Having friends over for dinner last night was another occasion to bake a cake. At this time of year great cakes, sumptuous cakes, cakes with chocolate and nuts and fruit, are most appropriate, and this cake ranks right up there for its luxe value. The recipe has one ingredient that might turn many bakers off — they might not even try it once. But years ago, when I saw the recipe on the back of a box of cereal, I did try it and it has remained a family favorite ever since. If you like pumpkin and cake, I hope you try it, too.
Since I embarked on a mission of baking only cakes that bring rave reviews, this cake has earned a place on the Rave Cake List. And no one can guess that it has All-Bran cereal in it. Maybe the little buds of whole wheat fiber have an ability to hold moisture because this cake stays moist for days. The abundance of bits of flavor in each bite — walnuts, chocolate pieces and rum-plumped raisins — make for a nice accompaniment to a cup of morning coffee or afternoon tea.
The first time I baked this cake, I followed the recipe exactly. Ever since, I have made my own changes, arriving finally at a cake that resembles the original, but, to my taste, exceeds it. One of my changes was to add raisins and plump them in a bit of liquid, a trick I learned from Cook’s Illustrated. Cook’s reasoned that dry raisins would pull moisture out of the batter and make for drier muffins. Why not plump raisins for a cake, as well? Here is the Kellogg’s recipe.
If you are in Mexico, and see the large calabazas in the store, try cooking one to use as a substitute for pumpkin. Just cut up the squash, cook it until tender, either in the oven or micro-wave, puree it, and use right away or freeze for future use.
Here is my version of Pumpkin Cake, as it has evolved through the years.
Holiday Pumpkin Cake
1 cup all purpose white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 14-oz. can of pumpkin (or 14 oz. of cooked, pureed calabaza)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 cup All-Bran cereal, Original or Bran Buds
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon rum (or fruit juice)
Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 deg. C.). Butter and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan or tube pan. Read the recipe once or twice. Measure and prepare all ingredients.
In a small sauce pan, heat raisins and rum (or fruit juice) just until steam appears. Stir to coat raisins with rum, cover with a lid and turn off heat to allow raisins to plump while other ingredients are assembled.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) beat eggs and sugar, oil, grated ginger and bran cereal. Mix for one minute. Add flour mixture and briefly mix on low speed just until dry ingredients are combined with pumpkin mixture. Stir in by hand chocolate, nuts and raisins.
Spoon into bundt pan and smooth top. Bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick tests dry. The cake should not yet pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. The cake will pull away from the side of the pan as it cools. Invert and cool completely on a rack.
In a micro-wave safe bowl, melt 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips) with 1/2 tablespoon of walnut oil or butter. Micro-wave in 20 second increments, stirring every 20 seconds, until chocolate is melted and blends smoothly with walnut oil or butter. Drizzle decoratively over cake. Allow chocolate to cool until it is firmly set on the cake. The cake can be refrigerated for 30 minutes to hasten the cooling.