18 November 2011

Pumpkin Tea Cakes - An Alternative to Sugary Petits Fours

Pumpkin Tea Cakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

For afternoon tea (one of my favorite forms of comfort food), the only cake that will do is one that can be served neatly in bite-size pieces and eaten without any utensils. That means a thin cake, sturdy enough to be picked up with one's fingers and moist enough to not require any gooey frosting. Petits fours might meet the requirements, but they are more icing than cake and so toothachingly sweet that I really don't like them. I want to like them because they're so pretty, but I just don't!

Instead, I prefer a plain-jane little square of cake not more than an inch thick with perhaps a dusting of powdered sugar or a tiny piped flower (but not both). To achieve the proper thickness, pan size is crucial; this recipe requires a 13x9x2-inch pan. If you just want a regular cake, you could use an 8x8x2-inch square pan and increase the baking time a bit.

The recipe calls for 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, so I simply had to make it in order to use up that precise amount of canned pumpkin left after making my pumpkin pie ice cream, which calls for 1 cup. I hate waste! Actually, I developed the recipe just so the leftover pumpkin wouldn't go to waste. What do you like to make with pumpkin? 

It's at this time of year that we find articles about the autumn harvest feast shared by the Plymouth colonists (Pilgrims) and the Wampanoags in 1621. And I am reminded of my dear cousin Charlotte, an avid genealogist and member of the Mayflower Society, who learned a few years before she died that we had not one but several ancestors aboard the Mayflower!

Pumpkin Tea Cakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pumpkin Tea Cakes

(Makes 60 1.25-inch squares)

1 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (7.5 ounces/213 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish or pan with vegetable cooking spray. In small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In cup, combine milk and vanilla. This will make a thin cake, perfect for cutting into tiny squares or diamonds for the tea table. (For a cake of the usual thickness, use an 8-inch square.)

2 In bowl of standing mixer, beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and beat on high speed until light, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in egg. Then add pumpkin puree and beat on low speed just until blended.

3 Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the liquid in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring until smooth.

4 Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (a bit longer for the thicker cake).

5 Cool in pan on wire rack. When completely cool, cover until ready to serve. Just before serving, trim away edges and cut into squares or diamonds, or use a cookie cutter to cut out other shapes. Dust with powdered sugar.

Note: The pedestal in the photo is super tiny. If you don't have a collection of various sizes as I do, I would suggest you start with a more versatile 8- or 9-inch one, such as this 9-Inch White Pedestal

Pumpkin Tea Cakes - An Alternative to Sugary Petits Four / www.delightfulrepast.com


Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Uh…I’ll have another helping of that pumpkin pie ice cream, please. Dunno, petits fours always sounds to me like something you put on a Chihuahua on cold days. Bring on sugary, say I! Sugary’s good. Different strokes for different folks…even for ritual eating and holidays. I'm remembering something I just read somewhere – a literary site that has featured my books, I think – where someone told a story about a child convincing her parents that the pilgrims had also eaten lobster as part of their first Thanksgiving – why not on the northeastern seaboard? She had learned this in school, she said. Parents went along with the substitution in their holiday fete, happy to support education and tradition both. Turned out the kid hated turkey. Yeah…that’s the idea for me. I'll have some Petits Eight, please. Couple of those spongy cubes of pumpkin cake embalmed in fistfuls of frosting.

Truth be told, Jeani, I'm glad there's someone like you who has a sense of decorum and good taste. I think I'd have an identity crisis if I couldn't exist contra to that. You give me something to shoot for in a better life – "better" being undefined at the moment. Plus you're a dynamite writer. It's all those forebears of yours tucked below deck on the Mayflower, scratching their initials and gems of wisdom onto the keel-board with rusty spoons. The words – and the recipes – came easy after that…

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sully, I adore your epic comments! A great way to start my day. The husband always says, "Petits fours? What, we couldn't afford the petits fives?!" He would be bowled over by the prospect of petits eights.

Mary said...

I just finished laughing at Sully's comment. I've completely forgotten what I was originally going to post. You'll forgive me, right? I'm off to do a search for his books now. I must read more of his writing!

I'm simply not going to be able to hear petit fours again without picturing a chihuahua.

Have a fabulous day, Jean! These pumpkin tea bites do look great. I adore miniature and bite size desserts.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Mary! Enjoy your search. Oh, you know what I like about bite-size desserts? You can eat a dozen of them and *think* you're just having a bite! Same with tea sandwiches.

