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ready, set, go!

Recipe: pumpkin tea cake

In December, I go through the process of reviewing my photographs from the entire year. I do this to gather a compilation for our New Year’s greeting card, but the exercise is a great way to take a jog down (short-term) memory lane. I’ve been cranking out a digital photo card for the past seven years such that I don’t feel I’m ready for the new year until I’ve summarized the one that is coming to a close. Reflection is good and this time spent pondering the last twelve months means I am psyched and ready for 2012. Please visit our Year in Photos for 2011.

happy new year from me to you

Back in October, Celia, who runs Star Acre Farms had come to the Denver Botanic Gardens cooking workshop that I taught with Manisha, Todd, and Diane. She gifted us several gorgeous heirloom squashes from her farm after the class had ended. One of the pumpkins I chose was this beauty:

a winter luxury pumpkin

Thoughts of what to make with this special pumpkin ran in the background of my mind for several weeks. It wasn’t until I was in California, meeting up with Lisa, when she put the idea in my head. We were talking about Tartine and how we love the bakery and how we both have the cookbook. Lisa asked if I had tried their pumpkin tea cake before. No. Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she ordered me to make this pumpkin tea cake. There is a reason her blog is called Lisa Is Bossy (I love her!).

flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, pumpkin, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, eggs

mix the dry ingredients

I was mentally ready to use the heirloom pumpkin for this tea cake when I read that pumpkin purée from scratch tends to be watery and not as good as canned pumpkin. Huh… Luckily, I had some canned organic pumpkin purée in the cupboard. I guess it’s good that I buy groceries at random for no reason – at least it was this time.

combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, salt

beat the eggs in one at a time

Lisa told me this was a terrific pumpkin tea cake recipe. In her words, “I mean, it has a cup of oil for a single loaf. How is it not going to be amazing?” My eyes grew wide when I heard that. A cup of oil? But I trusted Lisa because she’s OCD, has high standards, and is a baking machine. SOLD!

add the flour mixture and stir until just combined

the consistency of a thick purée

I filled my standard loaf pan and the batter went nearly to the top. There was some concern since this was my first attempt baking a sea-level recipe at my elevation. The probability of the cake overflowing and me having to scrape carbonized pumpkin tea cake off the bottom of my oven was significantly greater than zero. Too lazy to split it between two pans, I just slid a baking sheet underneath the rack to catch any drips. Good thing too, because the cake rose enough to spill sugar over the edges, although the batter remained within the pan. I cannot complain.

top the batter with sugar and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)


The crumb on this cake is so moist and tender. I imagine that’s the oil’s doing. I also love the earthy pumpkin with spicy notes from the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. The “crust” of the cake is nice and crunchy fresh out of the oven with the baked sugar and roasted pepitas on top. It’s perfect for tea, with coffee, served as dessert, served as breakfast, or just shoveled into your mouth. I’ve never been disappointed with anything out of Tartine Bakery, so it comes as no surprise that their cookbook would deliver equally excellent baked goods.

perfect pumpkin cake

Pumpkin Tea Cake
[print recipe]
from Tartine

1 2/3 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) baking soda
1 tbsp + 2 tsps (25 ml) ground cinnamon
2 tsps (10 ml) nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tbsps (255 g) pumpkin purée
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable oil (like safflower or sunflower)
1 1/3 cups (270 g) sugar
3/4 tsp (4 ml) salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsps sugar for topping
3 tbsps pepitas for topping

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×5-inch loaf pan. (You can do this recipe with a stand mixer or by hand.) Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt together until well blended. Beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour and mix until just combined. You don’t want to overbeat the batter as it will result in a tougher crumb. Then beat for 5 to 10 seconds until smooth. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and tap the pan on the counter to help flatten the batter out. Sprinkle the sugar and pepitas on top and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and flip the cake out. Turn the cake back right-side up and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Lasts about 4 days (well-wrapped) on your counter or up to a week in the refrigerator. Serves 6-8.

19 nibbles at “ready, set, go!”

  1. Shosh says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a loooong time, but this is my first time commenting. :)

    I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year, as we had it for an American friend. I’m in Australia, so canned pumpkin isn’t something we can get here. I roasted and pureed butternut pumpkin, and it did not turn out watery at all. Maybe it depends on the type of pumpkin you use?

  2. Sue Herrmann says:

    I have always heard that canned pumpkin is better for pumpkins- until I roasted the pumpkin rather than boiled it. Super easy and not watery and I think the taste is fresher in pies, etc.

    This recipe sounds great w/ the roasted pepitas and sugar on top!

  3. Magda says:

    Hi Jennifer, your New Year’s greeting card photo is great :) Even though Kaweah looks distracted by something!

    I have never made a cake with pumpkin before yet this one grabbed my attention. I hope I can find pumpkin puree! The pepitas on top are a nice touch.

    Friends like your friend Lisa are the best; persuading us to try things we never thought we’d like.

  4. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says:

    Pumpkin bread has been the most requested sweet this holiday season in my house. Last night I made my 6th loaf! Yours looks so beautiful with the sparkling of sugar and pepitas on top.

  5. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    Yum! What a beautiful cake!

  6. Cooking with Michele says:

    If you have pumpkin – or any other squash – puree that’s too wet, you can just cook it in a dry skillet for a few minutes to cook out the excess water. I found that was important to do when making ravioli so the filling isn’t too wet. Happy holidays to you and Jeremy!

  7. jo-lyn@jo-lyn's cup cakes n' candies says:

    ohgoodnessme, does that look good!! i am a sucker for all things pumpkin!! nom nom nom…

  8. jo-lyn@jo-lyn's cup cakes n' candies says:

    *love* your top pic by the way!! you two and your cute pooch!! (the rest are cool, too)

  9. Chris @nestlefoodie says:

    What an adorable pic of your family!! And I can’t wait to make this pumpkin tea cake! Happy holidays to you, Jen! So happy I had the opportunity to train with you this year :)

  10. vanillasugarblog says:

    was kaweah looking at a treat off to the side? is that how you got her to stand still?
    very cute, very warm.

  11. Bridget says:

    I absolutely love Tartine’s cookbook. It makes me want to jump up and start baking every time I flip through it. I have not yet made the pumpkin tea cake though, mostly because of that 1 cup of oil. Of course, I won’t tell the people I share the cake with about that though…

  12. Collette says:

    That’s a fabulous photo of you all. You both look genuinely happy which is, of course, not always the case with family holiday photos!

  13. Aly says:

    Easy way to deal with watery pumpkin puree: strain it like you would yogurt to make greek yogurt or yogurt cheese. It gets very thick and works just as well as canned pumpkin puree.

  14. Kristen says:

    Another first time commenter/long-time reader here. I can’t wait to make this recipe as I have been craving sweets (but not overly sweet) like mad. This looks perfect.

    A few years ago I lived in Cortez, Colorado as a reporter for the small newspaper there and fell in absolute love with that part of the state. It seemed like a little secret that no one really knew about (and the trails were nice and quiet wherever I went hiking/biking, another plus! If you are ever outside of Cortez, hit up Phil’s World biking trails and go for the “ribcage” — such a blast!). My old dog, Buddy, spent his last year out there, hiking the trails with me right up until we had to put him down at 14. Kaweah’s sweet face reminds me of his.

    I’ll stop going on and on now. Just wanted to say that I love your blog, and as a fledgling photographer, I love getting inspired by your photos. Happy holidays to you guys. :)

  15. Margie says:

    My heart sings when I see that doggie’s face.

    P.S. I love your New Year’s card. Miss K. has a secret she is revealing. Was she telling you to send me that pumpkin loaf?

  16. Bing Chou says:

    Visiting your Year in Photos for 2011 collection ended up being a review of the year for me in a way too. It’s great seeing a collection that includes a lot of photos that you shared on this blog throughout the year. Can’t wait to see what you post in 2012.

  17. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    Perfect Pumpkin Cake is right. Love the glistening sugar on top.

  18. jenyu says:

    Shosh – I have heard that roasting may help?

    Sue – yes, that’s what I’ve been hearing!

    Magda – yes, Kaweah hates looking at the camera. It takes A LOT of coaxing (or tricking her) ;)

    Melissa – wow, six?? You must have a lot of mouths and tummies hungry for pumpkin bread!

    Katrina – thanks!

    Michele – thanks for that tip and happy holidays to you and your family :)

    jo-lyn – it’s a great cake!

    Chris – I’m really glad we met this year too!! Happy holidays to you and your loved ones xo

    vanillasugarblog – Kaweah is generally looking at anything that is remotely edible. She’s a pain to photograph!! ;)

    Bridget – make the cake, it’s awesome (just have one slice and pawn the rest off on everyone else)

    Collette – :) thanks!

    Aly – great tip, thanks!

    Kristen – thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like Buddy lived a good life and that’s really all we want for our pups, right? :)

    Margie – she’s just being a dork.

    Bing Chou – thanks!

    Brandon – it’s yummy!! :)

  19. Joy says:

    The cake looks wonderful.

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