Hello everyone, welcome to the blog, and my very first post! One of the things I love about baking – and there are a lot – is trying out new ingredients. As a devout fan of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks, I often find myself yearning to have a go with some of the more unusual American products that can be quite hard to find over here in the UK. One such item that I’ve been intrigued by for ages is pumpkin purée. As luck would have it, Amazon recently introduced a new way of buying which allows you to ‘add on’ products that would otherwise have a high import charge for free when you spend a certain amount. I almost whooped for joy when I realised that I could now purchase a tin of pumpkin puree for less than a fiver and have it delivered to my door.
Anyway, this is not an advert for Amazon, so back to the important bit: the cake. Although I had several options, deciding what to bake was a no-brainer. Ever since February when I finally got my hands on the latest glossy volume of Hummingbird recipes, Home Sweet Home, I’ve been itching to try their recipe for Pumpkin Bars. This is in no small part because, weirdly, I have a thing for square food – cakes, pies, pizza (yes, pizza); all appeal to me that much more when they have four neat corners. So there was something about the lovely, chunky squareness of the Pumpkin Bars that called to me. And I wasn’t disappointed. They were surprisingly easy to make; so much so that it wasn’t even worth photographing the steps involved. It’s basically just ‘shove stuff in a bowl, mix, shove more stuff in the bowl, repeat’. So far, so good.
The only slight issue came after I put them in the oven. Although my cake tin was much nearer to the recipe’s dimensions than usual (is it just me, or do the measurements in cookery books never seem to match what you can actually buy in the shops?), they took a lot longer than the stated 30 minutes. I actually started to get a bit worried, which was silly because they baked beautifully – just very, very slowly. After around an hour, however, they were finally done, and the result was well worth the wait. Finished with a simple cream cheese topping and a sprinkling of toasted coconut, these are wonderfully moist, tasty, cakey cakes. The flavour is very similar to that of carrot cake, but lighter, and without the fibre of carrot the texture is nice and springy. It’s also worth mentioning that they’re even better after freezing (minus frosting). Somehow the moist fruitiness seems to develop even further once they’re defrosted, so it’s definitely important to try them before and after. All in the name of research, right? ;-)
Recipe makes 15 generous portions (or 18 if you care about, you know, arteries and things)
4 large eggs
250ml sunflower or olive oil
360g soft light brown sugar
1 x 425g tin pumpkin puree
340g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
120g full-fat cream cheese
50g unsalted butter, very soft
200g icing sugar
30g desiccated coconut, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line a 9x11 inch baking tray with parchment.
2. In a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment (or, like me, with a plain old bowl and wooden spoon) mix the eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate, salt and spices.
3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones to form a smooth, even batter.
4. Pour into the prepared tray and bake for 30 (I’d say 45-60) minutes, until the sponge bounces back when pressed. Leave to cool completely before frosting.
5. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Spoon onto the cake and spread with a palette knife.
6. Top with the toasted coconut and cut into bars.