pumpkin almond cake.

pumpkin almond cake.

Because pumpkin doesn’t have to be exactly the same way each and every year, right? It’s such a versatile ingredient that it would be a mistake to limit it to pie, bread, lattes, and granola. In fact, pumpkin is so essential to our baking lives that Baked devoted an entire chapter to it from their Elements book: a chapter it totally deserved.

Nothing crazy in the chapter, mind you: I think pumpkin flavor naturally pulls us toward the familiar; it’s just part of our history, of our growing-up, most likely. Confession: for all my moaning and groaning about PSL frenzy this time of year, you should know that I bake a whole-wheat pumpkin bread every week for the Wee One, almost all year long. It’s less about pumpkin and more about how she loves it and it’s a fairly healthy treat option, and I do it happily for her. And also for me: no matter what else we have going on in a week, it’s a guarantee that at least once during the chaos, my kitchen smells faintly of Thanksgiving, and I dig that.

pumpkin almond cake.

Back to this cake: I wanted to do something slightly different than what I see out there; pumpkin almond cake seemed promising. I’ve been really into simple cakes lately: cakes which require zero gussying up, no frosting even: just cake. This is a pitch-perfect example of a cake which needs no adornment: they Baked boys give it a frosting in the book, but I wasn’t super into doing that. The best way to describe this is 50/50 cake-to-pie: the top 2/3 is a dense, pumpkin-bread like cake, while the bottom half is very pie-like and approaching custardy, but still cakey, sturdy but soft. And the almonds in this give it this unbelievably lovely texture, as only almond meal can.

The flavor is staunchly classic pumpkin pie: all ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, all the time. It’s intensely fragrant and wonderful coming out of the oven, or 3 days after. I make it in a Springform pan, which gives me increased headroom (it’s a tall cake) and makes it easy to unearth. And it’s one of the easiest cakes you’ll make all year; festive all on its own…

pumpkin almond cake.

…or with what I made specifically to go with it. Soooo…here’s where I stand on cake/frosting/ice cream: I firmly believe that if cake has frosting, it shouldn’t have ice cream b/c it’s gratuitous. It’s either scraping the edges of overkill or it’s reached far beyond it; there’s simply too much happening there in terms of flavor and texture. I have nothing against frosting, I just don’t think frosting and ice cream belong on the same plate. I do, however, believe that ice cream CAN serve as frosting in the right situation.

This would be what I consider “the right situation.” Because here’s what: this ice cream is made by steeping windmill cookies in the warm ice cream base then pressing them through a strainer so only the essence of cookie remains. Never heard of a windmill cookie? Sure you have…but you may know it as a speculoos (speculaas, sometimes) cookie. As in what they make that crack cookie  butter out of. If you know anything about what speculoos tastes likes (besides heaven), it’s got spices which very much mirror what is used in – you guessed it – pumpkin pie, but with a gingerbread kick. The combination? Autumnal perfection.

And if that weren’t enough, I wanted to honor the pumpkin pie-ishness of the cake with a “pie crust” of sorts – enter the Momofuku pie crumb, only made with windmill cookie crumbs. So to recap: you have a pumpkin almond pie-cake with creamy, gingerbread cookie-like ice cream, topped with a coordinating pie crust crumb.

But that’s a lot to put in a post (or so I’m been told), so I’m splitting it up: today, cake recipe. Best to get the ingredients for that and bake it right up. Next up, the ice cream and crumb recipes, so go ahead and throw that ice cream maker in the freezer so it’s ready to go. You will want to make this.

Adapted (very slightly) from Baked Elements: Our Ten Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. A book I highly recommend, by the way: it may be my favorite book by them, although that rotates. I’ve had the most success with it, so definitely my favorite in terms of ease of use.