Cranberry Morning said...

These are lovely, Jean! Can Lionel and I stop by for tea? P.S. My mom had those same dishes. Blue Danube? Enjoyed this post and of course now that I know how to make a proper cuppa, I have no excuse. :-)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Judy, I'd be happy to have you and Lionel over for tea! You'll have to serve yourself though, I'll be too busy with him (my favorite cat in all the world). I'll even serve him some kitty treats on the Blue Danube.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Jean--I tried to ignore your pumpkin ice cream but today I found that can of pureed pumpkin from last year I decided to use up.

You have impeccable timing! Pumpkin tea cakes it is for my hubby tonight. I'm just wishing I had already made the ice cream to go with it (he likes ice cream with his cake.

I am enjoying Thanksgiving with my 95 year old father and a gaggle of siblings...so perhaps the ice cream recipe will make it to that feast.

One thing I really like in your recipes is you don't like things too sweet. I have to watch it with sweets so I'm always looking for less in the recipes.

Kindest Regards,

Susan Meyerott

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Susan! (of http://lightartedliving.blogspot.com/) I'm so glad someone else appreciates my cutting back on the sweet! Maybe I've already told you, but when I make pumpkin pie for just my husband and me, I use just 1/4 cup sugar. How wonderful that you still have your father. I hope he has a fabulous day with all of you!

Charles said...

Wonderful little bites Jean - I agree, sometimes you don't want something which is too sweet or heavy. I don't really do afternoon tea very often, but one of my favourite things to have when I do is some sort of tea-bread, or spiced bread type thing... bit of butter, it's perfect, so these look right up my alley.

But, aren't you forgetting the cucumber triangle sandwiches from your tea plate? What ho! :D

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Charles, I'm shocked! :D Surely you know I would never eat cake first; this photo was obviously taken *after* I'd eaten the sandwiches! (Must blog my cucumber sandwiches one day; they are great, if I do say so myself!)

Nicole Gamble said...

Great recipe ! I made it! It`s delicious!!! Thanks for sharing!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Nicole! I'm so glad you liked it!

Unknown said...

Those look so moist and delicious!! I could eat a lot of them :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jenn, that's the trouble with tiny things--you eat a LOT of them and think they don't add up to two or three normal size servings!

Mrs. Tuna said...

I love pumpkin bread, I'm going to make these this weekend. Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Mrs. Tuna! And I hope you and yours will have a great holiday weekend!

Bernideen said...

So perfect for fall and Thanksgiving tea times! Thanks for sharing something delightful!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Bernideen, thank you so much. I always find something delightful on your blog as well!

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Jean, your little pumpkin cake bites are just perfect for an Autumn tea time. I am like you in that I prefer plain cake to petits fours. They are pretty but much too sweet for me. The trouble with those tiny cake bites however is one would have a hard time not popping most of them into one's mouth. They are pumpkin after all and I love pumpkin anything! Have a great weekend.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sandi, thank you. And you can feel free to pop a lot of those little cake squares into your mouth since they are so much lower in sugar than many other things!

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

Your little pumpkin teacakes look like the perfect nosh with a cuppa tea, Jean. I saw your link over at Bernideen's and had to pop on over!
Happy Halloween!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Kitty! And it IS pumpkin season, after all!

Louca por porcelana said...

Desserts are my weakness!It looks really good!Great tea time with beautiful porcelain!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Maristella! We do love our porcelain, don't we?!

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Oh, what lovely little cake bites! I love the look of petits fours because they are so very pretty but they are too sweet for my liking. Like you, I prefer a rather plain cake for tea. Unfortunately, my hubby likes the frosting too, so most of the time it's frosted cake here when I bake it. I try to be a good wife and serve him what he likes. So, when I feel like a treat in the way of cake, it's usually a pudding with a sauce over it. Hubby won't turn up his nose at that, thank goodness! :) Your little cake bites he would probably eat if there was whipped cream on it. Actually, he could dip his little cake cube into a dollop of whipped cream on the side, couldn't he? Thanks for the inspiration and enjoy your weekend, Jean.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sandi, thank you so much! Yes, my husband also likes his frosting, or at least whipped cream, sometimes both! So I put whipped cream on his, but I have mine plain. Of course, a little custard sauce would go well with this cake. I make that quite unsweet as well.