Harvest Cake: Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling, and Chocolate Ganache

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Amy and I seem to have recently been in charge of making unusual baby shower cakes.  This past summer she made a Grateful Dead themed cake, which is not your usual fare.  Then I volunteered to make one of my favorite cakes for a brunch in honor of one of Tim’s cousins who is pregnant with her second daughter.  Since the brunch (and the due date) are both In November, a pastel themed cake didn’t seem quite right.  Plus, the mom to be loves chocolate, so my Harvest Cake with pumpkin and chocolate ganache was perfect.

This cake would also be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving feast if you have a guest who doesn’t like pie (is that possible?) or you just want something a bit different.  It looks impressive, but is actually quite simple and can be made a day or two in advance.  There are several steps, but each one is pretty straight forward.  You make a one bowl chocolate cake – as in, the entire cake is made in one, single bowl (see, easy!).  Then you bake the batter into two cake pans.  Once those are cooling, you whip up the amazing pumpkin cream cheese filling and spread it between the two cakes.  I love this picture because the assembled cake resembles a giant orange Oreo.

Finally you make chocolate ganache and pour it over the top.  The ganache not only tastes amazing, but means you don’t have to fuss with icing.  Unlike Amy, I am not good at icing cakes, so this makes the cake look great with minimal work.  I added a Pinterest inspired cake topper to fit the theme.  It was simply a “Baby Girl” banner that I bought in the scrapbook section of the store.  I couldn’t find the skewers I had planned to use for the banner, but these chopsticks printed with butterflies did the job nicely!  For Thanksgiving, a banner with the word “Thanks” would be a nice substitution. Or you could leave the cake unadorned. It makes a pretty good statement on it’s own.

Harvest Cake
Adapted slightly from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens November 2006

Cake
1 cup milk
1 cup water
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two round 9-inch cake pans.

2. In a VERY LARGE bowl (seriously, I forget and have to transfer mine every time – use the biggest bowl you’ve got) combine the milk, water, oil, sugar, eggs, baking soda and salt. Whisk till combined. Then add the flour and cocoa powder and whisk till smooth. 

3. Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes. They are done with the tops spring back when lightly touched in the center. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

4. Once the cakes are almost cool, start on the filling. Combine all ingredients. Beat until the mixture is uniform and thickens slightly. 

5. Place one cake on a plate and spread filling on the top. If the cake is not flat, you may wish to cut off the domed section first. Top with the second cake.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate (semisweet or dark)

6. In a small pan bring the cream just to boiling over medium heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Do not stir! You’ll want to, but resist the urge. Let stand 5 minutes first. Then stir until smooth.

7. Cool 10-15 minutes. You don’t want the chocolate to be so thick it can’t be poured, but if it’s too fluid then it will all drip off the cake. Once it is cooled to the right consistency, pour over the cake and let it drip down the sides a bit. Let the ganache cool before serving.