Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On the other hand...

This week at the grocery store, after scanning all of my items, the checkout worker asked me "So what's the pumpkin for?" "Huh?" I asked. "Well, it just seems like you are really into the whole, 'seasonal' thing, and I just had to ask what the pumpkin is for." "Oh, I was just really feeling a pumpkin cake this week," I replied. Which is odd considering the rest of my cart was full of the first local mustard greens of the season, carrots, and kale, and even more odd considering my on/off (mostly off) relationship with baked goods.

I have never been much of a baker. When I first started cooking, it was one of the things I was really bad at. Then, when I was in nursing school, my friends and I started something we called "Blue Bag Wednesdays." One day someone brought some treats to class in a sparkly blue bag to share with all of us. I had the idea to pass the bag from person to person, each one responsible for baking a tasty treat to share, ironically enough, during our Wednesday nutrition class. People got pretty competitive as the weeks passed. One brought mini pear tarts wrapped individually with parchment paper and tied with a flower bound in twine. Another, for Passover, brought cream puffs made without flour in honor of her Jewish father. I brought cookies. Every time I had the bag in my possession, I tried a different cookie recipe, often times bringing them in overcooked and burnt on the bottom, or undercooked and a little bit too chewy. I brought them in week after week to try to hone my skills a little bit, and by the end of the semester I managed to bring in a passable batch--lightly browned on the bottom, fully cooked, but still soft and chewy. I was pretty proud.

I've only baked a little bit since then, and when I do it's not usually for myself. Until this week. When the pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting recipe that I clipped last wall called out to me. And I decided I could make an "every day" cake. Something to have a piece of, just a little, after dinner. And remember that while March this year may be mild, the nights are still chilly and it's not quite summer.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
from Cooking Light

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) package low fat cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine flour through salt in a medium bowl, mix with a whisk.

Combine brown sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl, mix well with a mixer at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin, mix well. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack (or in the pan, like me, because I don't have a wire rack).

For the frosting, combine the butter, vanilla and cream cheese in a medium bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Add sugar, one cup at a time, beating until well combined. Frost cake.

Serves 24 (Cooking Light servings, or 16ish regular servings).

**I just read the reviews of this on the Cooking Light website, and people were pretty harsh. I liked it in all its dense glory (like I said, I'm not a baker), but maybe next time I'd add a little more cinnamon and maybe a dash of nutmeg and/or cloves to up the spice factor in the cake.

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