High Country Baking column: Quick and easy pumpkin cake | VailDaily.com

High Country Baking column: Quick and easy pumpkin cake

Serve this quick and easy pumpkin cake at a casual Halloween get-together or as a full-fledged Thanksgiving feast.
Vera Dawson | Special to the Daily |

Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

Need a crowd-pleaser? Look no further; everyone seems to like this pumpkin cake. Moist, tender, with a mild pumpkin-spice taste and a rich cream cheese frosting, it pleases both kids and adults and fits in anywhere. Serve it at a casual Halloween get-together or with a full-fledged Thanksgiving feast.

I include pecans in the cake and maple syrup in the frosting to add more flavors that enhance the autumnal quality of this dessert, but it’s delicious without them. … Your choice. Why do I use Grade B maple syrup? It has a stronger and deeper taste than the better-known Grade A syrup we use on pancakes. Look for it at Whole Foods and City Market.

Quick and easy pumpkin cake

Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher. Make in an 8-by-8-inch square metal baking pan.


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

A little less than 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped medium (optional)


3 ounces full-fat cream cheese, cold

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with non-stick aluminum foil or regular foil, extending it several inches beyond the pan’s edge on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked cake. If using regular foil, grease it well with a vegetable oil-flour spray.

Make the cake: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves in a large bowl and whisk for a minute or two to blend thoroughly.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and pumpkin until well mixed. Add to the dry ingredients and stir only until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the pecans, if using. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and level it.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the edges of the pan, about 25 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely. At this point, the cake, wrapped airtight, can be frozen for up to a month.

Frost the cake: Cut up the cream cheese and place it, with the butter and confectioner’s sugar, in the bowl of a small food processor (or in a mixing bowl if using an electric mixer). Pulse (beat) until smooth. Don’t overprocess or the mixture may get thin and runny. Add the vanilla and maple syrup (if using) and pulse (beat) briefly until blended. Check the consistency and add more sugar if necessary to thicken or a little milk or cream to thin.

Use the foil handles to remove the cake from the pan, frost it prettily, cut it into squares and serve or store covered in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Vera Dawson, author of the cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.

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