Saturday, 28 July 2012

The skewer test!

Pumpkin Cake

Produced by Amruta Nargundar. Directed by me. Art direction, photography by Amruta Nargundkar.

Anca from BG reports she loved the two pasta dishes she made following my recipes. Monica from Bglr tells me (and shows me, too!) that her family loved the patrodes or colocasia rolls she made following my silverbeet substituted recipe!

Oh, it's so very gratifying to know one's recipe has passed the skewer test of cooking by others!

I used to think all my cooking life that I can't go by recipes as I am a ' bit of, pinch of, handful of, fistful of, splash of, twist of' kind of a cook! And then the writing of recipes was not easy for the kind of cook that I am! But thanks to my new cyber family and friends, especially my friend Atul Sikand for appreciating, encouraging, supporting, and cajoling me into cooking and posting on Facebook.
It takes a lot more effort than just cooking- plating, taking photos, transferring, cropping, selecting of photos. But you know what- it's a labour of love and I especially love to read the comments!

And certainly posting a recipe on Facebook or on my blog is not easy- it is like giving a daughter away! You are at once happy and at once anxious – as if wondering how the in-laws will accept her and she them. You also fret about how the recipe turns out and try and hover over the cook giving tips. The comments, compliments, doubts all take you up and down - just like you would excruciate about the impression your daughter is creating in her 'sasural'. The happiest moment and the moment when you are ready to let go, is when enthusiasts who try your recipe report a successful turnout! That's thanks to your good upbringing- ahem, ahem!

Speaking of daughters, this pumpkin cake was a collaborative effort of my daughter Amruta and me. She has this growing reputation as a cake queen among friends and family. If she is not baking the most delicious red velvet cake I have ever tasted or a black forest cake that will give any bakery a run for their money, she is Pinteresting cake photos, reading up recipes and watching baking videos. She has this knack of designing and baking or commissioning the most spectacular cakes for birthdays, whether it is a drum kit ensemble cake, a book shaped cake or a Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme cake.

Since I don’t bake as much as I cook, I am beginning to rely on her for expert advice. For this “first time” cake, we pooled in our ideas. My contribution was the concept and direction- the flavours inspired by the sweet pumpkin dishes mother made- pooris with jaggery and poppy seeds, kheer with a roux made of whole wheat flour and pumpkin seeds and the pumpkin pie with the maddening aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg. Amruta was the producer – applying her knowledge of cake recipes, organising the logistics, mixing the batter down to licking the bowl. Not to mention the styling and plating!

The cake did pass the skewer test, well and clean!

Pumpkin Cake

2 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp grated nutmeg
1 ½ cups boiled and mashed pumpkin (we used butternut squash)
2 large eggs
1½ cups oil
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar (we used sweetener)
½ cup golden syrup
½ cup butter milk
1 tbsp black poppy seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds


Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Sift the flour, spices, salt and baking soda together and keep aside. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs with a hand mixer for about half a minute. Then add the brown sugar and golden syrup and beat well. Add the pumpkin pulp and buttermilk and beat well till the mixture looks like an emulsion.  Then fold in the flour and spice mixture. Beat the batter well for a minute or two.  Now add the poppy and pumpkin seeds and mix with a rubber or silicon spatula. This batter will be thicker than usual as this cake is made dense by the mashed pumpkin.
Brush a large non-stick bundt pan with oil. Spoon the thick batter into the pan and then thump the pan lightly on a surface to distribute the mixture evenly. 
Bake the cake in the centre of the oven, at 180 C for about 45 to 50 min. Check if the cake is done with a skewer or knitting needle. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Cool the cake and then run a sharp knife gently along the sides of the pan to unmould the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Slice along the ridges in the bundt pan for a good cut and serve warm with a cup of tea!
Usually cooked in autumn the ‘season of fruition’, this cake has the rich, earthy, spicy flavours of pumpkin and a nice moist texture. But beware! It tends to develop craters or ridges on the surface where the excess steam from the pumpkin pulp tries to escape during baking (I love to expostulate such theories). Maybe that’s why it’s a good idea to bake it in a bundt pan which has a ring in the centre to allow the heat to reach even the insides of the cake. Or maybe because a bundt cake allows you to serve it upside down, thereby presenting the best side! 

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