Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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Guys, cake!

Yesterday was a day that called for cake…even though I didn’t have any left, I wish I did. It was one of those frustrating, frantic, half-assed days where you’re pulled in different directions and nothing gets accomplished. Days like that deserve something sweet. In my case it was a Reese’s pumpkin eaten over the sink with a gulp of cold coffee between ringing doorbells, barking dogs, a startled baby, and a project I just couldn’t seem to get through. But I wanted it to be a piece of this cake with a side of coffee…that was still warm.

This cake is a moist pumpkin and spice number with little bits of hazelnut suspended in the batter, iced with a brown butter + cream cheese concoction, and sprinkled with crunchy hazelnut candy. It’s got it all: tender-spiced cake, a buttery-tangy frosting, and lots of crunchy-sweet texture. It’s a dream boat and a sure-fire cure for one of those kinda days.

I don’t mean to get all complain-y, but some days are better than others and cake days are definitely the best!

Print Recipe

Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake

Makes 1, double layer, 6 inch round cake OR 1, 9-inch square cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teapoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cups finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, browned*

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 6-inch round cake pans and line with parchment circles (you can also bake this cake in a 9-inch square pan).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and hazelnuts. In another bowl whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, bourbon, eggs, and pumpkin puree until combined. Fold the butter-pumpkin mixture into the flour and spice mixture until just combined and there are no longer streaks of flour throughout. Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning out the cakes and cooling completely. Cool the cakes completely before frosting—it is even better to wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and place them in the refrigerator to chill before frosting.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, browned*

4 ounces softened cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Using a mixer, beat the browned butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the salt and beat in the confectioner’s sugar gradually until smooth and spreadable.

Hazelnut Crunch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

pinch of salt

1 heaping cup toasted hazelnuts

Place a sheet of parchment on a sheet pan and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and becomes a deep golden amber color—don’t stir it, but you can swirl the pan if you need to. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and hazelnuts. Pour the mixture onto the sheet pan and cool completely. Chop the cooled hazelnut crunch coarsely and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake stand, spread a heaping scoop of frosting on top of the layer and spread evenly, then sprinkle with a handful of the hazelnut crunch. Place the other cake layer on top, pressing down lightly to adhere to the first layer. Pile several heaping scoops of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly to the edges of the cake, spread the excess frosting over the sides of the cake, evenly. Scrape any excess frosting off with an off set spatula for a “naked-cake” effect, or spread thickly for a more traditional look.

*To brown the butter, place it in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, let it melt. It will bubble and foam. Once it begins to foam, whisk it constantly until deep brown bits begin to appear and the butter smells nutty like toffee. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before using.

 

 

 

 

Ginger Bourbon Cider

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I’ve never been a big drinker, especially post-baby, but I do enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine every so often. This cocktail has been my jam this season! I made it for the first time when we had some friends over for an impromptu game night and it was a hit. It combines some of my favorite autumnal flavors–apple and ginger–in an easy-drinking libation.

The ingredients are pretty familiar, for the most part. The only semi-exotic thing being the Calvados–which is simply French apple brandy. It’s warm and caramel-y with lots of apple flavor without being a neon-green-sour-apple situation. It’s one of my favorite fall liquors to cook with (use it to deglaze a pan of pork chops!), but also makes a great addition to this fall-time cocktail. Besides the Calvados, we have warming bourbon, fresh apple cider, fizzy-spicy ginger beer, a little bitters, and a pinch of cinnamon. The combination makes for a cocktail that’s reminiscent of hot apple cider, but packs a refreshingly fizzy, tipsy punch.

Print Recipe

Ginger Bourbon Cider

Makes 1 stiff drink.

Calvados can be found at any well-stocked liquor store. It’s a bit of an investment for your bar, but makes a great addition for fall cocktailing–it’d be great in a hot toddy! and like I mentioned, it’s awesome for deglazing for an excellent pan sauce. There are a few different brands, so choose the one that best fits your bar-budget. That said, this cocktail doesn’t suffer much without it, just add more bourbon!

1 ounce bourbon

1 ounce Calvados

2-3 ounces apple cider

a few shakes of orange, or classic, bitters

ginger beer

pinch of ground cinnamon

Fill a cocktail glass with ice (I like crushed, but cubes work just fine). Combine the bourbon, Calvados, apple cider, and bitters. Top the drink with ginger beer–more or less depending on how strong of a drink you’d like–stir and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.

 

Spicy Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas, and Goat Cheese

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I apologize in advance for the brain-dump this is about to be…it’s just one of those posts!

This week Sean, Casper, and I made a quick overnight trip to Seattle. I wanted to go to Jessica’s book signing and Sean wanted to visit his BFF. It was super quick, but so fun! Casper and I met up for coffee with Jessica and her mom (who is SO sweet and friendly) before the event and she is the best! Really, just as warm, funny, and conversational as her blog. I loved it. It’s always super fun to meet someone you correspond with on the internets, in real life. On a side note, the book store where the signing took place, The Book Larder, is AMAZING. It’s a bookstore exclusively dedicated to cookbooks and it’s wonderful. If you are ever in Seattle, definitely go there.

After that Casper and I met up with Sean, his BFF and his wife, and had pizza and salad at their apartment and met their HUGE, soft, sweet Burnese pup.  It was a fun, whirlwind-ish mid-week trip. I was a little nervous how Casper would fare, being in the car for 3 hours each way, roaming around Seattle, and sleeping in a strange place, but he was a total champ and mostly napped the whole time. I was super impressed, and a little jealous of his napping skills, ha!

After we got home, I discovered all of my succulents had spider mites…insert cringey-face-emoji!!! I am super squeamish about any kind of insect, even the teensiest ones, so I moved those suckers outside and am currently mourning the loss of my succulents/trying not to freak out/itch my face off.

Now that I’ve grossed you out with bug-talk, lets talk food. I know…cringe…SORRY.

Anyway, before I left, I made this stew…and full disclosure, I’ve totally posted a similar recipe on the blog before. This version is a bit different and I thought it was worth a revamp/revisit. I love this stew and it’s variations for a lot of reasons. It’s easy and quick, filling, warm from all the spices, vegetarian, and pretty cheap to make with on-hand pantry staples…plus, it’s totally adaptable. This version contains plenty of butternut squash that brings a bit of welcome sweetness against the spiciness of the serrano chiles. Red lentils and chickpeas make this stew hearty and filling without the addition of meat. I love to serve this stew with a tangy, creamy cheese one top, or even a hefty dollop of greek yogurt, for some tang and creaminess. Fresh cilantro and lemon brighten up the party and are a nice contrast to the warm spices. 

Print Recipe

Spicy Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas, and Goat Cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

2 serrano peppers, seeded and diced

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cups diced butternut squash

1/2 cup dry, red lentils

1, 15.5 ounce, can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1, 28 ounce, can crushed tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

salt to taste

juice of 1 lemon

soft goat cheese

cilantro

lemon wedges and pita to serve

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, celery, and serrano, plus a small pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and the onions are translucent. Add the minced ginger and garlic, and cook about 1 minute before adding the tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric, stir well to combine and cook for a few minutes until the tomato paste becomes deep red. Then, add in the butternut squash, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and chicken stock, all at once. Stir well to combine, taste for salt, then bring the stew to a boil. Once the stew is boiling turn it down to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils and squash are tender. Taste again for salt, season as desired. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Serve generous portions of the stew with crumbled goat cheese, cilantro, lemon wedges, and warmed pita bread.