Wee Harvest Cake

Wee Harvest 1Autumn is a season of changes — much like spring. In many ways, I see autumn as a change of pace; things seem to slow down a bit. Admittedly, a lot of this slowing is due to the minute-by-minute shortening of daylight that begins to be more and more obvious as we pass the Autumnal Equinox (the official start of autumn, for many).

For James and me, the pace slows a little, but — perhaps more accurately — our routines change. Call me a “Type A” if you must, but my life runs on a carefully measured system of routines all of which are designed with many obvious flaws and shortcomings (my lack of resolve, chiefly), but all staying more or less on track. This is how I know what’s for dinner when I wake up in the morning, for example. It’s also how I know that it’s time to vacuum the rug before it contains enough cat fur to assemble an entirely new cat!

The meal ticket routine and the housekeeping routine pretty much run year-round with only a few seasonal modifications, I suppose. But, our leisurely routines are usually forced to change considerably. Where we would normally take a long stroll after dinner in summertime, we often find that it’s dark out and most likely very windy. Suddenly, a walk seems uninspiring. Wee Harvest 3So, left to come up with something new to do with that precious time that comes after work and before bedtime, we find indoor pursuits. There’s reading to be done, music to practice, crosswords that are empty… there’s even more time for brainstorming and daydreaming.

While it can often feel as though it takes considerable effort and will, brainstorming and completing crossword puzzles do not burn nearly as many calories as a brisk walk or a bike ride. So, when we’re unable to do these “active” things, meals have to be planned very carefully — especially the desserts! Nothing’s more daunting than to realize you’ve just made a beautiful, decadent cake that will be with you for almost a week before it’s gone. Worse yet, there’s no one but you and your beloved who will partake of it. While it’s tempting to greedily rub my hands together and salivate over such a situation, the truth is that a dessert — even when made with wholesome, homemade goodness — can really do a number on your waistline if you indulge too often.

Entering into this challenging scenario: today’s recipe. Browsing through an old issue of Cooking Light Magazine, I happened upon a recipe for a simple snack cake that had flavors similar to carrot cake. I noticed that it only made nine small servings and my interest was immediately piqued (most cake recipes make 12-16 servings). With only nine servings, this would be the perfect dessert to make at the start of a week or even for weeknight dinner guests all without the burden of too many leftovers!

Wee Harvest Cake 3

Not only was the recipe ideal for the portion size and yield, it also contained carrots and pumpkin — two ingredients that I’d recently harvested from the garden and was eager to use and explore. Win-win!

I set to work on tinkering with the recipe almost immediately, of course. I made my usual substitutions to add fiber, add healthy fats, remove overly-processed ingredients, and simplify techniques; but I also created a simple, maple-sweetened frosting that complements the cake, making it seem more decadent than it actually is. (What is a cake without frosting, after all?! It may as well be bread for what it’s worth!)

Maple SugarFor just a bit more added panache, I decided to sprinkle a bit of maple sugar onto the frosting to boost the maple flavor. If you’ve never tried it, maple sugar is divine! It can be a bit expensive, though. Maple sugar is expensive with good cause! It all starts with maple syrup. Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. It takes 9 gallons of sap to make a single pint of syrup! Already that’s a good bit of work on the gatherer’s part. Maple sugar takes it one step further! It’s the result of boiling the already reduced sap until no moisture remains, leaving behind a granulated sugar that is twice as sweet as normal sugar and full of maple goodness! If you can’t find maple sugar or don’t want to bother, you can either use turbinado sugar or just omit this step entirely.

Wee Harvest Cake

A Tales of Thyme & Place Original

Serves 9

    1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup sucanat (or dark brown sugar)
    1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup grated carrot
    1/4 cup dried cranberries
    1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

    4 ounces neufchatel cheese – softened
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon maple syrup – (grade B, preferred)
    1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon maple sugar or turbinado sugar (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

    In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well beaten. Add the sucanat, pumpkin, oil, and melted butter; stir until incorporated and sucanat has mostly dissolved. Add the flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened. Fold in the raisins, carrots, cranberries, and walnuts.

    Pour into the prepared baking dish; bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

    While cake cooks, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, whip the neufchatel cheese and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the maple syrup and whip until incorporated. Add the flour and stir until thoroughly incorporated. If necessary, add flour until desired consistency is reached.

    Frost the top of cake and sprinkle with turbinado sugar or maple sugar, if desired.

Wee Harvest Cake 1
The result is a wee cake that’s chock full of autumnal goodness. James loved how “chunky” the cake was and how each bite was its own unique experience. Personally, I like that neither the cake nor the frosting is cloyingly sweet, leaving room for all that “chunky goodness” to shine (making me a little less chunky too, I suppose). A wee cake for the short days of autumn when you still want to have your cake and eat it too!

(A special thanks to my friend, Nicole, for helping me set up a few of the photos for today’s post.  It’s always helpful to have a friend with a keen eye for details, saves me a lot of cropping and straightening on the editing screen!  In case you were wondering, the approximate nutrition facts for today’s recipe: (1 slice) 252 calories, 12g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 4g monounsaturated fat, 2g polyunsaturated fat, & 3g fiber.)


~ by Jason on September 28, 2010.

4 Responses to “Wee Harvest Cake”

  1. Delicious, speaking from a first-hand tasting experience! Thank you for sharing, Jason!

  2. OK I am now drooling here while I look at this wonderful cake!!! Thanks to the info provided I can say that for 5 points a slice I’m so ready to try this!! Looks Awesome!! Keep up the good work!!

  3. So far I have tried the baked oatmeal, ( delicious) and Lisa has made the pumpkin pasta. Tonight, it is the cake I am trying! Keep ’em coming!

  4. Cake was delicious and I took it to work. A coworker asked to take home the leftovers!

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