Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.
- Sara Teasdale, “September Midnight”
I was waiting until it was ‘officially’ fall to start baking with pumpkin; no matter how fall-ish it felt near the end of summer, I couldn’t get myself to use pumpkin just yet. My supermarket just started selling local pumpkins this past week and that’s when I decided it was time to use them. So, I welcomed the new season with a simple pumpkin cake, garnished with a nutty streusel that uses fresh, minced ginger root for flavor. And of course, you can’t have a cake without some pourable, sugary topping, so I opted with delicious crème anglaise. It went exceptionally well with the cake!
When baking, I almost always make my own added ingredients when possible, instead of buying pre-made or canned ingredients. So I used fresh pumpkin purée when I made this recipe. You don’t have to use it fresh, though, canned pumpkin purée will work fine. If you want the full flavor, I highly reccomend using fresh pumpkin purée. It’s very simple to make.
On another note, this was my first actual styled shoot. Most the time when I’m baking and it comes time to photograph the thing(s) which I just baked, I find myself rushing the entire process when I shouldn’t be; so I end up throwing things together onto a table with the subject and don’t pay close enough attention to the light I’m in. I decided ahead of time that I wasn’t going to do that with this shoot. So, I planned it all out instead of doing it on a whim like I usually find myself doing. I was quite pleased with how the photos turned out and I didn’t spend nearly as many hours editing them, per usual.
I also went more with neatness. I tend to be very messy when it comes to the props in my photographs, which are almost always flowers, dried or alive. You see, I don’t have that big of a prop closet, but what I do have is an abundance of flowers and greenery as I’m a hoarder with those things and love drying them for later use or for decoration. My prop closet is pretty much a small cardboard box filled with tinkerings I’ve found here and there while rummaging through antique stores(I rarely ever purchase brand new props, I like them old). It’s a never ending learning process photography is, and the main key is patience. Something I lack more often than not, but am learning to work on.
PUMPKIN CAKE WITH GINGER STREUSEL AND CRÈME ANGLAISE
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp.
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
2 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 ounces granulated sugar
3 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ginger root, minced
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 vanilla bean pods
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line (with parchment paper) two loaf pans and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; whisk till combined and set aside.
- In another (large) mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Using am electric hand mixer or standing mixer with whisks attached, beat the butter and sugar till fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the pumpkin purée, applesauce, and half of the flour. Mix on medium speed till just combined, then add the remaining flour. Again, mix till just combined.
- Divide the batter equally amongst the two loaf pans and spread around evenly in the pan(s). Sprinkle with the streusel mixture. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick at 40 minutes; if it is clean it’s done, if not, bake for 3-5 more minutes.
- Once the cake is done, let them sit in the pans for 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife to loosen the cake from around the edges of the pan then gently invert onto wire racks to cool. You can eat it cool or warmed. Once it reaches the desired temperature, cut into slices, then drizzle on the crème anglaise with a spoon onto the individual slices.
- Wash, peel, and mince the ginger root and set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the cold butter cubes using a pastry blender or pulse in a food processor. The pieces should be large and crumbly. Add the nuts and freshly grated ginger and stir with a spoon till combined. Sprinkle on top the cake before baking.
- Fill a large pot with ice and water a few inches deep. Place a thin mixing bowl in the center of it with strainer resting on top. Set next to your stove for later use.
- In a medium sized saucepan, add the milk. Split open the two vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds and put them into the milk along with the pods. On medium-low heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and yolks, whisk till well blended. Once the milk has come to a simmer, remove from heat also removing the vanilla bean pods.
- While whisking the yolks, slowly stream in half of the hot milk into the yolks. Once they’re combined, gently add the yolk mixture back into the remaining milk, continuing to whisk. Return the mixture to medium heat and continue whisking until thickened. Be sure the mixture does not boil, or the yolks will curdle. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. To test the thickness, run your finger along the back of the said spoon after dipping it in the creme, if the streak remains without the creme running back into it, it is done. Turn off the heat and pour the creme into the strainer that is resting on top the mixing bowl in the ice water. Once strained, continue to whisk the mixture till it’s cool to touch. Cover and place in the refrigerator till ready to use. Serve with the cake.