Martha Stewart Living (November 2010)
Martha, you had us at goat cheese.
Of all the Thanksgiving recipes in all the magazines we looked at this year, we were most excited to try this Pumpkin Layer Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting and Quince-Ginger Compote.
The thought of a goat cheese frosting had us salivating. A tangy, sharp frosting sweetened with sugar, paired with layers of pumpkin cake? Count us in!
We almost made one crucial error, though. We nearly skipped the quince compote.
So we made this cake a couple days before we planned to serve it. Actually, we baked the layers on a Friday and stored them in Ziploc bags. Then we assembled the layers and frosting on Saturday and stored the cake under a glass dome. Then we served it on Sunday afternoon.
And the whole time, we were thinking, "Eh, if we find some quince, we'll throw that compote together, too. But if not, no big deal." No quinces were to be found at our local Harris Teeter grocery store, nor at Whole Foods, nor Trader Joe's.
Then, lo and behold, on the morning of the Sunday we planned to serve the cake, we found quinces at the farmers market. It was a sign! The compote was a go!
If you're not familiar with quince, they're hard, yellow fruits similar in appearance to a pear. Their flesh is dense and very tart, meaning they're not really appetizing when they're raw. But simmer it for a while, and the quince breaks down into deliciously piquant slices. The taste is hard to describe, sort of like an over-perfumed, spicy pear. It's really delicious!
If we had one slight complaint with this recipe, it's that the cake itself doesn't taste all that strongly of pumpkin. It ends up being a somewhat nondescript spice cake. It's extremely tasty; we just would have enjoyed a stronger pumpkin flavor.
Still, the cake on its own is very, very good. But the compote makes this an unforgettable Thanksgiving dessert. The pumpkin-spice cake layers, with the luscious, dreamy, semi-sweet goat cheese frosting, are a delicious pairing. The compote gives it a pungent tartness that just tastes of Thanksgiving.
All in all, it's hands-down phenomenal -- the absolute perfect way to cap off your Thanksgiving feast!
(This photo: Martha Stewart Living)
Prep: 20 minutes. Total: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Makes one 8-inch layer cake; Serves 12.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans and parchment
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups solid-pack pumpkin (from one 14 1/2-ounce can)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush two 8-inch round cake pans with butter; line with circles of parchment, and brush with butter. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin; add vanilla and ginger. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with butter milk, and beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down side of bowl as needed. Divide batter between pans.
Bake cakes until golden brown, pulling away from sides of pans, and until a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks. Let cool.
Evenly spread half the goat cheese frosting on top of 1 cake. Top with the second cake, and frost top with the remaining frosting. Top cake with some quince-ginger compote, and serve remainder on the side.
Prep: 10 minutes. Total: 10 minutes
Makes 3 cups (enough for one 8-inch layer cake).
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces soft goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Beat cheeses until combined. Gradually add sugar, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Prep: 20 minutes. Total: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Makes about 7 cups
Overly ripe quinces may not retain their shape as they simmer, so it's best to use ones that have just ripened.
3 cups off-dry white wine, such as Riesling
1 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (from one 2-inch piece)
3 pounds just ripened quince (about 4), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (melissas.com)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring wine, water, sugar, and ginger to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add quinces. (Add more water if needed to cover fruit.) Reduce heat, and simmer gently until quinces are tender, 25 to 45 minutes depending on ripeness of fruit.
Transfer quinces to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Bring liquid in saucepan to a simmer, and cook until slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove, and discard ginger. Stir in lemon juice. Pour syrup over quinces. Let stand until cool. Refrigerate if desired.