Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin Birthday Cake Disaster

R. is an excellent cook. He plans main dishes and side dishes, is adventurous, likes to cook with fresh produce, and rarely has a bad day in the kitchen. For my birthday dinner party, we had Cornish game hen with stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes (with lavender), a salad with goat cheese and dried cranberries, and a pumpkin soup (I made that one). He is not, however, a baker and is quick to admit this himself. In fact, he claims the cake he made for my birthday this fall was the first time he had ever baked. I believe him. (Someone else made a cake for the dinner party; the pumpkin cake was just for the two of us.)

It all started with this: the Williams-Sonoma pumpkin harvest loaf pan I picked up last year on sale right after Christmas. When I moved in with R., he thought I should not bring the pan with me. Since I hadn't used it yet, I wanted to keep it at least through the fall and see if I baked anything with it.

In October, when when R. saw a recipe in Southern Living for a pumpkin cake, he thought of all the pumpkin we had and my harvest loaf pan (I'm still not sure why he was reading Southern Living). I think it was this cake. The picture on the cover showed the cake baked in a pumpkin-shaped pan.I am a big fan of pumpkin bars (to be posted about in the future), which also have a cream cheese frosting, and thought a pumpkin cake sounded good.

My birthday cake was made a couple days after my birthday (that's ok!) R. had copied the SL recipe but could only find 1 of the 2 pages so ended up using an alternate recipe online for a Pumpkin Rum cake -- it was probably this, the Pumpkin Raisin Rum Bundt Cake. Except we didn't have rum, just whiskey. Close enough? This was not the only substitution made. We didn't have enough raisins, so craisins were used to supplement the dried fruit portion of the cake. The recipe called for canned pumpkin. We had fresh -- it should taste better (and it does) but it tends to be more liquidy, so I said when I used fresh, I just ended up putting in less of one of the liquid ingredients. For example, when I made pumpkin bread last year, I ended up not adding the oil, and the bread still came out great.

The recipe said to bake in a bundt pan; we had a smaller harvest loaf pan with some bundt-like qualities.I thought I suggested leaving some room in the pan, but R. didn't hear me and filled the harvest pan to the top with batter. Some of it was put in a 2nd pan, but 3 pans probably would have been better. Fortunately, he did heed my suggestion to put a cookie sheet under the cake pans in the oven in case of spillage.

And there was spillage. The pumpkin cake practically exploded. First it spilled; then it got poofy and looked like it had potential. Then it deflated and became a Cake Fail. But the project was not abandoned! R. made the rum (whiskey) glaze and dribbled it over the cake pieces. There were some pumpkin shaped pieces, then some big cubes, and then a light layer of cake that had baked onto the cookie sheet.

Despite its appearance, it was actually a very tasty cake and perfect for fall. It would be a good recipe to try again with some changes at home to the actual baking process.

The Williams-Sonoma harvest loaf pan

Most of the ingredients

Draining more liquid from the pumpkin

Pumpkin cake batter. So far, so good.

Batter in the loaf -- looking a little full!

Uh-oh, batter eruption

Cake deflation!

Don't forget to let it cool.

Presentation counts for a lot.

Birthday slice

Lessons: baking and cooking do not require the same skills. Substitutions don't always work. Don't fill cake pans to the top. Don't worry too much about how it looks if it still tastes good.


  1. I love this.

    Also, for the record, there is nothing wrong with a man who reads 'Southern Living.'

  2. No, nothing wrong with it at all. I just don't know where he found a copy of it to read.