Every now and then, I like to engage myself in little baking projects. Cookies, muffins, loaf cakes… These are all very nice for office snacks and tea time treats, but what I really enjoy making are epic showstoppers that deliver taste, texture, richness and orgasmic pleasure to the people enjoying them. Who else can I rely on for a recipe like this but Christina Tosi? Founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, a bakery spanning 8 different locations all over the US, the New York Times have helmed her as a “border crossing pastry chef”.
Her culinary genius is evident in the selection of cakes available at her bakery. The signature feature of these 6-inch, 3 layer cakes are a milk soak that enhances the moisture of the rich buttermilk cake, a layer of crunch that offers a contrasting texture in the mouth and a creamy frosting that binds all the elements together. Till today, I’ve already made their ever-popular Funfetti Birthday Cake and Chocolate Jimbo cake with enthusiastic responses from their respective recipients and consumers.
I’ve had some time again this week to work on another of her cakes. I’ve been eyeing the Pumpkin Pie Cake (a seasonal selection from the bakery menu) for a while now because, come on, pumpkin and spice!! With October and Halloween drawing near, pumpkin seemed like an apt flavour choice.
I spent the morning gathering the various ingredients and came home by noon. After my lunch and a short respite from the earlier buzz, it was down to business. From my experience, the trick to executing this project in a time and energy-efficient manner is to measure all the ingredients and to have a clear idea of the sequence in which each element goes into the oven, keeping in mind that the liquid cheesecake has to be baked at a lower temperature than the rest. I did the pepitas first as the oven was heating up (because the oven temperature doesn’t have to be so specific for this, as long as the pepitas are crunchy and fragrant). Concurrently, I made the cake mix and put that in the oven once the right temperature was reached. The graham crumbs went in next, followed by the cheesecake (after the temperature was lowered, of course).
As I prepared each element to be assembled later on to form the cake, I found them all to be already fantastic on their own. The pepitas, when done right, were crunchy and boasted a nutty fragrance that was too addictive not to have a little pinch of here and there. The pumpkin and spice in the cake made it ever so moist, even in absence of the milk soak. The graham pie crust crumbs also enhanced the textural crunch of the sweet and salty liquid cheesecake. The pumpkin pie ganache elevated the pumpkin flavour of the cake to another level and offered a sweet and spicy finish to the final masterpiece.
Below is a short video I’ve put together of the process of preparation, excluding assembly. I hope it will offer some assistance in making your very own pumpkin cake!
Momofuku Pumpkin Pie Cake
- Spread a lined baking tray with the pepitas and a bake in the oven at 180 degrees celsius. Make sure to stir occasionally to allow for even browning. Remove from the oven once slightly browned and fragrant.
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine the ingredients in a bowl and place in the refrigerator until needed.
Pumpkin pie cake
115g unsalted butter, softened
125g white sugar
150g light brown sugar
25g grapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g canned pureed pumpkin
230g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a quarter sheet pan with baking paper.
- Cream the softened butter and sugars in a bowl until pale and creamy.
- Stir in the egg until well combined
- Combine the buttermilk and grapeseed oil in a bowl and stream the mixture into the butter mixture whilst continuing to mix until the batter doubles in volume
- stir in the vanilla and pumpkin until just combined.
- Add in all the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Transfer the batter into the sheet pan and bake for 30-35mins, until golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
Graham Pie Crust Crumbs
240g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp brown sugar
115g melted unsalted butter
20ml cold water
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the mixture to the melted butter and water.
- Mix until well combined. It should look sandy with a good amount of larger chunks.
- Bake in a lined baking tray at 180 degrees celsius until golden brown. Allow this to cool and set aside 1/3 of the mixture for the liquid cheesecake.
Graham Crust Liquid Cheesecake
225g cream cheese, softened
100g white sugar
6g corn starch
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 of the graham crumbs
- Cream the cheese and sugar in a bowl until fluffy
- combine the other ingredients except for the crumbs in a bowl and mix this into the cream cheese
- Bake in a lined tray at 165 degrees celsius until just set
- Leave it to cool before mixing in the graham pie crust crumbs
150g white chocolate
25g unsalted butter
50g glucose, warmed
55ml cold heavy cream
75g canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- Melt the butter and white chocolate in a double boiler until smooth and melted. Remove this mixture from the heat immediately.
- Mix in the warmed glucose until combined
- Mix in the other ingredients until well combined
- Chill the ganache in the fridge until ready for assembly
- Using a 6 inch cake round, cut our 2 circles from the sheet of pumpkin cake made previously. From the remainder of the cake, cut out 2 halves of cake to form the bottommost layer
- Line the cake round with acetate and place it on a dish or cake board. In my case, I lined a piece of thin cardboard with clingwrap pulled taut over it and then used that to line the cake round with the cling-wrapped side facing inwards.
- Place the 2 cake halves at the bottom of the cake round and soak it with 1/3 of the milk soak
- Spread the liquid cheesecake over the cake and top it with pie crust crumbles and peipitas. Top with 1/3 of the pumpkin ganache
- Repeat the same steps 3 times more. Then decorate the last layer pumpkin ganache with more pepitas and pie crust crumbles. Leave the assembled cake in the freezer for at least 2-3 hours to set. Let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving.