer for frosting.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. I find an offset spatula and a lazy Susan make this job very easy.
- Arrange the topping in a ring or a circle or a star or whatever shape you like on top of the cake.
- Serve. I enjoyed mine with a small glass of bourbon. It was an excellent pairing.