Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake

I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Thanksgiving is THIS week. It's the earliest it can possibly be, seeing how November 1 was a Thursday and....well, you can do the math from there. I am guessing that retailers are excited because it starts the holiday shopping a bit earlier than usual.

I was feeling the pumpkin love, and had a container of vanilla maple yogurt from Klein Farms in Easton in my fridge, and I wanted to come up with pumpkin cake that was moist, slightly tangy, and not too sweet. And which involved yogurt. You may not have the same yogurt, but never fear. You can substitute vanilla or plain yogurt rather easily--just please use regular stuff. If you use low-fat yogurt you're going to get low-fat taste. I am a very healthy eater, but when it comes to baked goods, my personal philosophy is that you gotta go big or go home. Low-fat, no-fat, no-sugar stuff (unless you have real health issues--i.e, diabetes or insulin resistance) just isn't generally worth the time or the illusion of health. You know how Michael Pollan talks about how people eat more processed food that's marked "low fat" and then wind up binging on carbohydrate-based snacks? The same applies to homemade low-fat stuff. It's more satisfying to just eat the real thing. And it's much easier to stop. And you need much less of it. Right? Are you with me? Ok!

Because I used a yogurt with maple in it, I only used 1 Tbsp of maple syrup and 1 teaspoon of maple flavor because I am a full believer in full flavor. If you have neither maple-based yogurt or fancy maple extracts/flavor, I'd suggest swapping out 1/4 of the brown sugar for maple syrup; use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup. But seriously, folks. If you do any kind of baking on any kind of regular basis, I can't recommend high quality extracts and flavors enough, such as this maple one. They really boost a flavor profile tremendously, and they tend to last for ages. Think about this when you're stocking up for holiday baking projects.

(Before you get all righteous with me about that not being PURE maple extract, I do believe the fine folks at either America's Test Kitchen and/or King Arthur have tested baked goods with pure maple extract and maple flavor and prefer maple flavor. I tend to agree. Maple flavor is more concentrated and therefore more assertive. It also means you need to use a LOT less, and organic maple syrup, which is what I typically buy, is not cheap and you need more of it. Ok. I feel better now.)

As for the frosting, I had some leftover maple frosting in my fridge (a fact that tickles John to no end--he says, "I love that I'm married to someone who just has frosting lying around...") and slathered it on top as best I could, and adorned the rim of the cake with walnuts. I didn't even toast them, but you should, because it tastes way better. You can also skip the frosting altogether and just opt for a plain cake, or a lovely dusting of confectioner's sugar, just before serving (otherwise the cake quickly sucks it up, slurp, like a sponge).

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. Boyajian's natural maple flavor
1 Tbsp. organic maple syrup (do NOT use pancake syrup!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar  (or 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup if there is no maple-related flavor/extract or yogurt in your arsenal.)
2 large eggs
1 cup vanilla maple yogurt (Stonyfield makes one but it is not full-fat)
1 cup pumpkin puree, preferrably organic

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk together flours through nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed, waiting for the first to be completely incorporated before adding the second. Add the maple flavor and 1 Tbsp. syrup; or, if you aren't using either a maple yogurt or maple extract, 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
5. Add the yogurt; mix on low speed to combine, and then add the pumpkin. Mix on low speed to combine. Do NOT overmix.
6. Spray with nonstick baking spray or butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean in the middle--this is a moist, damp cake, but I would check it around 26-28 minutes to insure you don't overbake it.
8. Let it cool for about 1/2 hour in the pan and then remove the springform. Let it cool completely before frosting (if desired) or slicing.

This is totally optional, but I'd suggest the following:
8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature (take it out of the fridge when the cake goes in the oven)
3-4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup OR 1 tsp. maple flavor
2-3 Tbsp. of milk

1. In the now magically clean bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the also now magically clean paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese (that sounds weird) on medium speed until it's fluffy, about two minutes.
2. Add the maple syrup or flavor and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar and mix on medium speed to combine. Alternate with the tablespoons of milk as necessary to ensure a creamy consistency; it needs to be spreadable and fluffy, not spreadable and paste-like.
4. When the cake has cooled, spread across the top in a thin layer with an offset spatula.  Adorn the rim of the cake with walnut halves. You can toast them in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they become fragrant but keep an eye on them because you don't want them to burn. When you can smell them, it's time to stop.
Admittedly, frosting is one of those things I eyeball, so you may find that you need more or less milk or sugar depending on your preferences. If you want it really sweet, add more sugar and less milk, but the milk tends to help cut the sweetness. Taste as you go! Yeah, that's right!

I made this cake several days ago and it's STILL good, so I would say that it keeps for 3-5 days covered and in the fridge.