Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Sauce and Black Walnuts

A four-layer cake might sound a little intimidating, but this one goes together really quick.  A luscious filling of pumpkin and cream cheese is smoothed between the layers and a caramel sauce is drizzled over the top.   Black walnuts are easy to spot in the woods. They have a huge greenish black husk surrounding the nut that when removed, reveals a black shell. Cracking the shell and picking out the meat of the black walnut is work but the flavor they add to baked goods is well worth the work. Black walnuts are a delicious way to add a special flavor to Pumpkin Cake but pecans or English walnuts which are easier to find in stores can also be used.

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I call this a “pumpkin” cake but I actually used this winter squash that has deep orange flesh and a bumpy green exterior. Most winter squash can be used interchangeably with pumpkins and are often sweeter and less watery.

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Each baked layer of pumpkin cake is sliced in half and filled with a mixture of whipped cream, pumpkin, spices and cream cheese.

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Leave the last layer plain. This is where the black walnuts and caramel topping are drizzled on the top and over the sides of the cake.

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This cake might look like it has to be eaten right away, but I saved it for our church Pot-Luck and it was just as beautiful as this picture the next day. The filling in the cake keeps it moist and the pumpkin flavor is even better the second day.

Pumpkin Cake With Caramel Sauce and Black Walnuts

2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin

1 recipe of filling

1 recipe of caramel sauce

1/2 cup toasted black walnuts

Combine sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in mixing bowl; beat until combined.  Add remaining ingredients and beat until well mixed.  Divide batter between  two 9-inch cake pans that have been sprayed with non-stick coating.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cool about 5 minutes. Remove cake from pans. Cut each layer into two layers. When completely cool, spread filling over a cake layer and place another cake layer on top. Repeat with remaining layers and filling. Do not spread filling over top layer of cake. Sprinkle toasted nuts over top of cake. Spoon caramel topping over nuts and allow to drizzle over the sides.

Filling:

1/3 cup fresh or canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 package (8 ozs) cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Mix pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla  in mixing bowl until soft and well mixed. Fold in whipped cream until fluffy and smooth. Spread over each layer of cake as directed in the cake recipe above.

Caramel Topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all topping ingredients in a 4-cup measure. Microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens slightly, stirring two or three times.

Pumpkin Puree from fresh Squash or Pumpkin

Prick a 3 to 4 pound pumpkin or other winter squash with a sharp knife, making sure it goes at least 1/2-inch deep into the pumpkin. Place pumpkin on a paper towel and place in microwave. Microwave on high for 18 to 21 minutes or until it yields to finger pressure (6 to 7 minutes a pound for larger or smaller pumpkins). Allow to cool and cut open.  Remove seeds and scoop out puree for use in pumpkin cake or other recipes calling for pumpkin.

Toasted Black Walnuts

Combine 1/2 cup black walnuts or other nuts in a small microwave-safe dish. Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until nuts are lightly toasted, stirring twice. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Use as directed in recipe.

Seafood Stuffed Artichoke Hearts

I traveled the United States this summer visiting Farmer’s Markets all along the way. You might guess I have an obsession with Farmer’s Markets.  Big ones, little ones, tiny ones and all the others. But,  my favorites were the smallest, most remote farmer’s markets tucked back in the mountain valleys. The farmer’s market in a little town close to me has two or three card tables and I love it. One of the vendors introduced me to her mom as “my most enthusiastic customer”.  I also love the huge city farmer’s markets like the Mill City Museum market in downtown Minneapolis and of course the Pike Place Market in Seattle, but the  little ones with a few card tables of artisanal produce have my heart.

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Wild mushrooms come in more shapes and colors than I ever imagined.

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And berries come in luscious flavors, all natural and just picked that morning.

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Beautiful breads of every shape and made from all different types of grains.

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Tasting these and talking to the bee-keeper gave me a wonderful education in understanding the art of honey-making.

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These artichokes were being sold right along the road as I drove down the Washington coast. Talk about fresh produce!! It doesn’t get much better than that?

Artichokes Stuffed with Mushrooms and Buckwheat

4 whole artichokes
1 cup sliced mushrooms, a mixture of varieties works well
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic,minced
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup lump crabmeat
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and Pepper

Trim artichokes by cutting off the top 1-inch of each artichoke with a serrated knife. Also trim the stem and about 1-inch of every artichoke leaf. Rub the cut leaves with a lemon wedge. Scoop out the fuzzy choke from the center of each artichoke, removing the purple leaves with it.

 

Place artichokes in a microwave- safe 8 x 8-inch dish. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap.  Microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes or until artichokes are tender and a leaf can be easily pulled. Drain water.

To Make Stuffing:

Combine mushrooms, butter and garlic. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of stuffing into the center of each artichoke and  place about 1 teaspoon of stuffing between each leaf. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.

 

 

The Farmer’s Market Bars

Take all my favorite foods and put them into a bar and is it any surprise that my new favorite food is this Lara Bar look-a-like? I have not ever actually tasted a Lara Bar since I refuse to buy a purchased granola bars but I did taste a wonderful granola bar at a farmer’s market in a rural mountain community in Oregon. They told me it was like a Lara Bar, so I think my bars must be like one too. Anyhow, they were so wonderful that I memorized the ingredient list (not very difficult since it included all my favorite foods) and made it as soon as I flew the 1000 miles to my little kitchen where it took me about 10 minutes to make a super-fabulous bar from super fabulous ingredients.

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All those super-fabulous ingredients go straight into my food processor for about 30 seconds.

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I cooked the mixture for a couple of minutes and spread it out on parchment paper and formed a big rectangle so bars were super quick to cut.

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All the chewy goodness of macadamia nuts, coconut and dried fruit make these waaay better than any of those granola bars that I never buy. And that is exactly why I never buy them.

The Farmer’s Market Bars

1 cup dates
1/2 cup dried mango or apricots
1/2 cup whole almonds, macadamia nuts or pepitas
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 tablespoons ground flax
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
Optional ingredients:
1/2 cup dried aronia berries, dried cranberries or dried cherries

Combine all ingredients except  crystallized ginger and dried berries in a food processor. Process about 30 seconds or until chopped and well mixed. Microwave on High for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or until hot and steamy, stirring twice. Stir in ginger and dried berries. Spoon onto parchment paper and shape into a square. Cool a minute or two and cut into bars. Let cool completely before wrapping.