Small amount of butter, vegetable shortening, and flour for preparing pans
Candied Nuts (optional):
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, or almonds, coarsely chopped (or use a combination of nuts)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups fresh pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
2 cups grated raw carrots
Tip: Use standard measuring cups and spoons or scales for accurate measuring.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
Candied Nuts (optional):
- Lightly butter a baking sheet or line with a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg; stir together to mix. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, toast the nuts over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Set aside.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium low heat, combine sugar, butter, water, and salt. Heat and stir until the butter is melted. Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and continue to boil, without stirring, until the sugar mixture turns a caramel color or reaches a temperature of 325 degrees F., taking from 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat and remove candy thermometer. Stir in the spice mixture, and then add the nuts, stirring until the nuts are evenly coated.
- Immediately pour nut mixture onto the baking sheet, spreading the mixture with the spoon as best as you can. The mixture hardens quickly so you need to work fast. Be careful, the sugar is extremely hot and will burn your skin if you touch it.
- As soon as the nuts are cool enough to handle break apart with your hands. Set aside to cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 350o degrees F. Prepare three 8 inch round layer cake pans; lightly grease the pans with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust the pan with flour.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color.
With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the sugar, then add the brown sugar, taking an additional 3 to 4 minutes, beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugars, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
- Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed. Add the vanilla along with the last egg yolk.
- With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the pumpkin, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and pumpkin, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, fold in the grated carrots.
- In a medium mixing bowl and using clean beaters, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla; use an electric hand mixer or wooden spoon and beat together until mixture is smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until frosting is smooth and creamy.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Decorate cake as desired.
- Using a long serrated kitchen knife, split each cake into 2 horizontal layers.
Tip: Cut one of the cake layers so that the bottom half is thicker than the top half, and use the thicker bottom half as the 1st layer to provide a good base to support the upper layers.
- Place the thicker bottom half of the layers on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula spread about ¾ cup frosting over the layer. Repeat with the next four layers. Place the last cake layer on top. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Sprinkle the candied nuts around the top and sides of the cake, pressing lightly into the frosting.
- Refrigerate cake 1 to 4 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Source: MasterChef Magazine, Ben Starr, October 2011