Monday, October 8, 2012

Crunchy Pumpkin Crumble Cake

Here is The Deliciousness!
It's that time of year again, when it starts to get cold outside, and the festive family meals begin inside.  Pumpkins are ripe and ready for the picking, and they always make their way into a handful of recipes around home.  For Thanksgiving this year (go Canada!), instead of a traditional pumpkin pie, I wanted to try something different again.  Last year I made a pumpkin torte (to rave reviews!), and this year I wanted to venture out again to find something equally awesome.  I combined bits and pieces of a couple of different recipes to put my own twist on them, and in the end I  finished with this wonderfully crunchy pumpkin crumble cake.  Here is the final recipe that I used.  Try it for yourself, and try to tell me you don't love it!


Base ingredients
Crunchy Base
1 cup finely ground vanilla cookies (I used Nilla wafers)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 lb. melted butter (unsalted)

Pumpkin filling ingredients
Pumpkin Filling
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1 can condensed milk
1 1/2 white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon salt

Topping ingredients
Crumble Top
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 or 4 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)


The crunchy base, all packed and ready
Now, the first part is to make the base.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  
  2. Using a food processor, grind up the cookies.  Transfer to a larger bowl.
  3. Next, grind up the walnuts, so that they are a coarse grind (in other words, not nearly as fine as the cookies.  You want pieces so the base is crunchy!)  Add to the cookies in the bowl.
  4. Add the brown sugar to the cookies and walnuts.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave (about 45 seconds should do it) and add that to the bowl as well.
  6. Mix everything up really well, so that there aren't any dry areas in the bowl.
  7. Now transfer to a 9"x13" pan, and press down to form the base.

Next, make the pumpkin filling.

  1. In a second large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, pumpkin spice, sugar, and salt.  Mix well using a whisk.
  2. When thoroughly mixed, pour on to the top of the walnut/cookie base.

The pumpkin layer, with cake mix partially added
Finally, prepare the crumble top.

  1. Simply sprinkle the yellow cake mix on to the top of the pumpkin mixture, and then pat it down with a spoon to compact it.  Don't squish it down too far into the pumpkin!  The cake mix will absorb moisture from the pumpkin and cook.  Here's a tip:  if you want a thinner cake/crumble top layer, don't use the whole box.  I used about 2/3 of a box and was quite happy with it.
  2. Sprinkle the ground walnuts on to the top of the cake layer.
  3. Melt the butter in the microwave, and randomly drizzle it over the cake and walnut topping.

Cook it!

    Just before going into the oven
  1. Put the cake in the preheated oven at 350 F, and cook it until a toothpick comes out dry from the center. This could take from 60 to 90 minutes.  Personally, I think I prefer it cooked longer rather than shorter.  Taking it out too early may mean that you end up with a slightly soggy (but still delicious!) cake.  More time in the oven will crisp up the top cake layer, though make sure you don't over do it and burn it!

Options and Recommendations:
Is it even necessary to recommend that this be served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream topping?  I didn't think so... do it!

I had no idea how this cake was going to turn out, but I was extremely pleased with it!  I think a very important thing to keep in mind is that the "crunch" in the name comes from the walnuts in the base and on the top, so make sure you don't over-grind them into too fine of a powder.  Also, as I mentioned above, cooking it longer than you think is necessary will probably mean that your cake layer is really well-cooked and 'cakey'.  Personally, I think that I undercooked mine a touch, though everyone that was eating it thought otherwise.  Hey, I'm the cook, so I can be critical of my own work!  Since this recipe is really a combination of a couple of other pumpkin recipes, and I wasn't sure what to expect or even if it would be any good in the end, I have taken to calling this my Thanksgiving Pumpkin Disaster Cake.  However, if you try it, I am very confident that you will agree that this recipe deserves a place at the holiday dinner table.

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