Pumpkin Almond Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal (fresh ground from about 1 cup blanched almonds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used regular versus my Vietnamese to keep it classic)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (seriously, makes a big difference if grated fresh)
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (which you can make yourself or use from a can)*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9-inch round Springform pan, line bottom with a circle of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

Add butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high for 4 to 5 minutes until fluffy and light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin and beat again for 30 seconds or so until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix on medium for 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, making sure to get under the mixture all the way to the bottom.

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts, starting with the flour mixture, scraping down the bowl as needed to incorporate; this should take a total of 1 to 2 minutes  maximum. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and scrape down the bowl, working in any unincorporated ingredients; mixture should be homogenous.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, checking at the 35-minute mark for doneness; cake is finished when wooden skewer or cake tester comes out cleanly or with very few crumbs. Remove and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Remove from pan and serve…with that ice cream and crumb topping I have coming up for you next.

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  • Reply Sarah@The Cook's Life October 4, 2014 at 6:25 am

    You had me with the title. I love, love almond cakes. And you are right, they don’t need icing. And I love the punch of spices. So many recipes that claim to be “spice” cakes just don’t have enough spices! AND I just happen to have part of a can of pumpkin in the fridge. Pumpkin almond cake, here I come! I will be eating this plain, too. Don’t get me wrong, the ice cream and crumbs sound divine, but I want cake now! 🙂

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:56 am

      Honestly, can you go wrong with almond cakes? No. too much good stuff in there, and always a really nice texture. and the flavor it adds is subtle but perfect. I’ll say this: the ice cream and crumb are fun and make a great addition to the cake, but the cake doesn’t need the ice cream and crumb: it’s great on its own (and so is the ice cream and crumb, for that matter). i like it when combo desserts want each other but don’t need each other. 🙂

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking October 4, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I was so excited to see the Pumpkin Almond Cake from Baked Elements this morning! I made the recipe last week and of course…made a few changes too…. I did make the almond frosting and my family devoured the entire cake within twenty-four hours. Meaning there was none left for dessert the next day. When this happens I know I have found a great recipe! I have been using cake flour in most cake recipes to achieve a less dense cake with a lighter crumb and did so with this recipe only to have my cake overflow the 9″ pan. ( This part of the cake was consumed as well!) This is the first time my flour substitution has caused my cakes to cause so much excitement! A lovely recipe! After all what’s fall without pumpkin?

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:54 am

      Twins! 🙂 I’m interested to know about the almond frosting because i was having a difficult time trying to “picture” the flavors together in my head. I’m sure it’s good, but i don’t think i’ve ever paired a pumpkin anything with a frosting, so the idea of it was hard to wrap my head around.
      Interesting about your cake flour experiments: i always mean to try different flours with different things, cake flour being one of those things which can really make a difference in texture and lightness, for sure: sounds like this was trying to be extra airy by overflowing the pan! :

  • Reply Monica October 4, 2014 at 8:57 am

    The gentlemen at Baked make the loveliest retro desserts so I’m betting this is great to begin with. Throw in your ice cream and that crust and I’m going ‘woah!’ Sounds like a sensational Thanksgiving dessert, or for today! You know I likewise love simple cakes and no frosting. Love almonds and throw in some of that wild ice cream and I am just majorly enthralled here. And this comes from someone who believes she’s not big into pumpkin treats. PS – that whole wheat pumpkin bread for your wee one sounds amazing. PPS – I also agree about not mixing frosting and ice cream…unless it’s an ice cream cake maybe?

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:51 am

      They really do make such lovely cakes and classic desserts, and i barely adapted it, so it’s very true to their original. The ice cream and crumbs aren’t “necessary” but they definitely – i think – enhance the cake and make it pretty fun to eat. And i was betting you’d like this one, pumpkinness aside, just based on almond love: almond cakes are everything, right? mmm.
      I should (at some point when i’m paying attention and actually measuring out ingredients) post the Wee One’s pumpkin bread recipe because it really is a nice, hearty, pretty good for you loaf; she loves it and it’s definitely more wholesome (with much less sugar) than you’d see elsewhere.

