"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Pumpkin cake with sour cream ganache

by Julie Tilsner on November 28, 2008

in Holiday Hell, Sweet!

Sixteen years ago I moved across the country, away from friends and family, to make my fame and fortune in New York City. It was there that I spent my first Thanksgiving alone, 3,000 miles from anyone I cared about. At the time I truly thought I could tough it out. It’s only another day, just like any other, I told myself.

That afternoon I cried so hard my landlady came upstairs to make sure I was OK.

I’ve never spent another Thanksgiving by myself, no, not even in the remaining three years I spent not finding fame and fortune in New York City.

This was the year I was supposed to have the big dinner at my house. But as the number of proposed guests grew the pressure got too great. Then Marya called and asked if I wanted to come to her house for Thanksgiving, and I took the coward’s way out.

In thanks, I made a pumpkin cake with sour cream ganache. The above picture is of my daughter, coming home to find said cake on the counter. Note the stunned look.

Here’s how I did it: The recipe is from the L.A. Times, what’s left of the Food Section.

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves (ground, duh.)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup safflower or canola oil
2 cups pumpkin puree

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) springform pans

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt

In a separate large bowl, stir together the eggs and sour cream with a fork. Stir in the brown sugar and then the oil until just combined. Take care not to overwhisk (whatever that means)

Gently stir in the flour mixture into the batter into just incorporated and there are no lumps. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. (there might be crumbs, but there should be no batter). Remove and let cool, still in pans, on a wire rack until room temperature.

And for the ganache…

18 ounces semisweet chocolate or 6 3-ounce bars, coursely chopped.
3 cups sour cream (at room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans (I used walnuts)

melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. When it’s melted and creamy, remove from heat

Gently fold the sour cream into the chocolate until well-mixed. Then mix in the salt.

Place one cake flat-side up and frost the top and sides. Place the next cake, dome side up, and frost.

Work quickly, or the chocolate will start to harden, making it harder to spread.

I spent a lot of time pondering the chocolate. The recipe calls for a less bitter chocolate such as 60 to 65%. Trader Joe’s had baking chocolate…but it was 100% cacao, which scared me off. It also had 3-ounce bars of organic 65% chocolate, but at $2.99 a pop, it was a much more expensive option than the $3.99 12-oz bar of baking chocolate. In the end I bought two bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips at $1.99 a bag and melted them down. I think it worked OK.

The cake was a hit. And I impressed even myself with the nice spice-cake result. The trouble? Standard Thanksgiving engorgement. Not enough stomach left at the end of the meal for the deserts, of which we had pumpkin pie, apple pie, brownies, and the pumpkin cake. I’ve got lots left. Come on by if you want some.

There was a lot to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving. I’ll save the Turkducken for another post. Stay tuned….

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mr Squid November 29, 2008 at 6:53 pm

I’m glad that your Thanksgiving worked out. I ended up with Pecan Pie Soup.


Elfini November 30, 2008 at 8:44 pm

I’ll be right over.


"Mister J" December 2, 2008 at 1:35 am

I remember this recipe from the L.A. Times! It’s a really good one. If you’d like an EASY “Thurkey” day dessert alternative for next year, please let me know!


Prince George Restaurants December 3, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Hey, this is a really unique recipe. I enjoyed following your directions and my cake turned out great! thanks for posting this recipe!


kelli johnson December 7, 2008 at 5:46 pm

I will make this immediately after receiving either a new oven or an oven repairman!
That sounds yummy…I love anything with sour cream in it! I’ll have to pass along a sour cream pancake recipe that kills!
Great to see you the other night..talk soon! Kelli


Nerdi Guy October 29, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Great tasting recipe, thanks, would suggest editing your directions to only making 9 or (maybe only 6 oz) of ganache (so use 1 cup sour cream / 6 oz chips?)


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: