I should have known. When I made this tea cake that it would go straight in my belly. And fast. As most crumbly, moist, and tender little cakes do. I haven’t always been a fan of Fall. Fall used to mean the end of long summer days. Dark mornings. But somehow, Fall made its way into my heart and hasn’t really left. I do still have trouble getting out of bed in the darkness. And I do not always appreciate dreary days. But what I love about Fall is that it reminds me of the Earth. The rich hues of browns, oranges and yellows. The Fall produce–always slightly covered with dirt. It all just kind of reminds you of being really, really alive.
The more I love Fall, the more I love pumpkin. I have yet to openly like pumpkin pie, but I do love my pumpkin breads, pancakes, cookies, soups, stews. I can go on and on. Naturally, after spending literally five minutes in a Trader Joe’s, where canned pumpkin seems to overtake every aisle entryway at this time of year, I picked some up. I didn’t have a specific plan–and I tend to get myself into these situations with my pantry. I stuff it to the brim with ingredients that sound like they could, one day, be delicious. I try to match them together as I do with people I introduce at parties–“You like to bike? Well my friend here is a big biker!” I get really enthusiastic, and sometimes these people…err, ingredients…become really good friends. And sometimes, they don’t.
I flipped through my cookbooks when I got home, and my eyes stopped at the pumpkin tea cake. In any other book, I think, it would probably be called a bread, but I was sold on the name and happily put my trust in Tartine. This tea cake reminded me of British tea time and scones and everything sugar and spice. So of course I had to make it (in my awesome yellow stand mixer!!).
I followed the recipe pretty closely, though I did up the pumpkin factor by using an entire can of pumpkin, which made my cake very, very moist. I think that the difference between this cake and the typical pumpkin bread is that the crumb is much, much moister, and the pumpkin flavor is much, much stronger. I ground my own cloves using a mortar and pestle, so you could really taste the spices. And while I was at first concerned about the significant amount of cinnamon in the recipe, I actually didn’t find it overpowering at all.
While this cake is of course truly phenomenal as an accompaniment with tea, it works just as well for breakfast, or a mid-afternoon picnic (which is how we ate it–at beautiful Bella Winery up in Healdsburg).
1 2/3 cup of flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of nutmeg
2 pinches of ground cloves
9 ounces of pumpkin puree (I actually used an entire can, which made the cake a little wetter)
1 cup of vegetable oil (sunflower, canola or safflower)
1 2/3 cup of sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of raw sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Butter the bottom of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a medium mixing bowl.
4. In a stand mixer (or another mixing bowl), beat the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt until well mixed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, without over mixing.
5. Beat in the dry ingredients at medium-low speed until just combined. Continue to mix until smooth.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle with the raw sugar and pepitas.
7. Bake for about one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Keep in mind that if you use the entire can of pumpkin puree, the cake will come out moister. Serve at room temperature and keep in an airtight container for about a week.
Musical Pairings: Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog + Pumpkin Tea Cake
Iron & Wine‘s The Shepherd’s Dog is a beautiful and warm album; perfect for a relaxing afternoon or quiet evening. The Shepherd’s Dog is Iron & Wine’s most lush, full-bodied album to date. Whereas his early demos and debut album, The Creek That Drank the Cradle, were sparse featuring little more than Sam Beam’s plaintive, intimate lyrics and resonate acoustic guitar; The Shepherd’s Dog features a full band and layered, intricate musical compositions that borrow from a diverse array of genres. Importantly, what remains constant is Beam’s wistful, autumnal songwriting, and as a result this is a perfect album to pair with the pumpkin tea cake recipe Kasey prepared as dessert for a mid-October picnic and wine-tasting in Healdsburg, California. To read more, head over to Musical Pairings @ eating/sf. —Matthew