It has been so long since I last baked a cake. So, so long. I guess it's something to do with trying to eat healthy as I’m definitely one of those bakers that needs multiple tasters throughout the whole cooking process – raw eggs do not intimidate me as much as they perhaps should. And with my sister’s wedding back in August I had been on a strict regime of exercise and ‘clean eating’ for most of the year. That came to a rather abrupt end come the day of her wedding and I’ve rather struggled to get back on the wagon since then.
So me and Matt decided that as of yesterday there would be stricter rules on the unacceptable amount of treats we’ve been allowing ourselves of late and we would get back into our ‘clean eating’ regime. If I’m making that sound like a bad thing it shouldn’t do – when I’m eating well and exercising a lot I’m 100% happier in so many ways than when I’m disappearing behind a glut of croissants and sticky toffee pudding.
So with our final blow at the weekend and Halloween just around the corner, what better an opportunity to make a massive three layer spiced pumpkin cake with homemade dulce de leche, cream cheese frosting and a homemade toffee apple garnish. HELLO CALORIES. So this won’t be the healthiest slice of cake you’ll eat this year but I’m fairly confident it will be one of the most delicious. And you can of course offset those extra calories with a bit of exercise should you feel so inclined.
This cake would make a perfect centerpiece for a Halloween party and because of the caramel and luxurious frosting it also feels decedent enough to be a dessert. You’ll be pleased to know however that it also works just as well with your afternoon coffee.
I used this recipe from food52 (my online cookery bible) for the cake and frosting. The recipe is for a 5inch cake tin but as I only have an 8inch tin I made 1 and ½ times the recipe so I could still get all three layers in.
The recipe also calls for tinned dulce de leche and tinned pumpkin puree, but if you’re a purist like me* (*debatable) then you’ll want to make your own and I can honestly say you won’t regret even a second of the time you spend making the dulce de leche. It's like caramel that has poured directly out from the clouds of heaven. Also, at this time of year when great big piles of orange pumpkins fill the supermarket shelves (usually destined to be carved into a horror show and left to go rotten), why would you buy a tin? So give a pumpkin a better home this Halloween and make your own puree.
I also topped my cake with some homemade toffee apples for optimum autumnal festiveness – some lovely little mini Cox’s scrounged from Miss Pickering who has been receiving unrequested repeat deliveries of apples from a lovely local couple every Friday without fail. Long may it continue.
The pumpkin puree and Dulce de Leche can be made in advance to break up the process if you like.
Pumpkin Puree – 1 ingredient!
Pre-heat oven to 180˙c. Half you’re pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Lay hollow side down on a tray lined with baking paper. Roast for approx. 1 hour or until completely soft. Remove flesh and puree in a food processor or with a stick blender. Depending on the size of your pumpkin this should give you an abundance of beautiful orange puree that you can use for all manner of things!
Dulce De Leche – 3 ingredients! (recipe from Jamie Oliver)
Put 500 ml of goat’s milk and 500ml of regular milk into a pan, it needs to be big enough to take some expansion from the milk (more on that in a minute). Add 200g of caster sugar and a whole cinnamon stick. And set over medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring often. After 10 mins of simmering remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4tsp of bicarbonate of soda – this is where it will froth up and expand. Return to the heat and keep it simmering for another hour – taking care to stir or whisk every 5-10 mins to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. It will begin to turn a lovely light brown and start to thicken as it reduces. The thicker it gets the more you will need to stir it to prevent it catching. Keep on until it reaches a thick, syrupy, dark copper brown consistency, this could be between one and two hours depending on how fast you simmer it. It should coat the back of a spoon nicely and cool to be quite thick set. When you’re happy with it, leave it to cool a little then pour into a sterilized jar. Store in the fridge and warm when you need it/want it/can’t stop thinking about it. I think that this little pot of sauce would make just the most wonderful addition to a little homemade Christmas gift hamper.
Toffee Apples - (recipe from BBCgood food)
Dunk your apples into a bowl of boiling water to help remove waxy coating, dry thoroughly and stick a skewer in the bottom of each one. Prepare a sheet of baking parchment on a flat surface to the side of your stove top. In a pan melt 400g golden castor sugar with 100ml of water. After 5 mins when melted add 1tsp vinegar and 4tbs golden syrup. Use a sugar thermometer and boil to ‘hard crack’. Dip your apples in, coating well in the toffee but allowing excess to drip off before leaving to cool completely on the baking parchment.
I think these are absolutely best eaten on the same day as making.
To decorate the cake with toffee apples I removed the sticks from the apples and carefully positioned on the cake. As my icing was a little on the runny side, I used a couple more wooden skewers cut to the right length to poke through the cake just to stop the apples from sliding off.
So there you have it. A pretty damn Autumnal cake to see you through this lovely season. I will also be posting a recipe for pumpkin bread on here next week which you can also use your abundance of puree for.