I originally was going to call this Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake, “Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Cake.”
But, that’s a mouthful of words that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. So, I took, “Custard,” out of the title and made peace with it. Or not. Because custard is the highlight of this cake, the pièce de résistance. Aaand, that custard forms magically for you in the oven! Yep! You just pour the custard on top of the cake batter and it travels nicely down to the bottom of the cake baking into lovely swirl. There’s no layering of filling and batter; just pour it on top and science takes over and does the rest of the work.
Let’s back track a bit. The origin of this wonderful cake harkens back a million years when I had my first job out of college. I was in an executive training program at a large department store and my position was sales manager. I had a wonderful team of ladies that worked in my department. They were long term, loyal employees that had probably worked at the company for more years than I was alive. Clearly, they were going to teach me more than I was ever going to teach them, and they quickly took me under their wing. In addition to teaching me all about the product in our department, how to keep the stock boys in line and how to manage the various buyer personalities that came out to visit our store, they also liked to bake.
There was one woman, another old timer from one of the other nearby departments, that baked a ricotta cake for some event we were having. It was a yellow cake with a layer of the most delicious custard. I had never had anything like it up to that point! I was in love. When I found out it was made with a yellow box cake mix and just a few extra ingredients, my single girl working 60-70 hours a week self was sold. If I ever needed to bring a quick, yet impressive cake somewhere, that cake was certainly going to become a go to recipe for me. And so it did. And every time I brought it somewhere, I was asked for the recipe. Every. Single. Time.
Then my sister in law asked for the recipe. I think she started making it at Christmas and maybe for some other events. When I would see it on her dessert table, my eyes would always light up and I knew that I had to save room for a slice of it, regardless of what other treats might be gracing her spread of delicious desserts. At some point I realized that I wasn’t making it at all anymore. What happened? I was too busy testing other recipes and working on ideas for the blog.
And then I came up with an idea…what if I made a pumpkin version? I figured, how hard could it be? All I needed was a good pumpkin cake recipe. Piece. Of. Cake. *car brakes screeching to a halt* Or maybe not.
Maybe the first cake I made was not partially raw when I cut into it. Maybe I didn’t then cut slices of said cake and bake them again so that they could fully cook… and then offer the now toasted slices of cake to my family. Ugh! Oh, now don’t feel sorry for them. It was a strange twice baked cake creation, but some of them actually asked for seconds! Clearly, though, that concoction was not going to be bloggable. It’s the pumpkin, I tell you! Pumpkin always changes the texture of a recipe (#sconegoals) and now that I was combining it with a custard, I had twice the challenge.
I’ll skip the trials and tribulations of the following test rounds of cake batter that were simply too moist to handle the addition of custard, and instead tell you that I just ended up going back to a favorite tried and true recipe hoping that it would work with my custard. I even changed the recipe for the custard just to insure my success. (To be honest, I was simply trying to create a recipe that used a full can of pumpkin so I wouldn’t leave you any leftovers, but it was a no go. #good intentions)
You might think that my family was sick of pumpkin cake. I know I was. I had already planned to give at least half of the final and successful cake away to friends. After photographing it, I headed out for an evening meeting, leaving my family home to test the latest cake. When I got home, I asked how the cake was. My husband told me they ate half of it. What?!? That’s insane! See what happens when I leave, letting go of all of the mighty control I exert over the household every day? ;) Oh, and then they told me they didn’t want to give any of it away. Yep, I’m outing my family…specifically my husband, because there’s at least one person who now knows she got cheated out of some cake :)
The cake itself is tender and moist. It’s not super fluffy, and it’s just gently spiced. I’ll add notes to the recipe if you want to add more spice, but the lack of a strong spice profile really does make this a little more mass appeal. It’s kind of like pumpkin cake rolls; they never seem to be strongly spiced. I’m going to try it with a little more spice and some orange zest the next time around, though. Just for fun.
Because the custard is so moist, the edges where the custard meets the cake batter, even when fully baked, will be a little like pumpkin pie. In fact, one of my taste testers thought the cake should be called a “pie” cake. But that would be yet another word that would make the title rather unwieldy to repeat. Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Pie Cake? Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Cake? Yeah. No. I think Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake is enough. I’ll probably leave off the bundt part of the name in regular use and just call it Pumpkin Ricotta Cake. It doesn’t really matter what you call it…because in a word?
It’s delicious! :)
Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake
For the cake:
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground all spice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup 2 sticks or 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups pureed pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
For the filling:
- 1 pound ricotta cheese I used part skim from Belgioiso
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- confectioner's sugar for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan, tapping out excess flour or see notes for a super easy way to do this. Adjust oven rack down to the bottom third of the oven. For me, this is just one level down from the center.
Make the cake. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, vanilla and buttermilk until fully combined. I like to do this in a large liquid measuring cup for easy pouring. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing until incorporated after each addition.
- Alternate adding flour and pumpkin mixture to the butter mixture (1/3 flour, 1/2 pumpkin , 1/3 flour, 1/2 pumpkin, 1/3 flour) mixing until just combined after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.
- Make the filling. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of flour. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Carefully pour all over the top of the cake batter in the bundt pan. Jiggle the pan a bit to even out the cheese mixture, if necessary.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan.
- Place a cooling rack on top of the cake and flip cake over and out onto rack. Allow to cool, then dust with powdered sugar before serving.
*For an easy way to grease/flour your bundt pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and mix with 1 Tablespoon of flour until combined into a paste. Use a pastry brush to apply paste to all the ridges, nooks and crannies of your pan making sure to coat all of the sides as well as the center tube.
*Cake should be stored in refrigerator. My family prefered it cold, but it gets too dense for me when it's cold. If it has been stored in the refrigerator, I would allow it to come to room temperature before serving, although my favorite way to eat it is heating up a slice for just a few seconds in the microwave. It becomes really soft and kind of fluffy when it's warm. Love it!
*If you want to add more spice, I would increase cinnamon to 2 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. Love ginger? Don't increase cinnamon and add a full teaspoon of ginger instead. Or skip all of the spices and replace with 3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. I also think adding the zest of 1/2 an orange would taste amazing. My advice is to try it first as the recipe is written, so that you have an idea of how much you'd like to adjust. It's really wonderful as is, though.
*My bundt pan is about 10" across and about 3 3/4" tall. I've made the original recipe in a 13 x 9" pan, but I haven't tried this pumpkin version in that sized pan so I'm not sure if it works well or not. Sometimes recipes translate to other sized pans, sometimes they don't.
*If you want to try the original recipe, just prepare a boxed yellow cake mix as directed. Spread the batter in a bundt or 13 X 9 pan (well greased and floured) and pour custard mixture over the batter. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. In this version, the custard will sink completely to the bottom instead of forming that "filling" effect that you see with the pumpkin version. Base cake recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod via Epicurious
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