This is one simple, satisfying little cake, a standard from my mother's 1950s-era recipe box. Typed up on a big index card, the recipe has two notes I share with you: Next to the option of fresh or canned pumpkin, my mother wrote, "Fresh is best!" At the beginning of the instructions for mixing up the cake, she wrote emphatically, "Do not use mixer!" Now I find that canned pumpkin makes a beautiful cake, but I do take her advice on the issue of spoon versus mixer. It is worth the extra effort for the texture, and the recipe comes together quickly even when you're cooking unplugged. You can ice this cake while it is still warm from the oven, or wait until after it has cooled.
- Pumpkin-Raisin Cake
- 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour (see Note)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups canned pumpkin or freshly cooked mashed pumpkin
- Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting
- About 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- One 8-ounce package (1 cup) cream cheese, softened
- Pinch of salt
- Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
- 2 tablespoons evaporated milk, half-and-half, or milk (optional)
To make the cake, heat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour one 13-by-9-inch pan, or two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, combine the self rising flour with the cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring with a fork to mix everything well. In another medium bowl, combine the raisins and nuts with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and 2 tablespoons of the oils and toss to mix well.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the remaining i cup of oil, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the remaining flour mixture all at once and stir just until the flour disappears into the batter. Add the pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Stir in the floured raisins and nuts, gently mix them in well, and then quickly transfer the batter to the cake pans.
Bake at 325°F for about 25 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes. Then, if you used round pans, turn the cakes out and place them, top side up, on wire racks or plates to cool completely. Or cool the cake in the large, rectangular pan.
To make the frosting, combine the sugar, cream cheese, salt, and lemon juice and zest in a large bowl. Mix until creamy and smooth, and add the milk only if you need it to make the icing easy to spread.
To complete the cake, place a layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving platter, and spread frosting on the top. Place the second layer, right side up, on top. Frost the sides and then the top of the cake, or spread frosting over the top of the rectangular cake and serve it in squares, right from the pan.
NOTE If you don't have self-rising flour, combine 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
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