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Pumpkin, Pecan, Spice Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Steph Blackwell

This showstopper of a cake is an absolute belter, perfect for a celebration or just as a little Sunday baking project to share with work colleagues, friends and family. The cake comprises 3 thick layers of moist sponge loaded with pumpkin, pecans, sultanas and heaps of spice. It also features olive oil, a little yoghurt, orange and wholewheat flour for extra flavour & fibre. Between the layers is a yoghurt, cream cheese and cream whipped frosting, low in sugar and dappled with lemon zest to cut through the richness – this one’s a real crowd pleaser.

pumpkin-spice-cake

Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
150g sultanas
Zest of 3 oranges
150ml orange juice from fresh oranges
375ml mild & light in colour olive oil
6 x large eggs
75g natural yoghurt
255g wholemeal flour sifted
255g self-raising flour sifted
Pinch of sea salt
3 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.5 level tsp baking powder
2.5 level tbsp ground cinnamon
1.5 level tsp ground ginger
1.5 level tsp ground nutmeg
¾ level tsp ground allspice
¾ level tsp ground cloves
420g soft light brown sugar
420g grated weight of pumpkin flesh (once seeds and skin removed)
150g pecans, roasted, roughly chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
250g cream cheese
50g thick full fat Greek yoghurt
50g caster sugar
300ml double cream
Zest of 2 lemons
Caramelised Pecans
30g caster sugar
40g pecans
Pinch of salt
Dried Clementine Slices
2 x clementine
Approx 20g icing sugar to sprinkle
Garnish
5 x rosemary sprigs.
Handful pumpkin seeds

Method
Make ahead: for the dried clementines. Preheat the oven to 110C/90C fan. Finely slice the clementines (~4mm) and place on paper tower, lightly press to remove some of the moisture – try not to damage the flesh of the clementine in the process. Place on a lined baking tray and sprinkle generously with icing sugar. Bake in the oven for around 2-3 hours or until starting to crisp and dry out. Once ready, leave in the oven to dry out further until cool.

For the cakes, first measure the sultanas into a bowl, add the orange zest and orange juice and leave to soak for a couple of hours – I usually let them soak overnight. Once soaked you’re ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line 3 x 8-inch loose bottomed tins.

Measure the oil into a large jug, add the eggs and yoghurt and whisk with a small hand whisk to fully combine. Into a large mixing bowl, measure out the flours, pinch of salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, spices & soft light brown sugar; stir well. Add the raisin and orange juice/zest mixture, grated pumpkin, chopped pecans and egg/oil/yoghurt mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Once all the ingredients are fully incorporated, split the mixture between the 3 prepared tins and pop in the oven for around 40 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Once cooked, remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

For the caramelised pecans, line a large baking tray with parchment. Heat the sugar in a pan over a medium heat until melted and a very pale straw colour. Add a pinch of salt and chuck in the pecans. Use a spatula to stir the pecans and sugar together so that the pecans are evenly coated. Continue to cook over a medium/low heat, stirring frequently until the sugar syrup has turned a dark amber colour, and the pecans are fragrant and golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and pour onto the lined baking tray, use a couple of lightly greased spatulas to separate the pecans, allow to cool completely on the tray.

Just prior to assembling the cake, prepare the frosting. Measure the cream cheese, yoghurt, double cream, sugar, and lemon zest into a large bowl. Use an electric hand whisk to beat together until thick and well combined.

To assemble, place one of the cooled cakes on a cake board, spread with a thin layer of frosting. Add the second cake layer and repeat, before finishing with the final cake layer – ensure the bottom of the cake becomes the top to give neat edges. Smooth the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, neaten the sides with a cake scraper creating a ‘naked’ finish, and use any excess to pipe little swirls on top as desired. Arrange the pumpkin seeds, caramelised pecans and dried clementines around the outside circumference of the top of the cake, garnish with rosemary sprigs if you wish and serve.

NOTES

  • Make sure you use a culinary pumpkin i.e., one that is grown to be eaten, (not one of the carving ones), they should have much more flavour.
  • To prepare the pumpkin: Scoop out the seeds and softer stringy flesh – separate the seeds from the flesh and lay on a baking tray with salt and oil, roast at 170 fan until golden and crisp, enjoy topped on salads or as a super yummy savoury snack.
  • As I discovered whilst testing this recipe, pumpkins can vary a lot in terms of their water content, so keep an eye on the cake towards the end of the cooking time – yours may take less or more time to cook through. If you can’t get hold of a culinary pumpkin, you can use butternut squash or carrot as an alternative – just be mindful that the cooking time may be a little less with these varieties.
  • There isn’t a huge amount of frosting in this recipe, it’s quite rich so I tend to keep it to a thin coat and let the cake SING, but feel free to make more frosting if that is your favourite bit! Also, I find that the frosting can look slightly discoloured once you have decorated the cake – this is simply the cake slightly colouring the frosting once they come into contact with each other– it obviously still tastes and looks fantastic!
  • This is a showstopper of a cake but if you are only feeding a few, divide the cake recipe by 3 and bake in one 8 x inch tin as per the method above, and top with ~¼ of the frosting.
  • The dried clementine slices are totally optional but… they taste fantastic and are also additions to homemade winter wreaths and garlands!

Enjoy!

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