Has it really been over one month since my last post? Atrocious. If this ever happens again, please readers, just find me via text/email/Facebook/face-to-face and slap me. One month without delicious desserts to divulge? That in itself is an epic phail, and will not/shall not occur again.
On a brighter note, it's finally spring! This year, spring fever was in full swing - new experiences [raves], new relationships [from those raves], new friends [also from those raves], and a new me. I feel happy, but in a different way. This kind of happiness is radiating from the inside out. I find myself worrying less about trivial matters like what scores others are getting on exams, and enjoying life more. Things like playing frisbee outside, sleeping in until 2pm, and going for a run outside are so refreshing and new; I love it.
Reality is not far behind, however, and two weeks of midterms were an ode to that. Those two weeks translated into putting any notions of food on the back burner until all academic necessities had been taken care of. But finally exams ended, and the baking began, and I began with this: Pumpkin poppyseed cake, cinnamon chocolate shortbread, and cardamom caramel.
Pumpkin is an odd item to use in this spring weather, but I had a can of pumpkin pie mix lying around and I wanted to clear my pantry of anything wintery so that once I return from spring break I can restock with more seasonal ingredients [Stay tuned for what I did with the last of the pumpkin in my next post]. The inspiration derived partially from my finishing course at Flour + Water in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the dessert that night was mediocre, but I liked the presentation. It was simple yet elegant, and I knew I could recreate it at home with ease.
The glaze on the cake really accentuates the pumpkin flavour, so do not skimp on it. As for the caramel, it is best to infuse the cream with the cardamom the day before, but if you are spontaneous like me and don't think of these things, it's not a big deal; just scald your cream first so that it has some time to cool and develop the cardamom accent before you begin work on the caramel.
If you really want to save time, you can bake the cake and the shortbread cookies together, but as usual, I lack efficiency in the kitchen and didn't think of doing this until it was too late. You also get the advantage of not having to torture yourself by ogling at the cake longingly while you wait for the cookies to finish.
And it sucks to wait; trust me.
Pumpkin Poppyseed Cake
4 tablespoons pumpkin pie mix [from a can]
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) sifted whole-wheat flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (28 grams) poppy seeds
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin pie mix [from a can]
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch round pan, line bottom with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan interior. In a small mixing bowl, lightly combine the 4 Tbsp of pumpkin pie mix, eggs, and vanilla.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute.
3. Scrape down sides. Add remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down sides and scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
4. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, put it on a rack, poke all over with a wire tester or a toothpick, and brush with half of the pumpkin pie mix. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack. Poke bottom of cake with tester, brush with some more pumpkin, and set right side up. Brush sides with remaining pumpkin and allow to cool completely.Cinnamon-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
- 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour (about 6 2/3 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/3 cup ice water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8x8 pan and set aside.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and measuring spoons; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine 1/3 cup ice water and vanilla; drizzle over flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until moist.
Spread dough in prepared pan evenly. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool cookies on pans 5 minutes. Cut into 9 squares, then cut those in half to form 18 triangles.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cardamom pods, crushed
- Combine cardamom and cream in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. This is best done the day before so that cream has time to infuse.
- Put sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot and moisten with a bit of water, making sure that there is no sugar granules on the sides of the pot. Set over high heat and cook until it turns a medium amber colour.
- Remove from heat and strain cream into sugar, whisking constantly. The caramel will seize up, but don't worry.
- Set pot over low heat and continue to cook until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage [check this by doing the ice water test if you do not have a candy thermometer].
- Remove from heat and let cool completely.