Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake – a tale of adventure, mishap, and Irish Cream

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I went to go and get a flu shot yesterday, and on the way home, I went to the grocery store and bought the following items:

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I didn’t need 3 whole cans of pumpkin, but they were on sale, and I was powerless to resist.

Since last week or so, probably since the calendar officially told us that fall was here, I have been daydreaming about a cake that incorporated 2 of my favorite things: pumpkin and cheap Irish cream liqueur.

I am aware that most people use Irish cream as a mixer in more elaborate cocktails or as a way to make their coffee more interesting, but, over the years, it has become my favorite drink all on its own. Just in a tiny glass with an ice cube? I have no idea why it’s so great, but it is. Irish cream is made with Irish whiskey, sugar (or honey), and cream, blended together into perfection. Its thick, silky texture makes it an easy substitute for milk in any cake recipe. And its warmth and slight hint of spice from the whiskey makes it, in my opinion, a great pairing for the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves inherent in pumpkin baking.

Putting them together makes so much sense to me that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it before. Or really, that no one appeared to have. I found a whole ton of recipes involving combining pumpkin and rum in cake-y form, but nothing with delicious, wonderful Irish cream. This needed to be fixed.

In my kitchen, it’s not fall until…

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…now.

I went to Betty for inspiration and a basic yellow cake recipe, and then just experimented from there. There was a tiny bit of heartbreak along the way (ooooh, spooky foreshadowing!), but everything turned out amazing in the end.

Ready?

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker‘s Starlight Yellow Cake and inspired by the glories of fall, in general

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups Irish cream liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease and flour the bundt pan of your choice.

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Seriously, do this thoroughly. (More foreshadowing, I know. Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!)

In large bowl, put all ingredients, except for powdered sugar, and beat together on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then at high speed (or only halfway if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer, like me, because high speed would probably send pumpkin splattering all across yourself and your kitchen) for about 3 minutes.

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Pour batter into prepared pan.

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Admire the lovely orange color and the amazing smell for just a second before you pop it into the oven. While baking, that heavenly smell will only intensify. Your kitchen will smell like hot toddies and pumpkin pie. You will suddenly decide that you are the smartest person on the planet. Or maybe that was just me. I do tend to get a little bit cocky before the fall. BUM BUM BUUUUMMMMM!

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Now, here’s where things went a bit awry. I baked my bundt until a toothpick came out clean (about 50 minutes), which is usually the standard. However, this resulted in a cake that was just a little too…delicate for the rigors of being a stand-alone bundt. It’s super moist and delicious, and I wouldn’t recommend changing anything about the ingredients, but just increase the baking time in order to get a thicker, tougher crust on there that will prevent this type of tragedy.

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After I waited the normal 15-20 minutes to release the cake from the bundt pan, I made sure to run a butter knife along the edge, and flipped it over. And about a third of the top of the cake decided to stay in the pan. (It’s okay to gasp a little. I’m pretty sure that I did, too.)

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A few years ago, this would have probably made me cry a little. However, I decided that I am a grown woman, and instead, I got to work with a butter knife, making strategic cuts and delicately prying that cake top out of the pan and placing it in its correct place. I was determined to photograph and eat this goddamn delicious cake, and nothing was going to stop me.

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure that lengthening the baking time to least an hour (as long as nothing was scorching) and then waiting a little longer before attempting to get the cake out of the pan would probably solve all of these problems. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon, so I’ll be sure to report back.

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Then, I left the cake alone to cool properly (and hopefully decide to fuse together a bit) and made a salad. This is not required, but highly recommended.

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After the cake was fully cool, I poked it all over with a toothpick, steering clear of the Franken-cake pieced-together sections for fear of further damage.

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Then, I brushed a little extra Irish cream over the top, letting it sink into the top layer of cake. It was probably just a bit less than 1/4 cup, but who keeps track of these things? Just keep going until the top crust is saturated. Then, let the cake sit for just a little while longer, like about 30-45 minutes.

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That Irish cream layer will soak in and harden a little bit, giving the cake a sort of “shellacked” outer layer. Ideally, it won’t be sticky or too moist, just sort of thick and glossy.

