Winter squash offer variety of delicious fall flavors. Sliced, cubed and puréed fresh pumpkin can be used in soups, entrées, side dishes, breads, and desserts. Pies made with homemade pumpkin purée have a fresh flavor and lighter texture. However, when it comes to pumpkin cake, the use of fresh pumpkin flesh is not worth the effort. In any case though, cooking pumpkin puree concentrates flavors. And, turns into a luxurious holiday scent paste when reduced down with dark brown sugar and spices. Pumpkin cake can be baked in a traditional greased and floured bundt or savarin baba cake pan. Or make up a wheel using a 8''/20cm diameter x 3''/8cm tall charlotte cake ring with 2 superimposed individual cake rings for the hole; greased and lined with parchment paper and cooking spray. Make pumpkin cake a day ahead.
In a large frying pan, cook pumpkin puree along with carrot juice, salt, dark brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Cook over medium heat at the beginning and lower the flame as it reduces down. Stir often to prevent scorching; it should take 22 minutes. Now, the pumpkin mixture has turned into a flavorful paste losing pretty much half of its initial weight. Let cool to room temperature before using.
In the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, gather the pumpkin paste with the eggs and remaining sugars. Beat on hight speed for about 8 minutes; it should fall in ribbons from the whisk. Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stop mixer and fold in oil in thin stream with a rubber spatula, then add the sifted powders. Fill the prepared mold.
Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. If using a convection oven, lower temperature to 325ºF/160ºC. Bake pumpkin cake for about 45/50 minutes. The cake is done when a bamboo skewer inserted comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Remove from the oven and let cake stand for 10 minutes, then carefully de-mold and let cool to room temperature.
*Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup is preferred for this recipe. Otherwise, use the best maple syrup brand and add a splash of bourbon in the syrup if desired. Bring to a boil all ingredients together. Turn off the heat let sit until cool; sieve. When the pumpkin cake is at room temperature, gently prick with a bamboo skewer. Soak cake with the room temperature maple syrup. Refrigerate cake overnight, just like rum baba. It will intensify flavors. At this juncture, cake can be kept frozen for a few weeks before being finished.
Toast pepitas and hazelnuts over the stove or in the oven for about 10 minutes. It's ready when seeds begin to pop!.. In a medium size saucepan or frying pan, turn sugar into dark caramel – stay close and don't get distracted. Lower the heat and carefully toss nuts in caramel with salt and vanilla. Spread mixture onto a silicone baking mat. Let cool completely. Break brittles into pieces and save some to decorate the cake. In a running food processor, turn remaining brittles into paste. Processing caramelized nuts into paste takes a few minutes – add oil gradually to ease it. Store praliné for months at room temperature.
Soak gelatin in cold water to soften, drain and set aside. Bring to boil the first half of the heavy cream with spices. Turn off the heat, cover and let infuse for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce carrot juice to a 25 grams concentrated syrup. Add it to the spice-infused heavy cream. Bring back to a quick boil and pass through a sieve over the white chocolate. Mix well and add the gelatin – Add the remaining chilled heavy cream and blend well. Refrigerate overnight. Whip to medium-soft peaks prior to use.
Top cake with pumpkin seeds praliné and pipe out pumpkin Chantilly using a St Honoré pastry tip. However, any large plain or star tips will do the trick. Some for the praliné, it does not have to be spread, add some dots here and there. Decorate cake with brittles pieces, cinnamon sticks, star anise, candied oranges and vanilla pods. Enjoy!