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PRALINE PUMPKIN TORTE: Better Than Pumpkin Pie (at least for some of us!)

“Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life… a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year — and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God.”

-- Ray Stannard Baker

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

--Oprah Winfrey

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year! I love that it’s a special day to reflect on our blessings with gratitude. I love cooking for and spending the day with cherished people in my life. (Okay, this year there will only be three of my cherished people, eating outdoors, but I’m still cooking!) And, I love the food: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and freshly baked rolls. These are the Thanksgiving staples in our house. Oh, and pumpkin pie. (Slightly unhappy face).

Alright, I admit it: although I love other pumpkin things, I’m not crazy about pumpkin pie. Often the crust is soggy. Or the custard is too densely pumpkin-y, or too chiffon-y, or too bland. Even when it’s perfectly made, I’m just not blown away by pumpkin pie. And I feel like an epic Thanksgiving dinner should be capped off by an equally fabulous dessert, right? But pumpkin pie is traditional, so what are you gonna do?

How about Praline Pumpkin Torte? Originally published in the November 2005 issue of Sunset Magazine, Kathy Masur's recipe was the Dessert Runner-Up in the magazine’s “Thanksgiving in the West” 2005 recipe contest. This delicious cake makes a gorgeous presentation and serves 12 people. Further, it’s not hard to make, takes about 1 hour to bake + 1 1/2 hours to cool the cakes, and DUH-DUHHNA-DA, it has both pumpkin and pecans, so it pleases both types of traditional pie aficionados! Problem solved.

Before you start this recipe be sure you have everything you need. There’s nothing crazy here and you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry. But note that you need 2 cups of canned pumpkin—that’s two 15-ounce cans or one 28-ounce can. Either way you’ll have leftover pumpkin. (Use it later for these delicious muffins!)

You’ll also need cooking parchment or even better, parchment rounds to line your cake pans. (BTW: if you bake a lot, purchase precut parchment rounds. Super-fast and easy, you just position them into the pans, and they help your cakes come right out, no stress, no mess!

Here’s my adaptation of the recipe:

Praline Pumpkin Torte

1/3 cup butter

¾ cup packed brown sugar

3 TBSP plus 1 ¾ cup whipping cream

¾ cup + ¼ cup chopped pecans

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 TSP baking powder

1 TSP baking soda

1 TSP salt

¾ TSP ground cinnamon

¾ TSP ground ginger

¾ TSP ground nutmeg

4 large eggs

1 2/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups canned pumpkin

½ TSP + ½ TSP vanilla

¼ cup powdered sugar

Center a rack in the middle of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350F.

Butter the sides and bottoms of two 9” round cake pans, then line the bottom of each pan with cooking parchment. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the butter, brown sugar and 3 TBSP of whipping cream. Stir until blended. Next, pour the mixture into your cake pans, half in each pan, then sprinkle half of the ¾ cup of chopped pecans into each pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside. Using a spoon, in a bowl beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and oil together. Add the pumpkin and ½ TSP of vanilla, then stir until well blended. Now whisk in the bowl of dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and use an offset spatula to gently smooth the top of the batter.

Pop the pans into the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 5 minutes. Then remove them from the pans by inverting onto parchment covered cooling racks. Peel off any parchment paper still on the top of the cakes. Allow them to cool for about 1 ½ hours.

Not more than six hours before you plan to serve the Torte, whip the remaining cream by beating it on high speed until it holds soft peaks. Lower the speed and add the powdered sugar and ½ TSP of vanilla, beating just until blended. Be careful not to over-whip the cream—aim for soft and dollop-able, not stiff or grainy.

To assemble your Torte:

Carefully put one cake layer on a platter (or for maximum drama, on a pedestal plate). Smooth 2/3 of the whipping cream on top, spreading it evenly almost to the edges of the cake. (You want the cream to slightly squish out--but not to run over the edges—between the two cakes.). Gently set the second cake, praline side up, on top of the cream. Evenly spread the rest of the cream over the top, then sprinkle on the remaining pecans.

Voila—A Delicious Masterpiece!!


-Instead of adding cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg individually, you can simply add 3/4 TSP of pumpkin pie spice.

-Although definitely best served the day it’s made, this Praline Pecan Torte will hold (carefully covered with a bowl or cake lid) for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, with the whipped cream filling and topping, it doesn’t freeze well.

-All the winning entries for Sunset’s “Thanksgiving in the West” 2005 Recipe Contest are compiled in this volume, available from Amazon.

-And finally...

Just saying…

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