You had me at cake…a warmly-spiced, cosy bake for autumn.
The onset of autumn and smoky backdrop of Halloween used to mean my grandfather carving out turnips – honestly I have no idea how he did it – in our kitchen at home, lit with the stubby ends of emergency candles wrapped in foil and strung up with garden twine. I don’t remember the turnips being as small as they are now, but when my knuckles are grazed from scooping out the inside of a pumpkin and the seeds have scattered everywhere I think of him chiselling out the insides of a rock-hard tuber and never once complaining. I usually make Hummingbird Bakery pumpkin cupcakes with the flesh of a culinary pumpkin, every time cursing that I should’ve just bought a tin of pumpkin puree. This year I thought of a pumpkin cheesecake or curry, but my great plans led nowhere and by the afternoon of our Halloween party and the thought of frosting cupcakes too much of an effort, I went a-googling Nigella pumpkin recipes. I don’t know why I hadn’t made this bundt cake from Simply Nigella – it must’ve just escaped me somehow. With the stew for the main done, sausages in the oven for the boys and a root veg bake ready to go, I give the boys some fondant icing and Halloween cutters while I get to work.
I break out the Kitchenaid for the oil and sugar, let them go to town while I weigh out the dry ingredients, including the heady ground allspice and all of a sudden it smells very festive in Halloween central. Eggs in, steamed pumpkin (cooled) and then the dry mix added and we’re ready to go. The only worry I have with this one is making sure the tin is oiled well enough. At the height of my cupcake obsession someone bought me the giant cupcake tin and it is not my friend, so it’s fair to say tins with any kind of odd shape give me anxiety. There isn’t much you can do with a tin-related disaster except add custard – ideally once you’ve prised what stuck cake you can from the tin, but who am I to judge? So in the oven it goes and I say a little prayer to St Betty – patron of cakes. Forty five minutes later and the edges are looking ok, but I poke and ease at them a little bit before turning my bundt out onto its wire rack. I have a momentary doubt as to whether I should’ve let it cool a little in the tin and rationalise that Nigella didn’t rell me to, so here’s hoping. By this stage visitors had also arrived; no pressure when you’re being watched de-tinning. I have zero chill, so when it comes out of its tin fine I squeal and realise no-one was actually watching anyway.
It looks good and smells earthy and cosy too. I leave it to cool and whisk up some icing with orange juice and a little boiling water ready to glaze. Anytime I make a bundt cake Mr T makes the inevitable My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “there is a hole in this cake,” joke. This was no exception, but the number of turned up noses at the prospect of pumpkin in a cake surprised me – why is carrot (and more recently courgette) cake perfectly fine, but pumpkin turns people off so much? Did they not hear the word cake? Honestly, that’s really all I need. Although there is the obligatory apple tart with hidden treasure for dessert, my bundt looks pretty enough to pique interest as a second pudding for some, including me, and I don’t even wait for coffee. To any pumpkin unenthusiast, don’t worry, if you weren’t told there was squash at work, you really wouldn’t know. It doesn’t taste like there are vegetables masquerading as dessert – it’s just a texture, a background to the cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar that make this toffee apple sweet but fragrant and mellow. I just know it’ll be as good (if not better) tomorrow than when fresh from the oven and the leftover custard on my dessert plate was a welcome addition that I would recommend. Maybe next year I’ll buy the tinned puree; or maybe I’ll be more organised and make the cheesecake the day before our Halloween party. In the meantime, I must revisit the cake section of Simply Nigella in case there’s anything else I’ve missed.