  • Reply sue/the view from great island October 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Windmill cookie ice cream? I will not be able to sleep till I’ve gotten that recipe!!

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:48 am

      It’s out there now! Hope you like it, Sue. 🙂

  • Reply Brianne October 5, 2014 at 9:15 am

    You know, I’ve never given it much thought, but I totally agree with you on the wrongness of mixing frosted cake and ice cream. Too much sugary goo, you know? I’m getting eager to bake with pumpkin now (though I should totally do the thing where I bake a whole wheat pumpkin bread every week; that’s amazing), and like you, I’m looking for something different. This sounds like a great place to start!

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:48 am

      For better or worse, Brianne, these are the things i think about during the day. 🙂 I think when i was little it was fine, you know? who cares then because you’re just getting more sugar, although it should be noted that my sister and i both prefer our ice cream in a bowl beside our cake versus directly on it; maybe this whole frosting/ice cream no-no thing was a long time coming?
      I’m with you: i turned the pumpkin corner naturally in late-late september, and i’m ready now for it. Same with pies: i go through a thing where i have summer pie crazies, then it stops and starts up again around this time of year; isn’t it funny/awesome how seasons can do things like that? I think so. 🙂

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats October 5, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    This cake looks amazing… and the ice cream? Gratuitous or not I need it in my life stat. I can only imagine the texture imparted to the cake by the almond meal and how glorious it must be. I think I will host dinner next weekend just so I have an excuse to make this.

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:45 am

      Make the cake, Natalie: you know you have to because i know you live in an almond-friendly household (and i mean, pumpkin.) and now you have the ice cream post, so i feel like maybe this could be a weekend project. have people over. share the pumpkin. 🙂

  • Reply Mimi October 6, 2014 at 6:23 am

    I don’t usually click on cakes or sweets in general, but this certainly caught my attention. I love pumpkin, and use pumpkin in just about everything. Year round, when my kiddos were little. But I love how you use it with almonds in this cake. Superb!

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:44 am

      Pumpkin gets people EVERY TIME, Mimi. 🙂 Thank you! The almonds in this made it different (in a good way) from the normal pumpkin fare, i think. not too far from center, but enough to where it felt new, and it gave it great texture.

  • Reply Ashley October 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I want to make almost every single recipe in that pumpkin chapter! This cake was definitely one of them….but I ran out of time and stomach space (too many baked goods to make for the various holidays!). I shan’t put it off anymore! And I agree, the elements book is the one I use the most. I love the other two (and the fourth is coming soon!), but this is my favorite/most used one.

    Agreed on the frosting vs ice cream topping issue. Most frostings, especially store bought (except for Betty and Duncan…they’re usually a good balance) are too sickly sweet for me to eat with cake. So I forgo topping….but I do love ice cream. Check out the Ciao Bella ice cream book – they have a maple gingersnap gelato I made last year (with TJ’s triple gingersnaps and maple syrup, grade b) that is to.die.for. I know, it’s cheating on Jeni’s….but in my defense, it doesn’t overlap with any of her existing flavors, so it’s okay, right? 🙂

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:42 am

      Oh Ashley, i know, right? I had forgotten what was in there until i went wandering through the cookbooks and then BAM! totally realized i wanted to make that whole chapter (although that whole book is awesome). Do the pumpkin chapter now before it gets shunned in late december! 🙂

      SO agree about frostings: the only one i can sort of tolerate storebought is one of the chocolate ones (maybe the dark chocolate one from duncan hines) or someone has a cream cheese one that isn’t too terrible, but i still think it’s so much easier to make my own when it calls for that: just a better texture and you can customize thickness, etc.
      did you just say maple gingersnap ice cream? using the snappy TJ’s gingersnaps (i looooove those)? i’m noting that in my cookbooks list. I don’t think it’s cheating on Jeni’s: really, i think all my cookbooks serve a specific purpose. Jeni’s is very different than some others, and i think it’s good to have a true “library” of things to build on, different techniques, etc.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs October 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    This looks great — loaded with flavor, and not too hugely sweet. Although I like pumpkin, a lot, I’ve started to substitute sweet potatoes in many pumpkin dishes. They work really well in most recipes, and I like their flavor even more. Anyway, good post — thanks.

