Pumpkin Spice Problem Solved: Pumpkin Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake

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I have a confession: I hate Pumpkin Spice Lattes. In fact, I tend to dislike most Pumpkin Spice Things. Amidst the pumpkin madness of October through November, I don’t mind indulging in a few treats here and there but I get tired of it pretty quickly, mostly because a lot of pumpkin-flavored products are done kinda badly, i.e. overly sweet or just wholly unnecessary. Amid the controversy of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I still prefer my regular ol’ Pike Place. And when it comes to holiday desserts, I am pretty lukewarm on pumpkin. Pumpkin pie? I can take it or leave it. It has never ranked highly on my pie hierarchy anyway, and try as I might, it just never seems to come out the way I want it to. (Last year I was working on a speculoos crust, which turned out to be a greasy mess, only to be swiftly replaced by frozen store-bought dough… I don’t wanna talk about it.)

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But don’t get me wrong– it’s not that I dislike pumpkin altogether. I just think it’s a little out of hand, and not everything should come in a pumpkin spice variety. There weren’t any particular recipes that caught my eye this season (I was much more interested in apple cakes and galettes), until I came across this Pumpkin Espresso Bundt Cake. It was pumpkin-focused, yes; but it had a competing flavor and it’s so pretty! But still, something was missing… That’s right– chocolate. I felt that this cake would probably be quite delicious on its own, but it could only get better with the addition of chocolate chips and a luxurious ganache glaze, amiright?? (I also tweaked the filling, soaking syrup, and spices.) And so I present my Pumpkin Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake. I thought it was a wonderful way to honor the pumpkin tradition of the season, but temper the madness with some complementing flavors. I’m not trying to be a social pariah; just hoping to offer a pumpkin dessert to help us non-pumpkin-fiends fit into civilized holiday society.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake
Inspired by Pastry Affair
Yields 12-16 servings

For the espresso filling:

  • 90 grams (rounded ½ cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon espresso powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake batter:

  • 250 grams (2 cups) white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 370 grams (1 ½ cups) pumpkin purée
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 200 grams (1 cup firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 285 grams (1 ½ cups) semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini ones)

For the coffee soaking syrup:

  • ⅓ cup strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlúa liqueur
  • 65 grams (⅓ cup) granulated sugar

For the chocolate ganache glaze:

  • 3 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tablespoon corn syrup
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. First prepare the espresso filling: Combine the dark brown sugar, espresso powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl, breaking up any chunks of brown sugar. Whisk until the ingredients are evenly mixed and sandy in texture. Set aside.

To make the cake batter, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons and add this to the chocolate chips in a bowl; set both bowls aside.

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In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée and eggs until smooth. Add the oil and whisk vigorously until the mixture is completely incorporated and homogenous– this is important because oil-based cakes can be very oily if the batter is not properly emulsified. Then add the brown and granulated sugars (I like to mix them together first in a small bowl to break up the chunks and then add to the batter), and finally whisk in the vanilla extract.

Pour the flour/spice mixture into the batter and whisk just until the white streaks and any lumps disappear. Toss the chocolate chips with the 3 tablespoons of flour and fold them along with any excess flour into the cake batter. It will be thick but still semi-pourable.

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Generously spray a 10-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. (You can do this before making the batter, but I find that the spray pools in the bottom of the pan by the time you’re ready to add the batter, so I do it at the last minute.)

Scoop about ⅓ of the batter into the bottom of the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle half of the espresso filling evenly over the batter. Add a second layer of pumpkin-chocolate chip batter to cover the filling, followed by the remaining espresso filling. Add the rest of the batter on top and spread it evenly to the edges of the pan, taking care to cover all the filling.

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Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes (mine took 55), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan set over a wire cooling rack for 15-20 minutes, then carefully flip it over directly onto the rack.

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Meanwhile, make the coffee soaking syrup by whisking together the coffee, Kahlúa, and sugar. Brush the glaze evenly over the cake with a pastry brush while it is still warm. I ended up using about half of the glaze, but feel free to use all of it. Allow the cake to cool completely.

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To make the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and keep it nearby. Combine the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring it just to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. Whisk it, starting in the center and working your way outward, until the chocolate is smooth. Add the butter and whisk until it is fully incorporated. Let the ganache cool for about 5 minutes, or until thickened (but still pourable).

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Drizzle the glaze over the Bundt cake with a back-and-forth motion until the whole thing is covered evenly. Let the glaze cool and set for about 30 minutes before cutting.

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The cake can be stored at room temperature for a day or so, covered tightly in a cake carrier. I refrigerated it after cutting, and it kept for several more days.

Make ahead: I made the cake a few days ahead of time and brushed it with the coffee syrup, then froze it until Thanksgiving– it worked beautifully and the cake was very moist and tender. If you freeze it, wrap it in 3-4 layers of plastic wrap, then let it thaw completely (unwrapped) at room temperature. Glaze with the ganache and serve.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.

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