the flavours of fall: pumpkin streusel coffee cake
Haul out your Bundt cake pans. It’s time for a new pumpkin recipe.
This post appeared in my “Fresh Perspective” column in Kingston This Week on 18 October 2012.
From pies to lattés to beer, pumpkin is cropping up everywhere, in everything. But even if you’ve had your fill there’s still so much more to do with the humble winter squash: pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, roasted pumpkin (stuffed or not) and this wonderful pumpkin streusel coffee cake.
There’s something irresistible about pumpkins. They’re plump and cheerful and useful. And to top it off – they’re also a nutritional powerhouse.
Pumpkins are a remarkable source of Vitamin A which is good for vision and building a strong immune system. They’re an excellent source of antioxidant rich beta-carotene – thought to have cancer-fighting as well as anti-aging properties. They are high in fibre – implicated in maintaining a healthy weight; a great source of potassium – good for improving energy levels; and also a good source of Vitamin C. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with tryptophans - involved in serotonin production and mood stabilization; and rich in plant-based phytosterols – shown to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol. And if all that weren’t enough, pumpkins are also extremely low in calories and fat.
Early European settlers may well owe their lives to pumpkins and therefore to the First Nations Peoples who initially introduced them to the crop. Settlers relied heavily on pumpkins as a food source during the long winter months and they also made an early version of beer by fermenting the fruit along with hops and maple syrup. There’s evidence that without pumpkins settlers might have suffered terrible nutritional deficiencies and even starvation. There are also records of pumpkins appearing at early Thanksgiving celebrations as far back as 1622, and poems and stories about pumpkins written by settlers dating back to at least 1633. That’s almost four hundred years of pumpkin history after European settlers arrived on the continent.
It’s scarcely any wonder then that pumpkins play such an iconic role in our autumn celebrations.
I love autumn: getting back in the kitchen after the hot summer months, fall hiking, and the riot of colours as though fall must compensate for the monochromatic season that follows.
I also love the flavours of fall. This pumpkin cake is an all-time favourite. It has a high pumpkin to flour ratio so serves up a healthy dose of nutrient dense squash in every slice. It’s moist, hearty, and delicious. The middle contains a surprise walnut streusel layer. Serve it for dessert with whipped cream or for breakfast with coffee.
Pumpkin Streusel Coffee CakeFor the streusel: ⅓ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp salt ⅓ cup butter 1 cup finely chopped walnuts For the batter: 1 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour 2 tsp baking powder ½ tsp baking soda 2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground ginger ½ tsp salt ½ cup butter 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar 2 tbsp honey (I like Manuka Honey for the intense flavour) 2 eggs 2 cups pure pumpkin puree (equivalent to one 398 ml or 14 fl. oz can of pure pumpkin) For the icing: ⅓ cup icing sugar ½ tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp milk or water
Start with the streusel ingredients. Mix together cutting the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture is mixed and slightly crumbly. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a Bundt cake pan or equivalent.
Mix together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.
Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until incorporated. Stir in the pumpkin and mix gently until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients.
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle batter with streusel mixture and top with remaining batter. Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently. Remove the cake and let stand for at least fifteen minutes before removing from pan and setting to cool.
Mix together icing ingredients and drizzle over cooled cake.