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:37 am

      You described this cake perfectly: it’s not at all a “sweet” cake – more along the lines of a quick bread, though not as heavy somehow. Roasted sweet potatoes work wonderfully as a substitute in pumpkin dishes, i agree! A few years back i made our pumpkin pie out of sweet potatoes (mostly) and it was one of the best ones we’ve had.

  • Reply elizabeth October 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I am 100% with you on cake and ice cream not belonging together–it’s not like it’s called cake à la mode!

    You know I’m not much on the pumpkin train, but I would totally make this as breakfast food over Thanksgiving and I don’t think anyone would question it. This is Black-Friday-shopping fuel, because the almonds just add all of that good fat, fiber, and protein! Seriously, though, this at least is a welcome break from the overly-fussy fall desserts that oversaturate food blogs.

    • Reply shannon October 14, 2014 at 5:35 am

      This would go over quite well as breakfast food, and would be ideal for Black Friday shopping: gets you going with a little protein and a little sugar…not a bad combo when you’re facing the masses, and you could tote some along with you for snacks. 🙂
      You know, sometimes i wish i could do overly-fussy: truth is, i can’t unless i’m hyper-focused, and that doesn’t happen often. Until then, unadorned cakes (or momofuku cakes b/c i don’t have to frost the sides!)

  • Reply Sarah @ The Cook's Life October 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Oh my, is all I can say. I made the cake the day you posted it and it was divine. We ate it slightly warm from the oven, with no topping or accompaniment whatsoever. And we ate it the next day, room temp. And I ate it the next day. And then I froze the rest. I pulled out a piece when I needed a little something. I just finished the last piece yesterday and it is a good thing that lusciousness is gone! Sweet, but not too sweet, warmly spicy, tender and velvety from the almonds, with just the right amount of pumpkin. Can I swoon? Thanks for the fabulous recipe! Now I need to make more to go with the ice cream and crumb recipes!

    • Reply shannon October 31, 2014 at 5:44 am

      YAY! seriously, yes, though, right? It’s all the yes: i swooned also, and i did the same thing in terms of freezing it and then pulling out a piece and then dying all over again. I’m so happy you like it! You’re totally welcome: anytime.
      Although may i say that at this point you owe me a coffee date? just saying….:)

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends October 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Shannon, you know I love pumpkin pie, right? I mean, LOVE. (The Husband grows his own pie pumpkins each year, and we’re always in charge of making the pies for thanksgiving, which we do happily for both his family and mine.) But I have to say, you may have converted me to a cake person with the description of this. That almond meal texture (not to mention I kind of freak out for any dessert with a bit of almond flavor), and the two-toned layers of the cake, denser on the bottom, more custardy on the top? *swoon* I am on a pumpkin pie rampage this year, tweaking our tried-and-true recipe, but if there’s ever a break in the pie making I might just have to make this cake. (And if there isn’t a break in the pie making, I might have to make this cake anyway — you can never have too much pumpkin!)

    • Reply shannon October 31, 2014 at 5:47 am

      oh i DO know that, Willow: i do. I think it’s awesome that the Hubs grows his own pie pumpkins, also: i’ve made it a goal of mine to someday grow my own pumpkins as well, when i have enough space (and enough patience, and enough gardening skills) – b/c i’ve NEVER made a pumpkin pie with actual pumpkin before, but i really want to. I may still this year just to say i’ve done it.

      Someday, make this cake. even just make it on some random fall or winter day just because you need a snacking cake. Hey, that’s it! just call it a snacking cake, or eat it for breakfast: i mean, there’s almonds, and pumpkin, so healthy, riiiight?

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