I learned a valuable lesson about meal planning over the Thanksgiving holiday. In short, developing a plan for the turkey day dinner alone is not enough…..not by a long shot. When 20+ people are expected, including 5 teen-aged boys, the least of our food planning worries was Thanksgiving dinner, it was the breakfasts, lunches, snack binges and dinners that rounded out the rest of our guest's time-in-residence that was our biggest challenge.
Every year for the past few, Boris and I get away for a father-son hiking weekend. Over the past several years we've summited all five of Vermont's highest peaks, so this year we set our sites a bit further north and headed to Maine to summit that state's tallest mountain, Mt. Katahdin.
Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park, which unfortuntaley is about a 7 hour drive from where we live in Massachusetts. I always forget how big a state Maine is, it takes forever to get anywhere up there. That said, we found ourselves in need of a little pick-me-up about halfway through our drive up, and pulled off at a Starbucks for a recharge. I ordered up a grande mocha, but Boris, not yet a coffee drinker was at a loss. He had just asked me what I thought he might like when I saw that their chalkboard special was a pumpkin-spiced latté. All I had to tell him was that it would taste like a liquid piece of pumpkin pie and HE WAS IN! He ordered up an iced version and was grinning ear to ear as he savored his first coffee-drink treat.
He like it so much, in fact, that we stopped at the same Starbucks on our return trip so that he could grab another one (and so that his ancient and exhausted father could get a caffeine fix to keep him awake for the long drive home after our challenging hike the day before). After polishing off his second latté, he turned to me and stated that he was such a fan that he'd decided that he wanted his birthday cake this year to be a pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting. As his 15th birthday was just a couple weeks away, I had a little planning to do.
Without too much trouble I found this recipe on Epicurious, and with a little tweaking to amp the spice of the cake, delivered a big two thumbs up treat for our guy. Pumpkin may be a bit of an unorthodox choice for most foks for a birthday cake, but Boris just loved his. For those of you less inclined to sing happy birthday while carrying this lovely around, it would be a fabulous addition to a Thanksgiving dessert spread.
Cheers – Steve
- Butter for coating cake pans, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1/2 cup packed unsweetened, flaked coconut
- 3/4 cup canned crushed pineapple (do not drain)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Butter two 9-inch diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch sides. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Sprinkle the pans with flour, tap the pans to evenly distribute the flour, and then shake off the excess flour. Set aside.
- To make the cake, in a large bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger.
- In the bowl of a blender or small food processor, puree the coconut flakes with the crushed pineapple.
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, and vanilla. In another medium bowl, combine the pumpkin purée and the coconut-pineapple mix. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add the pumpkin mixture and stir just until combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it evenly.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a table knife around the edge of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting the cakes.
- To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for about 3 minutes until smooth. Add the butter and beat for about 2 minutes until combined. Add the pumpkin purée and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat for about 3 minutes until fluffy.
- Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or platter. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the frosting over the top of the first cake layer. Spread the frosting right to the edge of the top without frosting the sides of the cake. Carefully place the second cake on top, lining up the edges. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake without frosting the sides. Swirl the frosting to decorate the top.
- Refrigerate the cake to set the frosting. Remove from the refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes before serving.
Muppet and I pulled this dessert together about a week ago in honor of some international guests we had visiting. We had the pleasure of hosting three Chinese college students who had won a negotiation competition in China that my wife has been involved with. Part of their “winnings” was a trip to the US to further study our legal-mediation system, and for a bit of good old fashioned tourista time.
They stayed with a host family in Boston for a bit, where they attended a Celtics “WIN” at the garden, and joined us for a visit to the MFA and saw the newly installed Dale Chihuly exhibit, which was quite fabulous. Then they came to stay with us on the South Shore where they were able to visit the Plymouth Plantation, and the Cape Cod National Seashore among other things.
Those of you who have been with us for a while know that we make a pretty big deal about birthday cakes here. I try hard to make good on birthday cake wishes, regardless of how challenging or esoteric they may be. So….when my birthday rolled around recently, my wife promised to do the same, and bake me the cake of my choice…what she ended up doing was to bake me the cake of my dreams.
Yeah, this one’s a keeper!
I don’t have a lot of time today, but did want to wish everyone out there a joyous holiday season! As another year wraps to a close, we at Oui, Chef are grateful for the friends we’ve made here, and look forward to cooking more great food with you in the new year.
This buche de noel is one that Boris and I whipped up over the past few days, and will be enjoyed after our Christmas Eve dinner tonight. It is a combination of a few different recipes we found, inspiring a whole new holiday treat. It has a chocolate genoise cake layer, a filling of white chocolate mousse, and a coffee buttercream frosting….a few meringue mushrooms for decoration and you have a festive dessert worthy of any holiday table. This is not a difficult cake to make, but it does take some time. It would be a great holiday school vacation week project to tackle with your kids…serve it at your New Year’s party and thrill the crowd!
Wishing you all holidays full of love, laughter and lots of DELICIOUS food! Thank you so much for being such an important part of our little blog, we’ll see you next year!
Cheers – Steve and the Mrs., Grid, Boris, Arthas, Peyton and Muppet
This has been my “go-to” chocolate cake for a few years now, though I usually make it with a white butter and sugar, or cream cheese frosting. Here in the “Oui, Chef” kitchen, every family member gets to choose which cake we’ll make for their birthday each year, and this one has been a staff favorite for some time now.
Peyton generally goes for a cheesecake of some sort (key-lime was a big hit), Muppet is death by chocolate all the way (no surprise there). Arthas requests a chocolate-pistachio log that I learned how to make at Le Cordon Bleu, and everyone else requests some version of this cake.
Pierre Hermé…..Ladurée…..Gerard Mulot……Hugo & Victor……Hediard…….Fauchon……Eric Kayser.
This is but a sampling of the famous pastry chefs / shops that kept us giddily happy and full during our recent trip to Paris. This same group is also responsible for opening Muppet’s eyes to the heights that the very best pastry can achieve. These folks are the best of the best, the “Top Gun” pilots of the pastry world, and eating their confections has inspired Muppet to dream-up her very own original creation.
Aren’t we all lucky?
This is one of the first “fancy” desserts I ever learned how to make, their inclusion in my repertoire pre-dating my training in Paris, and they are absolutely one of the family’s favorites. Rumor has it that these little lovelies were born out of a mistake made in the pastry kitchen of legendary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, when a tray of individual cakes were pulled from an oven before being baked through. Good thing he tasted one as it’s liquid chocolate center oozed across the plate, and didn’t just chuck it in the trash….can you image where we’d be right now without the ubiquitous “molten chocolate cake” in our cooking lexicon? Nowhere I’d want to be, I can assure you of that!
Spring has finally sprung here in the northeast, and to celebrate, the girls and I whipped up this fabulous, rustic sponge cake the other day, and topped it with a deluge of freshly whipped cream, and a delicious gathering of macerated berries.
This is another recipe from the quite wonderful cookbook Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont (Shelburne Farms Books) by Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a while, waiting for warm weather and fresh berries to make their debut this season. It is a great, casual dessert that can look quite stunning if plated with a little care. The base cake and berry mix can be made in advance, with the only last minute thing to wrangle being the whipping of the cream.
The recipe will make one 13″x9″ rectangular cake, or 2 – 9″ rounds. We made the two rounds, ate one immediately, and froze the other which the girls finished later in the week as a birthday cake for their Dad…that’s my kinda two-fer!