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Now, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of powdered sugar. I debated going crazy and concocting some sort of Irish cream icing or frosting, but this cake is so moist and flavorful that you really don’t want to overpower it.

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And you’re done!

Slice into that glorious cake and take a bite. I’ll wait.

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It’s so good, right? It tastes like warm pumpkin pie, like whiskey and spices on a cold day. Dan took one bite and said, “I think I’m going to get drunk.” Hence the name: Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake.

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Go out and make one (and just keep it in the oven a little longer than I did) in order to bring instant pumpkin spice sass to any party or just to warm up a chilly fall night. You will be glad that you did.

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Vote Vote Vote for Me!

Tomorrow, December 19th, is the big day!

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Go vote for my gingerbread creation at Movita Beaucoup tomorrow to get me into the finals for Ginger 2012! Help me lay the smackdown on these other gingerbread-lovin’ bitches and give ’em what for.

Yeah.

Man, I can’t even sound hip and cool when I’m typing.

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Anyway, vote vote VOTE so that I can get some glory (and maybe some awesome cookbooks!), and I’ll consider putting up some embarrassing photos of kitchen disasters for you. Or maybe I’ll bake everyone some cookies. Either way, you guys win!

Do it. Make me proud.

Adventures in Gingerbread – Part Two: The Exciting Conclusion!

There’s a moment when you’re sitting in your kitchen with a cherished project, where the royal icing is all made up and just about to flow out of the tip of that pastry bag, and you think back on all the cookbooks you have read, all the baking blogs you faithfully follow, and all the YouTube videos you’ve seen to prepare yourself, and you take a deep breath and say to yourself…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

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Which was basically the thought that was racing through my brain the entire time I was attempting to ice my gingerbread monstrosity.

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(Can you guys tell yet that the birds are my favorite part?)

As previously stated, I’ve never made anything involving proper gingerbread before, especially nothing that eventually had to stand up and carry its own weight. I’ve never made royal icing and piped it onto a surface before, but surely, reading so much Bakerella should prepare you for this experience, right?

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In theory, yes. But in my real-life, very cold, very early morning kitchen…not so much. There’s nothing that can prepare you for drawing with liquid sugar than the very precise act of drawing with liquid sugar for the very first time.

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So all that you can do is just jump in and realize that it may be a complete disaster, and that’s totally okay, because you’re still going to post it on your website so that others can share in your delight at your kitchen failure. And then keep taking deep breaths, because with enough patience and toothpicks, it might actually…look…okay.

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Not exactly the storybook page come to life you were envisioning, but goddamn it, you drew a freaking boat in sugar! Who cares if there’s a whole bunch of bubbles in there! Not me! I guess! Hopefully!

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Now, when you’re getting ready to work with royal icing, people warn you to get ready to work quickly because that stuff dries fast. This might be a big lie, especially if you made sure you were completely ready for this. It might actually take several hours.

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It did. It did take several hours, which meant that our big moment of truth was left until this very morning. It was finally time for…The Stacking.

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I’m hoping that the addition of graham crackers as a structural element here doesn’t get me disqualified (even though I might already be because my gingerbread seascape is in no way residential).

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Ta da! The miracles of three-dimensionality.

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Here’s a little bit of what this bad boy looks like underneath, keeping up all those layers.

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Hooray!

At this point, I sat and anxiously ate a bowl of cereal, hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t slide apart all over itself before I could stand it up. Then I started to worry about it falling apart when I stood it up for the pictures. And guess what!

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It didn’t! It’s actually still standing up on my counter as we speak! (Although, I’m totally going to lay that sucker right back down before I leave for work, because who knows what might happen while I’m gone. The universe might decide to shatter those cookies all over the place. Or more likely, the cat will decide that it finally needs to investigate what the hell has been going on on top of that counter all these days.)

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A little backstage action, past the sight lines, so to speak.

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Birds!

You guys, I am so excited. I know that there’s no way I’m going to win anything in this contest, what with the non-house, non-traditional, non-gingerbread, so completely non-perfect elements at work here, plus…these people are super-serious about their gingerbread houses. Movita‘s going to lay the smackdown, and I just. Cannot. Wait.

