Spiced Brown Butter “Pumpkin” Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping

Happy Thanksgiving! This weekend all of our family and friends in Canada are celebrating Thanksgiving and I was determined not to be left out.

I may not be roasting a big bird, or making cranberry sauce or cooking beets for the salad I always make, but I was seized with the deep desire to bake something to mark one of my very favourite holidays of the year.

We usually celebrate Thanksgiving with a dinner on the Sunday with Glen’s family. Every year Glen’s sister Kerstin makes the most delicious pumpkin pies. Her pastry is always super tender and flaky and she puts a layer of pecan praline at the base of the pie before she pours on the pumpkin mixture and tops it decoratively with pecan halves. I always have a piece, no matter how full I am from dinner, and then moon around afterward until Kerstin generously offers me a slice to take home. I am seriously in love with her pumpkin pie.

I knew I couldn’t replicate Kerstin’s dessert but when I spied this version of “pumpkin” cake in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook I was immediately intrigued by her take on this holiday staple. Suzanne uses roasted butternut squash instead of pumpkin as the flavour is sweeter and more complex and it makes for a less watery purée. As “butternut squash cake” doesn’t have quite the same charm we will put the pumpkin in parentheses and move on.

The interesting thing about this cake is that it really does have the consistency of the filling of pumpkin pie, just without the crust. And the salty, crunchy pecan streusel compliments the almost flan-like texture of the cake perfectly.

I spent a quiet afternoon yesterday baking. My dear friend Sarolta had left in the morning after a wonderful (and too short) 5 day visit. Glen and Max had gone up to a water park for a few hours and I was feeling just a bit lonely. But I set to work roasting my squash and assembling my mise en place and my mood brightened. The weather turned rainy and stormy and even though it was still a balmy 84 degrees outside, inside with the air conditioning on I almost felt transported to my kitchen in autumnal Vancouver.

The scent of the pumpkin and the cloves and cinnamon and the brown butter filled the apartment. The boys came home and we had a humble dinner together with no turkey in sight.

We took turns, going about the table, talking about what we are thankful for. We talked about our family at home, our good friends, and being on this adventure together. Then we ate “pumpkin” cake with ice cream. It was a wonderful way to celebrate.

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6 Responses to Spiced Brown Butter “Pumpkin” Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping

  1. Bonnie says:

    Just put a pumpkin pie in the oven but I certainly need to try this recipe! I just roasted a kuri squash because I often use it for my “pumpkin” pies, but I think I’ll try it in this one instead. I love the idea of not having to make a pastry crust!
    So nice that Sorolta came for a visit!
    Happy Thanksgiving,

  2. Sarolta says:

    Hey! If I had known about this cake the day after I left I would have extended my stay! 😉 It was fantastic to see you guys and be part of your adventure even for just a few days.

    xo Rolti

  3. I wanted to bake a pie with a different squash this year, but I like this lovely cake idea even better. It looks delicious!

  4. If you have any pie left…
    Sarolta told me the route to get down there…
    I could make it by midnight…


  5. Tracy says:

    Happy Thanksgiving! I was wondering just the other day if you would be celebrating—of course you would! I hope your husband’s next assignment is in Baltimore. I would love to have a slice of this cake. Butternut squash…you genius. Hope you are feeling better.

  6. Bonnie: Happy Thanksgiving! I bet it was an amazing meal at your house! As far as the squash I have also read that Kabocha is great for pies as well. The butternut squash worked like a dream though.

    Sarolta and Ross: I will make this cake for you guys upon my return which, as you well know, could be well before Christmas! Thanks for making the trek out here my friend.

    Tracy: Thanks for the good wishes. It was a much quieter Thanksgiving this year but strangely no less special. I would love to spend some time in Baltimore! Or perhaps you may find yourself in Vancouver one day…

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