Of all the Project Food Blog challenges, I found this to be one of the most difficult. Challenge #8 is called Piece of Cake: create a sweet or savory baked good featuring the following seasonal ingredient: pumpkin.
It seems so easy, right? But therein lies the challenge – it’s too easy. And let’s be honest, who wants to see another pumpkin recipe the weekend after Thanksgiving? Not me. So I dug deep and tried to think beyond pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.
With Thanksgiving behind us, we are all suddenly inundated with holiday decorations, lights, and images everywhere. Personally I welcome it with open arms – I am a total Christmas freak, and December is hands down my favorite month of the year.
And nothing gets me in the holiday spirit quite like DESSERT! Pumpkin is not just for Thanksgiving anymore – if this doesn’t make it onto your holiday dinner party menus then you are craaaazaay…
1/4 cup Earth Balance non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp ground flax meal
6 tbsp water
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you – you probably already have over half of this list in your pantry!
To Prepare: It starts with the pomegranate – a delicious and mysterious fruit that is packed with antioxidants, and seasonally available around the holidays. I bought two (just in case), but you only need one.
De-seeding a pomegranate is a messy (but worth it) activity. Start by trimming the top off and then scoring all around the outer skin (be careful not to cut all the way through).
Then let the fruits soak in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes – this helps soften the pith and flesh, and makes it easier for the seeds to pop out nice and clean.
When you’re ready, roll up your sleeves and dig in. Break the poms apart and carefully pluck the seeds out into the water bowl. In the end, the seeds will sink and the pith will float – easily separating the useable fruit from the scraps.
Quite possibly the most gorgeous fruit of all. I am totally in love.
And while I wanted to simply sit and pop pomegranate seeds into my mouth all afternoon, there was cake to be baked…
Take a 9 inch spring form pan and line it with foil. Then using either a stick of Earth Balance or cooking spray, grease the foil to prep for baking. Since we’re getting things ready, go ahead and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Onto the FOOD! Start by adding 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1/3 cup Earth Balance, and the entire jar of fig jam to a sauce pot. Figs are another one of those exotic fruits that just scream special occasion to me.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring frequently to melt the butter and combine. Mmmmmm.
While your mixture cooks, shake the other 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds into the bottom of the lined spring form pan.
And once the mixture has come to a boil, carefully pour it into the base of the pan.
Spread evenly across the bottom so that the mixture reaches all sides. Set pan aside and pull out your cake ingredients.
Here’s the thing about pumpkin – it doesn’t really taste like…anything. Aside from its great nutritional qualities, pumpkin is actually kind of blah on its own.
The key is in the SPICES. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger – a timeless combination that makes pumpkin spring to life, and what gives this cake its wonderful spiced flavor. Add all of the pumpkin spices, as well as flour, baking powder, and baking soda to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to combine 1/4 each Earth Balance butter and shortening until well combined.
Add the granulated sugar and beat about 30 seconds.
In the meantime, it’s time to prep two of the handy secrets (not really) to vegan baking. In the science that is vegan baking, there are ways to substitute just about everything, including eggs and buttermilk.
First up the “eggs” – actually a mixture of ground flax meal and water. Add 2 tbsp flax and 6 tbsp water to a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside for about 5 minutes to thicken.
Next up, “buttermilk” – actually a mixture of lemon juice and almond milk. Add 2 tsp lemon juice to a measuring cup, and then fill to the 3/4 cup mark with almond milk. Set aside for a few minutes to let the milk “curdle” (that’s a good thing, I promise).
Add the flax egg to the mixture and beat to combine, followed by the star of the show – the pumpkin.
Alternate adding the “buttermilk” and the flour mixture until everything is combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides!
Once the batter is mixed, carefully pour the mixture on top of the preserves layer on the bottom of the spring form pan.
And then gently spread the cake batter evenly to the edges…
Pop it into a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes. Say a prayer.
The final product should be delicious golden brown on top with a fun surprise waiting underneath.
Now comes the scary part – the FLIP! I enlisted Casey’s help for this step so that I could capture the process. First, remove the spring form outer layer, and peel back the foil from the sides of the cake. Then invert a cake stand on top of the (bottom of) the cake. Close your eyes and FLIP!
Whew! No cake on my floor, and no signs of disaster.
Remove the base of the spring form pan and carefully remove the foil layers. I literally gasped out loud when I saw the final product waiting underneath…
Gooey fig and pomegranate topping, baked into deliciously light and fluffy pumpkin spice cake.
Such a beautiful and tasty holiday treat.
Time to DIG IN.
Cutting into this cake and revealing the moist and airy pumpkin cake inside was definitely one of my more proud culinary moments.
Pumpkin spiced perfection.
A wonderful holiday treat for a dinner party or gathering.
And while it was perfectly delicious on its own, what is cake without ice cream? A heaping glob of pumpkin cinnamon spiced vegan ice cream no less…
(In the interest of not letting this become the world’s longest post, the ice cream recipe will be detailed tomorrow!)
First thing going on my Christmas list this year? An ice cream scoop. And another piece of this cake.
I’m going to be honest. Until this challenge, I have never considered myself to be a very capable baker. But you went to culinary school – people always say. True true, but in 10 months of intense courses, I probably baked for a total of 5 days. I can cook vegetables with my eyes closed, but baking scares me.
So when faced with challenge #8, and the somewhat daunting task of creating a pumpkin baked good, I dug deep to find my inner baker. I am happy to report that it turns out she was in there after all.