Before frosting this beauteous cake I read a post on L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink. It was called “Dear Time: Where Are All the Women Chefs?” The post was a critique of Time Magazine‘s cover story called “The Gods of Food” in which Time selects the chefs that most influence what the world eats. The cover features three of these gods: David Chang, Rene Redzepi, and Alex Atala. However, what outrages Besha Rodell, the author of the blog post on Squid Ink, is that the magazine features a sort of family tree of culinary influencers in which not one single female is listed. Rodell at one point writes:
“This is no longer a profession totally dominated by men, and it hasn’t been for some time. It’s just that too often, the things women contribute aren’t taken seriously. Thanks to Time, the problem has only become all the more obvious.”
That the cover and story are dominated by men is alarming, particularly at a time when more and more women are “leaning in” to male dominated fields (i.e., law and business) and making a positive impact. Are we saying that being a restaurant chef is still a boy’s club and Time wanted to reflect that reality? Or was Time lured in by the male bravado of these “gods of the kitchen” which blinded it to the obvious contributions women have made to the food industry (contributions that are pointed out by Rodell). What I gathered from Time‘s decision to leave out women was the greatest feminist irony: that even in 2013 a woman’s place is in the kitchen, just not a professional one.
I pondered that irony as I frosted the cake. Am I an anti-feminist for enjoying the art of baking and cooking? I considered whether I should burn my bras and whisks in my oven. But for me, baking and cooking isn’t a form of protest or submission to patriarchal hegemony. It’s cathartic. It’s a release of creativity that is so often stifled by the rigorous confines of the legal profession. As I delicately pipe the frosting onto these moist and flavorful cakes, I am whisked away to a world of aesthetics, sweet smells, and gentle touch. I am woman, hear me frost.
All feminist discussions aside, this cake is awesome! It’s moist but crumbly and the cinnamon frosting complements the pumpkin spice cakes beautifully. It’s like fall, in your mouth. Now go forth and read anything by Alice Waters and get some recipes from Nancy Silverton and April Bloomfield.
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Makes two 8″ or 9″ cakes, or 24 cupcakes
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) of unsalted sweet cream butter
- 1 c. white granulated sugar
- 1 c. pureed pumpkin
- 3/4 c. buttermilk
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 2 c. pastry flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
- 1/2 c. unsweetened cranberries
Preheat your oven to 325F. Grease and flour two cake pans, or line two cupcake pans. Set water to boil to prepare a water bath. In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir it around and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla, pumpkin, and buttermilk and mix on medium speed, scraping down the edges until mixed thoroughly. Crack in the two eggs and mix on medium speed. On low speed, start adding in the dry ingredients, scraping down the edges as needed. Once all the dry ingredients are mixed in, remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the pecans and cranberries. Evenly distribute the batter among the cake pans or cupcake pans.
Pour the boiling water in a large casserole and place in the bottom rack of the oven. Place the pans in the center rack of the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a knife dipped into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans on a cooling rack.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Enough the frost two 8″ or 9″ cakes (but make 1 1/2 batch if you want to pipe like I did), or 24 cupcakes.
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch of salt
- 4 c. of powdered sugar, sifted (or more for a thicker icing)
Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, whisk together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon and whisk until combined. On low speed, add in the sugar to the butter and cream cheese mixture by 1/3 cup fulls until combined. Whisk the mixture on high speed until fluffy. If you want the frosting to be a little more dry, add in a little more powdered sugar until you achieve your desired consistency. Be sure to refrigerate the frosting for 20 minutes to keep it from melting when you pipe it onto the cake.
Assembly for cake
Assemble the cake on your desired serving plate. Cut down the tops of the cakes to make an even layer (only if you want to, I didn’t opt to do that). Frost the cooled cakes with a crumb coating (a really thin layer of frosting). Pop them in the freezer for a few minutes to set the frosting. Take them out and heavily frost the top of the cake that will be your bottom layer (about 1/2″ of frosting). Place the second cake on top and frost the top with a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer of frosting. Then frost the sides. Smooth out the edges and voila, a frosted cake! If you’ve never frosted a cake, I find this pretty helpful from The Kitchn.
To do what I did though, I just coated the whole layered cake with a thin veil of frosting (but a little thicker on the top) and piped the sides with the lovely signature star tip.