“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill – several thrills?”
– Anne of Green Gables
Hasn’t it been an absolutely gorgeous autumn? I, like Anne, feel several thrills whenever I see auburn leaves piled thickly in the park, the beautiful light illuminating tree branches, and, like her, I feel compelled to decorate the house with twisty twigs and leaves. My son, nearly 4, looks at everything he finds on our rambles like a treasure – a delicate bird’s nest, acorns, pinecones – all to be collected and cherished. We may have waved goodbye to Summer but there’s so much to look forward to as the seasons turn: wooly socks, big sweaters, comfort food and, above all, shamelessly nesting at home while we wait for spring.
This autumn we have slipped into the habit of having afternoon tea and cake with our lovely neighbours almost every Sunday – surely a ritual we should establish year-round! – catching up over a slice (or two) while the kids play hide-and-seek and distribute crumbs throughout the house. Our most recent get-together was an autumnal extravaganza that marked a special occasion – my birthday. I have been obsessed with pumpkins recently and, since my first attempt at a pumpkin cake was a total flop, I researched recipes and collected tips to create a Triple Layer Pumpkin Praline Cake. It was SO worth the extra effort – this cake was incredible – a perfectly velvety mouthfeel (my husband muttered ‘pretentious food blogger’ under his breath when I said that) with a sweet crunch from the praline.
But of course Afternoon Tea usually has several cakey delights and so I baked some Chai-spiced mini baked doughnuts and cupcakes, hibiscus tea madeleines (are you spying a theme?) and cranberry orange scones to go with the cake (moderation is my middle name). I am going to save some of these recipes for another post however otherwise this one will incredibly long. I am entering this into the Great Denby Cake Off – wish me luck!
Perfectly Autumnal Pumpkin Praline Cake
I used Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin in this recipe – this used to be rare in the Uk but can now be found online at Ocado and Tesco and at Whole Foods stores. I fully admit to adding yogurt to the frosting because I didn’t have enough double cream but it worked out really well. Make sure you use full-fat Greek yogurt (preferably Total) otherwise the frosting will be runny.
Makes 3x20cm (8in) layers (or 2 thicker layers)
115g | 4oz | 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (I used Lurpak Cook’s Range Baking)
200g | 7oz light brown soft sugar
60g | 2oz dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
220g | 7.7oz (1 cup) Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin
200g | 7oz plain flour
3 tbsp ground praline
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
For the praline
- Line a tray with baking paper. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until it starts melting.
- Stop stirring and swirl the pan until sugar is completely melted, bubbling, and turning a golden amber colour.
- Add the nuts and stir until they are covered in caramel. Pour the praline on the prepared tray and let it cool completely.
- Break into pieces and reserve a few to decorate the cake with. Blitz the rest in a food processor until finely ground.
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and thoroughly grease and flour three cake tins (or use cake release spray).
- Cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides to make sure it is all mixed in.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well incorporated.
- Add the pumpkin purée and mix it in – the batter will look a little curdled but fear not.
- Sift the flour with the soda bicarb, baking powder, spices, salt and ground praline in a separate bowl. Add to the mixer in alternately with the yogurt in three stages starting and ending with the flour. Make sure you stop and scrape the bowl a couple of times so the batter is well mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Carefully tip out of the tins and cool completely before frosting.
- Mix the yogurt, spices and pumpkin purée until smooth. Set aside in the fridge while you whip the cream. It is important all the frosting ingredients are cool.
- Whip the cream with the icing sugar until you have firm peaks.
- Gently fold the yogurt/pumkin into the whipped cream until smooth. Keep chilled or use immediately.
- Pipe a layer of frosting over the bottom cake layer and sprinkle with some ground praline. Repeat with the second layer and top with the third.
- Pipe a generous amount of frosting on top (I used three different tips because why not?) and then sprinkle some ground praline over the top and add some larger pieces. Serve immediately or keep chilled until you do.
Chai-spiced mini baked doughnuts
If you don’t have a mini doughnut pan you can bake these in a mini muffin pan instead. Don’t overfill though as they rise rather alarmingly!
160g | 5.6oz plain flour, sifted
125g | 4.4oz (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tsp Chai tea (from a teabag)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125ml buttermilk (or milk soured with 1tbsp lemon)
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Spray your doughnut or muffin tin with cake release spray or grease and dust with flour.
- Mix the egg with the buttermilk and butter. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the egg/buttermilk/butter and stir until smooth.
- Fill a pipping bag with the batter and fill each doughnut cup only halfway up. Do the same if you are using a mini muffin tin.
- Bake for 6-7 minutes until risen, golden and springy to the touch. Cool before glazing.
- Mix the icing sugar with the vanilla extract and slowly add a little milk until you have a thick glaze. Put the glaze in a small plate and dip the top of each doughnut in.
- Place on a wire rack and sprinkle with your decoration of choice while the glaze is still a little wet.
- If you are making mini cupcakes you can decorate with some of the cake frosting and praline.