It is Secret Recipe Club time again and this month I was assigned the delightful blog, Adventures in All Things Food written by Andrea Kruse. Andrea lives in Oregon on their family farm and is busy with three children under the age of 6! Can you imagine? She must be running around like crazy every day. But she still manages to get into the kitchen where she fulfills her passion for baking and cooking. I love Oregon and we would have fun rooting against each other during football season because she went to Univ of Oregon and I went to Oregon State! What fun that would be because you know the food would be much better than the football, LOL!
When I started cruising through Andrea’s recipes, I knew I needed something related to chocolate, but kept getting distracted by so many delicious recipes that I can’t wait to try! Who wouldn’t love Skillet Baked Pesto and Tomato Taters for a quick weeknight meal? Or wake up to the aromas of Apple Walnut Waffles cooking? The next party I’m throwing will definitely have Andrea’s Creamy Sweet Potato Hummus on the menu. I’ve always wanted to try making my own cheese and her Queso Fresco looks like the perfect recipe to give it a go. So many wonderful distractions! 🙂
But I finally narrowed it down to Andrea’s Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. I know, the temperatures are still in the 80’s and 90’s but my mind is racing ahead to cooler days and chilly nights when I can pull on my cozy sweaters and cuddle in front of a fire. And with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner, this looked like a really fun recipe to try.
I love the idea of using pumpkin (or applesauce) in cakes to replace a portion of the butter and add a healthy element that no one can taste. Especially in chocolate cakes – you can’t taste it at all and kids will never know they are eating vegetables, LOL! This recipe also uses buttermilk for a slight tanginess that balances the sweetness of the frosting.
I have a secret for you … are you ready? The Artist does not like cream cheese or cream cheese frosting. Can you imagine? Yep, I know, he is probably the only person on the planet that doesn’t dive for this frosting. BUT, when I blended it with some mascarpone, added a touch of cocoa powder, and lightened it with whipped cream, it suddenly became something he enjoyed. Eureka! We have a winner!
This frosting is really lovely. Light and fluffy, it complements without overpowering the cake. You get the flavor of the cream cheese in a much easier to work with frosting. You can do swirls, swoops, or anything you want to make your cake beautiful. If you want it firmer for more detailed work, just refrigerate after beating. This may well be my new favorite frosting!
Andrea had two pumpkin-shaped foil cake pans that she used for her cakes and boy are they cute! She decorated each one to look like a Jack O’Lantern, dying portions of the frosting orange and green and then using melted chocolate to make the eyes and mouth. If you are making this for a children’s birthday or Halloween party, definitely get these pans. The kids will love them!
Enjoy this moist and tender cake all year long, and be sure to head over to Andrea’s blog to discover all her delightful treats. Thanks for a great recipe Andrea!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Because there is some cocoa powder in the frosting, you definitely need gel food colorings to get the colors to show. If you are using liquid colorings, leave out the cocoa powder.
There are a number of ingredients that might contain hidden gluten. Be careful to read the labels thoroughly and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer for clarification.
Kitchen Skill: The Difference Between Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Pie Filling
Each year when it is time for people to bake Halloween and Thanksgiving desserts, there is inevitably some who pick up the wrong kind of pumpkin. There’s a wrong kind? Yep, the number one seller in the U.S. is Libby’s and they sell both a “Pure Pumpkin Puree” and “Pumpkin Pie Filling”. The pure puree is unsweetened, pure squash pulp. The pie filling is already seasoned and sweetened. They are not interchangeable! If another family member is doing the grocery shopping for you, make sure you are clear about which one you want!
- 1-1/2 cups flour or 180 gr gluten-free flour blend
- If your GF blend does not have xanthan gum in it, add 1/4 tsp to the dry ingredients)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed*
- 2 tsp baking powder*
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp espresso powder*
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (low-fat is fine)
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract*
- 3 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks), softened to room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (light brown is fine too)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 oz softened cream cheese
- 3 oz mascarpone
- 1-1/2 + 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder*
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon* (I did not use)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract (I used it in both parts of the frosting)
- Optional, orange and green food coloring gels* (see hint above)
- Optional, melted semi-sweet chocolate for decorating*
- Butter two pumpkin-shaped pans or a 9x13inch. If you are using foil pans, set them on a baking sheet for strength and to make it easier to get them in and out of the oven. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder and salt. Add xanthan gum if needed for gluten-free version (see note above). Whisk until thoroughly and evenly combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Set aside. In a measuring cup with a pouring spout, place the eggs and extra yolk. (This kind of cup makes adding the eggs one at a time a lot easier.)
- In your stand mixer, beat together the butter with both sugars until it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Add one egg at a time, beating until completely incorporated before adding the next one. Then alternate adding the flour mixture and the pumpkin mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating until fully incorporated between each addition.
- Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater. Be sure there are no hidden pockets of dry ingredients, especially in the center of the bowl. If you find any, beat the batter until incorporated.
- Divide the batter equally between the two pans or pour all of it into the 9-x13-inch pan. Gluten-free batters don’t flow as smoothly as regular batters, they are thicker and a bit gluey; use a spatula to push it into the corners.
- Place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove pan(s) from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the cake(s) cool completely before frosting.
- Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, 1-1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla bean paste till fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until frothy. Add remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar and the second vanilla. Starting on low, mix until sugar is moistened, then slowly increase the speed to high and beat to firm peaks.
- Gently fold half the whipped cream mixture into the cream cheese mixture until there are no streaks. Add remaining whipped cream and fold in until thoroughly blended with no streaks remaining. If decorating to look like pumpkins, transfer a small amount of frosting to a small bowl and color with green gel. Color the rest with orange gel.
- For a simple presentation, spread the frosting over the cake and make swoops or swirls to decorate. For the pumpkin cakes, frost them with the orange frosting and chill for at least 30 minutes before adding any details. The frosting needs to be firm to hold the decorations. With the green frosting, use a Wilton tip #4 for the tendrils and #352 for the leaves. Melt some semisweet chocolate and pipe onto the pumpkin-shaped cakes to create accent lines and make the jack-o-lantern eyes and mouth.
- Refrigerate the cake until serving. Store, covered in the refrigerator.
- Yield: about 10 to 12 servings
- * Watch for possible hidden gluten; buy GF version if needed
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