As I began work this week I bumped into a colleague while making a cup of tea. We made light chit-chat starting off with the weekend - ending with the weather. Oh the weather… If Australian's have nothing else to talk about we talk about the weather!! But upon reflection I realised that no matter what season we are in it seems that there is always something to grumble about.
In Winter, its the cold. In Adelaide this means waking up when it's dark; not wanting to escape the warm bed, and dealing with the wind and rain. Then if we experience a dry Winter, people start complaining about the lack of rain. In Spring, people aren't happy when it continues to rain because - why - we should definitely not be getting rain - winter's over right?! In Summer, its the heat-and if its not that, its how we haven't had enough hot days in Summer to enjoy the beach, go swimming, etc. And, finally in Autumn, its the sad realisation that Summer….is over and daylight savings (in Adelaide) has ended and we're back to the dark, cold mornings again, and the realisation that Winter is not far ahead of us now… It sounds so depressing!
For those of you who don't know my dad is a horticulturist and ran his own business. This meant from a very young age I helped out in the school holidays - earning my pocket money - from propagating plants, to knowing learning about different varieties and how they flourish in different seasons. More importantly, and I probably only realise it now, I got to see each season for the possibilities they had.
So often we are waiting for the next best thing. We're counting down the hours until we get to go home - the days until out next holiday, the months until the season is over. But I'm realising more that God put seasons into our life for a purpose, and we can really embrace and enjoy life when we learn to focus on the positive of each season and every moment.
So, with those deep thoughts aside and in the spirit of Autumn, last weekend, I decided to try this beautiful recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting from The Australian Woman's Weekly cookbook, Indulgent Cakes. For those of you who love carrot cake, this is her cousin! The cake is real comfort food, best enjoyed with a warm cuppa and a good book (well that's how I like to enjoy it anyway!). The use of pumpkin in the recipe marries well with the caramel flavours of the maple syrup, against the mixture of spices, and the texture of the pecans. I definitely recommend trying this recipe this Autumn.
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting
Prep + cook time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves 12 (recipe adapted to make 2 individual 20cm round cakes for layering)
For the Cakes...
330g firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup
1 1/3 cup (320ml) vegetable oil
4 cups (680g) firmly packed grated butternut pumpkin (I used half a pumpkin for this)
1 cup (120g) chopped pecans (you can also use walnuts)
500g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
extra ground cinnamon for dusting
For the Sugared Pecans...
1 cup (160g) pecan halves
1/4 cup (40g) icing sugar
For the Maple Frosting...
375g cream cheese, softened and chopped
200g butter, softened
1/3 cup (80ml) maple syrup
2 cups (320g) icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease 2x 20cm round springform tins, and line base of tins with baking paper.
2. Beat eggs, sugar, syrup and oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until thick and creamy. Stir in pumpkin and nuts, then add the combined sifted dry ingredients.
3. Divide the mixture between the two tins, and spread to ensure top is even.
4. Bake cakes for 30 minutes for until skewer, when inserted, comes out clean. Remove cakes from oven and allow to stand in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
5. Meanwhile, make sugared pecans and maple frosting (below).
6. Using a sharp knife carefully trim the tops of both cakes, so the tops are completely flat and even. This will make assembling and icing easier. Place one cake face down (so that the trimmed side of the cake is laying flat on the cake plate/stand). Spread cake with half the frosting. Place second cake on top of the frosting, again, face down, so that you have a smooth top for presentation. Finish top layer of cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with sugared pecans and dust with extra ground cinnamon.
Rinse nuts in a sieve under cold water until wet. Spread nuts, in a single layer, on a tray lined with baking paper. Dust with sifted icing sugar. Roast in oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Beat cream cheese and butter in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, or until fluffy and smooth. Gradually add syrup and icing sugar to mixture and beat until smooth and combined.