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Thanksgiving 2017 / Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon-Cocoa Streusel

My Thanksgiving menu is set, a good thing since I’ve just realized the holiday is next week. Strange to commemorate a holiday that celebrates the harvest, autumn, and the earliest inhabitants of another continent when one is living in a (granted, also a former English colony) country thousands of miles away with harvest season currently a distant memory? Perhaps. But we are Americans and this is What We Do — I cooked Moroccan turkey in Casablanca along with a lot of other gluten-free goodies three years ago and two years running roasted imported turkeys from France as well as a bunch of imported vegetables. This year I’ll attempt to keep dinner’s ingredients local to Australia. The turkey breast has been ordered from the butcher up the street. The vegetarian entree will most likely be a savory sweet potato souffle. I’ll be baking pie with a whole grain crust. Thanksgivings past are swirling around my head and I’m planning to keep it even more simple than usual though as always heavy on the veg. We’ll start the morning off right with slices of pumpkin cake and strong coffee.

The 2017 Thanksgiving menu:

1. Sweet potato hummus + homemade bread

2. Roast turkey breast with lots of lemon + gravy
Sweet potato souffle
Corn muffins
Sauteed green beans
Sauteed kale + corn
Mashed potatoes
Apple-fennel salad
Cranberry sauce

3. Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin-chocolate cake

Counting on leftovers, obviously …

About this cake: it’s adapted from an pumpkin cupcake recipe I used to make around Halloween time (note to self: revisit this practice), but lightened up a bit with applesauce and olive oil. I’d top those cupcakes with thick smears of chocolate ganache but I was going for a more rustic cake here, one which ostensibly could serve as a post-breakfast snack with another cup of coffee or chamomile tea (Sierra and my preferred tea to drink together). I do, however, believe pumpkin benefits from the addition of something, be it chocolate, maple syrup, or nuts. For this cake I decided to fold in a lightly sweetened chocolate-spiked cinnamon streusel of sorts, thus eliminating the need for a chocolate glaze or any other frosting. I’ll freely admit the girls and I basically ruined our dinners by eating slices of this cake warm in the late afternoon and it was so worth it. I might try putting in some barely toasted walnuts to the batter the next time I make it.

This year, quite honestly, has zoomed by. Flew? Fled? Nearing its end, it seems like it encompassed both about five years of my life and five minutes. I hear once you have a child your concept of time moves more quickly and I’d agree with that, although for me the addition of another is what has really made the hours pass in an almost literal flash. Then, too, no longer experiencing the leaden heat of desert days makes a difference. In Saudi, with not much “to do” time slowed to a syrupy flow. I remember suffocatingly hot afternoons sitting in our open garage area with the kids’ pool filled with water while Sierra splashed and dust gathered on the horizon and it felt as though it would be forever until bedtime. Weekends sometimes appeared to last for weeks. Either I was overly efficient or there is something to be said for the effects of weather on the psyche. Days used to so closely resemble one another both in landscape and activity (there was truly a dearth of seasons, though spring was more “dust” and November brought scattered rain) that they ran into each other neatly, creating a sort of comforting yet stifling pattern.

Yet I do miss the slowness of time (one of the things I do miss), much as I still miss the sun and wind off the ocean in Casablanca. How lucky I have been to live (and then leave?!) these places I might otherwise never have even visited. In the case of Riyadh, it’s almost certain I never would have set foot there and due to fate’s quirks I spent two years and several lifetimes ensconced within its arid air. My daily routines in San Francisco, left behind more than four years now, is finally starting to seem like a distant memory. I’ve lived in three countries since I locked my apartment door for the last time. Three! My current oven is about the size of my old oven so I’ll have come full circle again in terms of what can fit in it while cooking the Thanksgiving meal. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice. Cake obviously will be baked well in advance, if only for fortification purposes.

Happiest day to you and yours. xx

[print_this]Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon-Cocoa Streusel

Makes one bundt or one 10-inch cake round.

For the cinnamon streusel:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar or maple syrup
3 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée or 2 cups pureed pumpkin
2 teaspoons pute vanilla extract

Make the streusel: Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl; set aside.

Make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350 F. Well grease a bundt pan (or regular springform pan) with butter and then flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, oil, brown sugar, and raw sugar or maple syrup. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until each is incorporated. Whisk in the pumpkin purée and vanilla extract until very smooth and well combined.

Stir and whisk in the flour mixture and mix just until flour is no longer visible.

Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter evenly. Top with the remaining batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Flip the cake out onto the rack and cool completely. [/print_this]


  1. I am making this right now, and I wanted to let you know that you don’t mention adding the applesauce or the maple syrup in the directions. Luckily I had put all the ingredients out ahead of time so I noticed that those hadn’t been used! I just mixed them in right before the flour mixture. Hopefully it’ll turn out…30 more minutes of baking!

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