October 24th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Editor's Note: America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Introduced in the 1950s, the Bundt pan has been used by inspired bakers to create cakes that look like mountains, cathedrals, flowers, and, yes, pumpkins. For this cake, you stack two Bundt cakes, making sure that the flat sides are sandwiched together and the ridges are aligned. Orange buttercream frosting and a cupcake "stem" are the finishing touches.

We wanted a Pumpkin Patch Cake recipe that looked like a convincing, life-sized pumpkin - but tasted like a cake. We used a bread knife to even out the bottoms of the Bundt cakes, ensuring a more even cake after assembly. And we colored our frosting with only a couple of drops each of yellow and red food coloring, adding more if necessary. We found that too much food coloring created an undesirable, dark orange color.

Pumpkin Patch Cake
Source: Cook's Country

2 recipes Spice Cake Batter (enough to make 2 Bundt cakes)
4 cups vanilla buttercream frosting
Green, red, and yellow food coloring

To make the cakes and stem: Prepare first recipe cake batter. Scoop 1/2 cup batter in standard-sized muffin tin; pour remaining batter into greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

Bake both on middle rack in 350-degree oven until toothpick inserted in center of each comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes for cupcake and 45 to 55 minutes for Bundt cake.

Cool cupcake in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Cool Bundt cake in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack.

Repeat with second recipe of cake batter. Let both cupcakes and both cakes cool completely.

To assemble and frost the pumpkin: Place 1/2 cup frosting in bowl and stir in two drops green food coloring to make frosting for stem. Stir two drops each red and yellow food coloring into remaining frosting, adding more until desired orange color is achieved. Use bread knife to level off domed top of cupcakes and even out bottoms of Bundt cakes. Assemble and frost cake.

Recipe: Spice Cake Batter

Makes enough for 1 Bundt cake

Spice cake recipe can produce cakes that are bland and leaden. For a tender, airy cake with convincing spice flavor, we raided our spice cabinet. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg provided our Spice Cake recipe with warm, hearty flavor.

Note: Bring eggs and milk to room temperature quickly by whisking them together in a container set in a bowl of warm water and let stand 10 minutes. Adding the butter pieces to the mixing bowl one at a time prevents the dry ingredients from flying up and out of the bowl.

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour

Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter one piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all butter is added.

Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high (setting 6 on KitchenAid) and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl.

Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds longer. (To mix using hand mixer, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Add butter pieces and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture; beat with hand mixer at lowest speed until incorporated, 20 to 30 seconds. Increase speed to high, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat at high speed 15 seconds longer.)

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Pacific Merchants

    so pretty! I'm with mgcady in that i'd add something to the frosting. Of course, knowing me, I'd make cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream, and add a hint of orange zest. It's SO good that way!

    October 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  2. Cooking with Marica

    Very very good idea! I would like to try for Halloween ciao Marica

    October 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  3. mgcady

    Oh this is so pretty! I'd find a way to spice the frosting though... just to keep in the spirit of things.

    October 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply

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