Pumpkin Pleasures

History of Pumpkin Desserts

If you think of fall, winter, the harvest season, sweet taste, and savory aroma when you think of pumpkin, you're not alone! From the time of the early colonists, pumpkin has been used to make baked goods such as cakes, pies, muffins, scones, squares, and breads. The moist dense texture and golden orange/brown color of baked pumpkin have made it a North American favorite for centuries, and pumpkin recipes are especially prominent at Halloween, when carving pumpkins and eating pumpkin deserts are age-old traditions.

Choosing Pumpkins for Baking

For baking purposes, choose pumpkins which feel heavy and solid and which have no blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. The best varieties for baking are the smaller, sweeter, and less fibrous pumpkins such as Cheese pumpkin, Sugar Pie pumpkin, or Baby Bear pumpkin. In general, a five-pound pumpkin yields approximately 4½ cups of mashed pumpkin. If you use canned pumpkin puree, a 15-ounce can yields approximately 1¾ cups of mashed pumpkin. Both homemade and store-bought pumpkin puree can be stored in the fridge for two weeks and can be frozen for up to six months.

Pure Pumpkin/Pumpkin Puree

Many pumpkin cake and desert recipes call for "pure pumpkin" or "pumpkin puree." You can save yourself time and effort by buying canned pure pumpkin or you can prepare homemade pumpkin puree. For the canned variety, check that the label says "100% pure pumpkin," rather than "pumpkin pie filling," which already contains sugar and spices.

To make your own pumpkin puree, cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the string fibers and seeds, place face down on a non-stick baking sheet, and bake until easily pierced with a knife. Once cooled, puree the pulp in a food processor until smooth. To extract all of the liquid, strain the puree through a piece of cheesecloth draped over a strainer.

Pumpkin Recipe Spices

Pumpkin deserts have become synonymous with "sugar and spice and everything nice..." Ground cinnamon is the primary spice associated with pumpkin recipes, followed by ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Some pumpkin recipes call for "mixed spice," which you can prepare yourself according to this simple recipe (yields one teaspoon): Combine ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Pumpkin spice cake is a moist layered cake filled and frosted with cream cheese icing. It features pumpkin's classic complementary spices: cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and is always a crowd favorite. For a unique, mouth-watering twist on traditional cream cheese icing, add pure maple syrup to the recipe (not to be confused with corn syrup or pancake syrup).

Pumpkin Roll

Feel your taste buds tingle as you prepare this delectable pumpkin roll recipe:

•- Prepare a standard sponge cake recipe

•- Spread batter into a rectangular baking pan (not a round cake pan typically used for sponge cakes)

•- Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (approx. 15 minutes)

•- Remove from oven and immediately invert the cake onto a clean towel sprinkled with icing sugar

•- Roll up the pumpkin cake in the towel and place on a rack to cool

•- Prepare cream cheese filling

•- Assemble by unrolling the pumpkin roll, spreading the filling, and re-rolling

•- Transfer to a serving platter, cover, and chill

•- Before serving dust with icing sugar


Pumpkin Cheesecake

This all-American cake combines popular pumpkin pie with timeless New York-style cheesecake, resulting in a velvety smooth cake with a subtle pumpkin flavor. To compliment the pumpkin taste, flavor the cheesecake's graham cracker crust with ginger.

Additional Pumpkin Pleasures

For more pumpkin cake and desert recipes, search the Internet or browse through your favorite recipe books and magazines. Some additional pumpkin pleasers include pumpkin muffins, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cranberry cupcakes.