Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream & Pecan Praline

This cake was epic. It was a heart attack on a plate. A real treat. Not intended for everyday use.

But if you ever have an occasion that calls for it, this cake is more than justified in its richness.

A little more than a month ago (I'm not ashamed to say), I got out all of my food magazines for the months of November & December. I surrounded myself with them in the bed one Sunday afternoon & (like the pretentious foodie that I am) made a list of things I'd like to share with my loved ones over the holidays. This cake was one of them. It just looked so regal & impressive...and it was.

I made this cake on a Friday while waiting to hear back from a job my ideal public middle school, the school I student taught in, the only school I'd ever send my children, the best middle school in Nashville,in my opinion. I was beside myself. At times, I felt like Marsha Brady in that episode where she's waiting for a boy to call & calls the telephone operator to make sure her phone is actually working.

Well, I thought making this cake, my first ever cake from scratch, would make for a fine distraction. I won't lie to you. It was a lot of work & a lot of mess. Not to mention that I got two injuries in the process & two sinks full of dishes before I'd even thought of starting on dinner. But alas, I'd say it was well worth it.

Anything flour-based usually is deferred to my husband to make. It's his area of interest. I hate dealing with the stuff. It's so messy & impossible sometimes. I've never succeeded in making a cake from scratch. The past two attempts yielded disgusting and weird results. I'd never made pralines or had any luck with making candy in the past. In fact, my last experience was an inedible, grainy almond brittle. What a waste as nuts are so expensive.

But my pralines turned out well, except that they were a little too thick. I didn't smash them down good enough. They were fantastic, though. You really don't have to put anything in the skillet with the sugar. It takes a while, but it will eventually melt.

I burned myself while pouring the pralines onto the parchment paper, but I didn't let it stop me. You do have to act fast or you'll end up with a big blob of praline.

I also cut my thumb pretty badly zesting the orange. I haven't cut myself in the kitchen in a long time & I wasn't very happy that I'd been so sloppy, but baking intimidates me so much. It freaks me out. I'm so afraid I don't have it in me to be so precise.

Surprisingly, my cake turned out really well. It was really moist & delicious. I took it to Parsons and shared it with my friend Amanda, her baby, Patsy, and my sweet husband. Then I took it to feed other family members & friends, because one should never find themselves alone with this massive clump of goodness.

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream & Pecan Praline
from Rachel Ray
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups pecans (about 8 ounces)
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

The cake layers can be wrapped and stored at room temperature up to one day ahead of frosting.


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Flour the pans.

  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 cups granulated sugar over medium-high heat until light amber, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the pecans and quickly stir to coat. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet and, using a metal spatula, spread in a single layer to cool completely. Place the praline in a sturdy resealable plastic bag and crush into pieces; set aside.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, sift together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 parts alternately with the milk and orange zest on low speed until just combined. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until just combined.

  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the cake layers to a rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, invert and peel off the parchment paper. Let the cakes cool completely on the rack, about 45 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Using a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in the remaining 1-1/2 cups brown sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  6. Assemble the cake: Halve each cake layer horizontally with a serrated knife. Place 1 cake layer on a platter. Spread the whipped cream frosting on top about 1/4 inch thick; sprinkle with about 1/2 cup crushed pecan praline. Repeat with three more layers, saving enough frosting for the cake sides and reserving the last layer of praline. Spread the remaining frosting evenly on the sides of the cake and sprinkle the reserved pecan praline on top. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before serving.

Enjoy it with a relaxed cat.

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