Sometimes getting up weird and early to bake cookies and play with sugar in order to make something completely impractical is totally worth it. Because you get to take super moody pictures of it in the morning light and feel pretty dang good about yourself.

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Adventures in Gingerbread – Part One

So. There’s a lovely blogger lady about whom I have already gushed effusively, the wonderful Movita Beaucoup. She holds several no-holds-barred, throw-down, food-related contests during the year, one of which is Ginger 2012.

I have never gotten a chance to participate in one of these contests. Until now.

Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!

Those were awesome suspense sound effects, by the way. Because…I have never made a gingerbread house. Ever.

There is mostly good reason for this. I’m not a big fan of ginger, as we all already know, and growing up in New Orleans just doesn’t lend itself to typical winter activities. Yes, we try to pretend it’s really cold and turn on the fireplace and drink hot chocolate and wear scarves like this is a normal activity in 60 degree weather, but really…you’ve got to have that undying holiday spirit in you to pull this off without feeling extremely silly. Gingerbread houses are just not a part of my family’s average holiday activities.

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And after all of this is over, I’m pretty sure that I still will have not made a gingerbread house.

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Because I am a big, ridiculous person who has to do something different. I can’t just make a little house and cover it in gumdrops, apparently.

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Nope.

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I have to make a gingerbread diorama. Of something completely non-holiday-related. Of course.

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Not Martha‘s awesome gingerbread recipe lends itself well to cutting out strange shapes, plus it has some extremely finicky steps, which usually guarantees that I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

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This also might be the only time I haven’t had problems with rolling out dough in my kitchen, probably because I made some serious concentrated attempts to cover everything in my kitchen in flour out of dough anxiety.

Did I mention strange shapes?

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Yep. Birds.

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And a really messy countertop.

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There’s also a slight issue with me in that fully cooked gingerbread doesn’t really look all that different from raw gingerbread that I just put it in the oven. I’m crossing my fingers.

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Now, I know that the seaside scene I’ve presented here doesn’t have much Christmas-y-ness to it, so here’s a sneak peek of some super secret presents…

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Shh! Don’t tell.

Part Two…coming soon. Stay tuned.

Pepparkakor Make Jinger Happy

Even though it’s not the first thing that I’ve made and photographed since moving back to the house in New Orleans, I thought that it would be fitting to open up with a ginger-themed cookie.

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People always give me bags of gingersnaps and candied ginger and ginger tea for presents (especially Christmas), and I always feel bad because I’m not a big fan.  I know that it’s ironic (or whatever word would be used to describe a situation where you don’t like a food that is very similar to your given name…I doubt that there is a proper descriptive term for that) for me to not like ginger, but it’s just weird to me.  It’s a bit overwhelming and too savory for my tastes, but there is one exception to this rule.

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A few years ago, a friend bought me a huge container of pepparkakor from Cost Plus World Market for a Christmas present, and I was hooked from the first bite.  Pepparkakor are thin Danish gingersnaps, and the best kinds are super thin and crispy and ridiculously spicy.

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I decided a long time ago that I needed to learn to make them for myself so that they could be a more constant presence in my life, but never found a recipe that seemed worth the effort.  Recently, after secretly stalking one of my favorite blogs, Tea & Cookies, through her archives, I found a pepparkakor recipe that looked delicious, and my fate was sealed.

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The recipe is here for interested parties (Do it. Just do it. Make a big mess.). It’s a decent amount of work, and it’s really important to keep the dough cold and use flour liberally to keep it from sticking while you’re rolling out the dough. I feel like my body temperature must be oven-like because I only had 3 minutes top before the dough was getting tragically sticky.

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My countertop and my hands and the fridge handle and the oven handle and my apron are thoroughly coated in flour, but I think it’s worth it. I’m waiting for a cold glass of milk this afternoon to really enjoy these, but I may have tasted one right out of the oven and declared it delicious.

These aren’t quite as sweet and crispy as I want, but the spice and molasses is just right. I think that I need to just get more adventurous and roll out that dough as thin as possible to really get that effect that I want. I also shied away from the salt sprinkle on top (which is weird for me because usually sweet & salty is my jam, yo), but I think it would have been the way to go.

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It’s not like anyone’s going to have to twist my arm to make these again. I’ve got plenty of time to perfect these for Christmas.