Friday, November 1, 2013

Pumpkin Pear & Pecan Streusel Cake

October rolled right by at full speed and vanished into thin air right before our eyes.  November is upon us and along with it comes our annual ritual of pumpkin.  I love pumpkin pastries so I’m not one to overlook the pumpkin recipe mania floating around out there at this time of year. 

In fact, I’m always looking to discover new ways to enjoy pumpkin.  After figuring out how the subtle and essential flavor of pumpkin reacts with other ingredients, I’ve managed to produce a few good recipes.  Some of my favorite pastries during this season are Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares, Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread, Pumpkin Pecan Madeleines and Pumpkin Empanadas.  
This time I wanted to make a moist pumpkin cake that has lots of flavor and a bit of texture.  This recipe did what I hoped for: the combination of butter, buttermilk and brown sugar make for a very soft and tender cake.  There’s a nice pumpkin flavor that’s perfectly enhanced with plenty of spice and I love the backnote of orange zest in the streusel.  The subtle flavor of pear also adds moisture and, combined with the crunchy texture of pecan streusel, works in great harmony with all the other elements.  The aroma is fabulous.

So let’s get this party started with this delicious cake.  With a little dollop of whiskey- or cinnamon-laced whipped cream, you'll have a terrific dessert for your autumn table.

On another note: For those who don’t own an iPad but want to purchase my ecookbook, The GlobalPastry TableApple has now released their new operating system, OSX Mavericks, which allows you to read electronic ibooks on your Mac desktop or Mac laptop.

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Bench notes:
- Pecan streusel can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Contrary to popular belief, allspice isn’t a blend of lots of different spices. It’s actually the sun dried unripened berry of the Pimenta dioica plant. It likely got its name because it seems to suggest the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and cloves.  I love to use it as a booster because it really beautifully amplifies all the other spices.
- The pear should be ripe but not mushy.
- I find it’s easiest to core the peeled pear if you cut it into quarters and then just slice off the thick stem and core.  Cut each quarter into two slices and then chop into 1/2” pieces.
- Spritz the pear cubes with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.  Drain, if necessary, before layering them on top of the cake batter.

Pumpkin Pear & Pecan Streusel Cake
Serves 8                                                         

2 oz (about 1/2 cup) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped                                    
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed                     
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized candied ginger                 
zest of 1/2 orange
1 oz (2 tablespoons) cold butter                                                                        

1 ripe pear, Bartlett or D’Anjou
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour                                                                     
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder                                           
1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                                     
1 teaspoon cinnamon                                          
1/2 teaspoon ginger                                             
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg                                        
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves                                              
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) butter @ room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed                                                         
2 large eggs @ room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup (6 oz) solid-pack pumpkin                                      
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 oz) buttermilk @ room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a 9” x 2 1/2”cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.

To prepare the streusel, combine the pecans, brown sugar, finely chopped crystallized ginger and orange zest.  Cut the butter into small pieces and work it into the nut mixture, pinching with your fingers until the whole mixture is moist and crumbly.   Chill until ready to use.

Peel and core the pear and cut into 1/2” pieces.  Place in a bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Set aside.

For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium speed, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add the vanilla and the pumpkin and blend.  Add a third of the flour mixture alternately with half the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing just until blended.  

Pour a bit more than half of the batter into the prepared the pan. Layer the pears on top and sprinkle with half of the pecan streusel.  Pour the remaining cake batter and smooth it out evenly to the edges of the pan.  Sprinkle the top with the rest of the pecan streusel, pressing down slightly to secure.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean with just a few moist crumbs, about 38 - 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.   Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen and invert the cake.   Carefully remove the parchment paper and invert again.  Cool completely.


The Devil's Food Advocate said...

I've been cooking and baking with pumpkin this week too. I blogged your pumpkin madeleines and they were a bit hit. I hope you like my version of a wonderful recipe. Thanks again for the inspiration!

pastry studio said...

DFA, your madeleines look fabulous and I love your variation. I'm also drooling over your Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque. I must make this soon. Thank you!

Bryan said...

This cake's combination of flavors drew me in immediately. The addition of the pear is great.

I took the warm spices in a different direction, but you're right, the orange in the streusel is delicious.
Thanks for another good one!

pastry studio said...

Hello, Bryan. I'm curious about your spice selection! I was kinda surprised at how much I loved this cake. It really feels like a quintessential fall dessert.

Bryan said...

The cake is even better the second day, btw....

The spices I used aren't a huge departure, just a little pared down. In order of appearance: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and mace.
I kept the ginger in the streusel though-- very warm and tasty with the brightness of orange.

I will definitely make this again.

pastry studio said...

Very interesting choice for a lighter spice profile. Thank you!

valerie s. said...

Thanksgiving morning, definitely!

pastry studio said...

Perfect! That will definitely get your holiday rolling!

Elly McCausland said...

Just to say - I made this last night and it is one of the best cakes EVER. That pecan streusel is inspired. Thanks so much for the recipe, I'm enjoying a piece (OK two) right now instead of dinner!

pastry studio said...

Thanks so much for your feedback, Elly! I love this cake and am thrilled others do, too. Enjoy the rest of it!

brownkat said...

I've made this cake three times (most recently last weekend) and absolutely adore it! The blend of spices and pumpkin is so comforting and the streusel is to die for. The cake elicits raves every time it appears. Couldn't recommend more highly. BTW I've found that it needs an extra 5-6 minutes for a skewer to come out clean on testing.

pastry studio said...

brownkat, that's fabulous! So grateful for your feedback. I really love this cake, too. It's moist and flavorful with a bit of texture and the pear just takes it over the top.

Happy baking!