Although it’s hard to tell here in Virginia, Autumn has officially arrived! In an effort to jump start my favorite season, I decide to bake something pumpkiny a few days ago. My first thought was pumpkin muffins, but– let’s face it– a pumpkin muffin is really just a cupcake without icing. I decided that it would be hypocritical of me to make cupcakes and call them muffins, so I started searching the internet for pumpkin recipes.
I googled pumpkin + cake + easy, because I have a five-month-old excuse not to engage in anything too difficult/cerebral/time consuming. I was looking for a seasonal version of the classic Southern Wine Cake that your aunt used to make if you grew up where I did. (I have two aunts that make it. My Aunt Cricket makes the classic version but Aunt Shirley is a strict Southern Baptist so she substitutes white grape juice for the wine. We call her’s Baptist Cake. Both are really good but Aunt Cricket’s might just barely have the edge.)
Nothing I found was exactly what I was looking for, so I did a bit of combining of recipes, some improvising and threw in a tried and true hook that I was sure would throw this cake over the top. The result was magical. So good that my husband and step-daughter said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked. (I went to culinary school and I don’t happen to believe this was true, but still.) So good that we devoured it before I could take a picture. So good that I decided I need to make another one to refine the recipe and photograph it. This cake is as easy as it gets. If you can pour something from one vessel to another, you’ve got this knocked. There is one step that is time consuming but it’s the most important part, so I urge to you to give this a go. And it’s not hands-on time consuming. It just takes a bit of planning.
Autumnal Equinox Cake
1 gallon apple cider (Yes. 1 whole gallon)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 or 3 cloves (optional)
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (or 1/4 cup sugar with a tablespoon of cinnamon mixed into it)
1 box Spice Cake Mix* (Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker will do nicely)
1 15 ounce can of pumpkin
1/3 cup melted butter or canola oil
1/3 cup greek yogurt (unflavored, of course)
2/3 cup sugar
Pour the entire gallon of apple cider into a large pot and add the cinnamon stick and cloves if you are using them. Bring to boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and then find something to do of the next hour or so. (Your house will smell heavenly during this process, BTW.) When the gallon of apple cider has reduced to about two cups, it’s done. The apple cider reduction will be syrupy, although it may be hard to tell until you allow it to cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves and set aside. Pat yourself on the back– you just made liquid gold.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Grease a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray and “flour” the pan with the cinnamon sugar, tapping to coat the pan and discarding any excess.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the remaining ingredients plus 1/4 cup of the apple cider syrup you just made. Mix slowly until combined and then on medium high for a couple of minutes.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake at 350 until done. (In my convection oven, this took about 50 minutes, but every oven is different so start testing for doneness at about 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of apple cider syrup over the cake while it’s still hot and in the pan. Wait about 30 minutes for the cake to cool, the ever so carefully invert the pan onto a cake round or large plate. Now pour another 1/4 cup of apple cider syrup over the top of the cake as evenly as you can.
Serve with whipped cream, because if you’re going to eat all that cake, why act all high and mighty when it comes to what is essentially a garnish? Drizzle with yet more apple cider syrup and devour the essences of Autumn.
Store any remaining apple cider syrup in a tight jar and store in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for however long you freeze stuff. For ideas on how to use it, see this post, but definitely try it on salmon.
* Once, many moons ago, I did a post about making chicken soup for a house full of people while we were all sick with a nasty cold. In that post, I conceded that homemade chicken stock was always preferable to boxed broth but admitted that we were so sick and so short on time that I was using the boxed. Not long afterwards, I noticed we were getting thousands of hits that were coming from a famous (actually notorious might be a better word) website. I clicked the link and found that someone had posted a link to my soup recipe and the entire forum was outraged (OUTRAGED, I TELL YOU!) because anyone who cares about food would never use boxed chicken broth. Anyone with the slightest taste would rather go hungry than use it, in fact. It was actually pretty funny, now that I think about it, that total strangers were ready to burn me in effigy because I made soup in my own house for my own friends with an ingredient that they didn’t approve of. It’s a funny world we live in these days.
Anywho, I say all of this to say, I get it. Boxed cake mix is the WORST. You would never DREAM of stooping so low as to feed your family boxed cake mix! How could you possible inflict such a plebeian and base concoction on the refine and sensitive palates of your family?!? I should be locked up for even suggesting such a thing, etc. etc. I wish you peace and send you on your way.
Meanwhile, I’ll be here eating cake.