Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Missing Ingredient

I've been in the lab – what more normal people might perchance to call “the kitchen” - trying to come up with something to bring to the family dinner. It's become a custom for me to supply a dessert at any kind of gathering. But I don't want to bring my go-to dish for this time of year; the pumpkin maple cheesecake. Been trying to watch the weight and a recipe that calls for package after package of creamcheese and stick after stick of butter just isn't the healthiest.

What I've hit upon is a pumpkin flavored cake instead. Modifying a recipe I found in the local paper. It's not exactly as low fat since I made some substitutions. Can't stand the taste of whipped toppings so I used hand-whipped cream instead, making sure not to add too much sugar. I also don't like the fake sugar stuff that comes in diet sodas – just unnatural - so I used regular 7-Up as well. And while the cake was, indeed, moist and delicious, there was something missing.

I'd been hoping it would turn out something like the pumpkin roll I've been so taken with. The one that shows up mysteriously at my local grocery store from time to time. The very same one I snap up after a furtive look around to see if I'll have to beat away any hands creeping towards the too few products available. It's good, I'm saying. The cake here is close, just lacking the final few touches to make it more like a carrot cake than your run-of-the-mill concoction of flour and sugar. A bit of crunch and chewiness from nuts and chunks of pumpkin. But I've nailed the spice combination and gotten the texture right. But the topping is lacking.

Not quite sure what it is, really, but it doesn't set off the cake as much as it could. Gets lost amid the strong flavors of the cake. And I'm not sure what to do about it. I've tried making it pumpkin flavored as the recipe suggest. Tried leaving it plain, smooth, and creamy. Tried infusing it with different flavors form Bailey's to mint. Run through pints of whipping cream one small test batch at a time. Looked around, researched, trying to find the flavors that compliment pumpkins best. And haven't found that counterpoint that I'm looking for just yet. A creamy, silky taste to play off the savory sweetness of the pumpkin. And, now, I haven't got much time to figure it out, either. I've got the topping ready to go and the cake all made but I'm still not sure exactly what to do with it.

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