Even though we all hate to admit it, winter is just around the corner and the cold weather is creeping up on us. Luckily though, there are some great cool weather vegetables that help ease us in! I regularly use many of my favourite squashes – spaghetti, acorn, butternut – for soups and mains, but for a while now I’ve been wanting to try something with pumpkin in it. Jay isn’t really a pumpkin fan, so when a friend asked me to make a dessert for a dinner she had invited us to, I knew this was my chance to try it out!
I scoured the web looking for something that was a) dairy free and b) light on pumpkin so that the flavour wasn’t overwhelming. There are SO many pumpkin dessert options to choose from, but I opted for a pumpkin angel food cake. Problem was, every single recipe I found called for angel food cake mix from a box, and not the real thing, and that just wasn’t working for me (you can picture, to his dismay, Jay in the background complaining about why I couldn’t just make the cake the easy way!).
What resulted was an amalgamation of about four different recipes, including the yummy ginger creme frosting listed below (using dairy free whipped topping, of course – but it would probably have been even better with the real thing). Back in grade 7, a friend and I decided to test the science of baking for science fair and purposely altered major ingredients in a sponge cake. This was like that all over again, but with success – it was a real science experiment in my kitchen! The cake itself came out really delicious, but because of the weight of the pumpkin puree, it tasted more like a sponge cake than a fluffy angel food cake. Since this was my first attempt at an angel food cake of any sort, I needed to know if it was the pumpkin or the actual cake recipe that caused this, so I made the cake a second time, without the pumpkin, about 3 days later (again, you can imagine how thrilled Jay was – he of course Instagrammed a photo of the disaster zone that was our kitchen). The answer: pumpkin is heavy. Angel food cake is not. Mix with caution!
Angel food cake requires a delicate touch, and you really can’t rush through it. A few good tips for a successful cake are to chill the bowl and beater ahead of time (shout out to my mom’s friend Debbie for this tip!), leave your egg whites at room temperature for about half an hour before using them, and fold, fold fold! DO NOT mix the flour into the egg whites in a circular motion; this will make them collapse. Use a rubber spatula to GENTLY cut through the egg whites and then fold the flour in, a small amount at a time; you could also use a flat whisk like any of these to lift the mixture up in a folding motion, and gently knock it on the side of the bowl to let it fall back in, so that you don’t have to do as much folding. Once the cake is in the oven, do not open the oven to check on it (that’s what the light is for!). Be sure to “walk softly” in the kitchen while its in, and when you remove the cake, you must immediately turn it upside down to prevent it from falling. Using an angel food cake pan makes this much easier, since it has little feet that prevent the cake from sitting right up against any surface.
I would definitely recommend both the pumpkin version and the straight up angel food cake version of this recipe, and would probably make both of them again. If you use the icing, hold off on icing the cake until just before serving, as the icing needs to be kept cold, and the cake needs not to be weighed down. If you try them, let me know how it goes!
Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Ginger Creme Frosting
FOR THE PLAIN ANGEL FOOD CAKE
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups large egg whites (the original recipe said about 12 eggs, but both times I made it 10 was enough)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
TO MAKE IT PUMPKIN
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (can be fresh or canned)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/8 tsp ground ginger
FOR THE GINGER CREME FROSTING
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp of finely chopped crystallized ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger mixed into the sugar)
pumpkin pie spice
** If you are making the cake WITH the pumpkin, mix together all the pumpkin ingredients before beginning the cake, and set aside.
- Move oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 375.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the icing sugar and flour. Set aside.
- In a large bowl that has been chilled, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Beat in granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, on high speed, adding vanilla, almond extract and salt with the last addition of sugar. Continue beating until glossy and stiff peaks form (about 7-9 minutes). Do not underbeat.
- Sprinkle icing sugar-flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over egg white mixture, folding in with rubber spatula just until the sugar-flour mixture disappears.
- If you are adding the pumpkin mixture, spoon a few tablespoons at a time into the cake batter, and gently fold it in. Continue until all pumpkin has been added and is mixed through. Do not over mix.
- Push batter into an UNgreased angel food cake pan (tube pan). Cut gently through the batter with a metal spatula or knife to break air pockets.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is golden brown on top and the cracks look dry. If you’re unsure if it’s done, before opening the oven given it another few minutes and then check again. Avoid opening the oven until you are ready to remove the cake. It should spring back when touched lightly.
- Immediately turn pan upside down onto cake pan feet, or if your pan does not have feet, onto a heatproof funnel or bottle, and let it hang about two hours until cake it completely cool.
- Loosen side of cake with knife or spatula (I like using a plastic icing knife to avoid scratching the pan), and remove from pan. If not serving immediately, you can store the cake upside down in pan, with bottom (top of cake) covered until you are ready to ice it before serving. I left mine like this for two days and it was great.
- If you are making the icing, in a chilled large bowl, beat whipping cream and icing sugar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Fold in ginger if using the crystallized. If you want to ice the middle of the cake, cut cake horizontally in half to make two even layers. Spread half of the frosting on the bottom layer; replace top of cake. Spread remaining icing on top of cake and over sides. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice if desired (if you don’t ice the middle of the cake (I didn’t), you will have extra icing).