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Joni Woolf: Pumpkins make great cakes, pies

I have just removed from the oven the two layers of a Pumpkin Praline Torte. They are beautiful to behold, and I want to dig right in before letting them cool, and frosting with whipped cream. I haven’t made one of these in several years — and it’s been three or four years since I wrote about it. Because it is one of those special recipes that we pull out rarely, I’m posting it in this column again, along with a couple of other tried and true pumpkin pearls. First featured in Southern Living many years ago, it has become an internet favorite also.


Praline Pumpkin Torte

¾ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter or margarine

3 tablespoons whipping cream (I used half-and-half. Works just as well.)

¾ cup chopped pecans

4 large eggs

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin or 2 cups cooked, fresh pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil (3/4 cup works just as well)

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Whipped cream topping (made by whipping 1 ¾ cup whipping cream, adding ¼ cup powdered sugar, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract).

Cook first three ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until brown sugar dissolves. Pour equal amounts into greased 9-inch round cake pans (I also line pans with parchment — the filling has a tendency to stick); sprinkle evenly with ¾ cup pecans, equally divided. Beat eggs, 1 2/3 cups sugar, and oil at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add pumpkin and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients; add to pumpkin mixture, beating until blended. Spoon batter evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 35 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire rack 5 minutes; remove from pans; cool on wire racks. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, praline side up; spread evenly with half of whipped cream topping. Top with remaining layer and spread remaining whipped cream topping over top of cake. Sprinkle cake with chopped pecans. Store in refrigerator.


The following recipe was featured in a Slow Cooker Cookbook, but I prefer cakes baked in the oven, so I experimented with this one before I offer it to the readers. I think I got it right; my friends at Calvary Episcopal approved.


Pumpkin Cake with Tipsy Raisins

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup brandy, grappa, or rum (or apple or orange juice if you prefer)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup sugar

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin

½ cup toasted walnuts (I used pecans)

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and brandy or other liquid. Let stand for 30 minutes. Butter and flour a 7-inch springform pan or a 6-cup baking pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the sugars and oil. Add the eggs and pumpkin, and mix well. Add the dry ingredients. Add the nuts and raisins with the soaking liquid. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto another rack and cool completely. I added whipped cream to my serving of this, but others ate it plain. ( I think it needs the topping.)


Pumpkin Pie (from Libby’s, given me by Geri Nelson, our new deacon at Calvary Episcopal Church)

1 Pillsbury pie crust

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 (15 oz.) can Libby’s pumpkin (or 2 cups cooked pumpkin)

¾ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 (12-oz.) can Carnation Evaporated Milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare 1 Pillsbury crust according to package directions for “filled one-crust pie.” Flute edges of crust to stand ½-inch above rim. Mix all ingredients in order given. Pour into pie crust-lined pan. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 35 to 45 minutes, until a knife inserted near center of pie comes out clean. If necessary, cover edge of crust with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely. Garnish with whipped topping or whipped cream.



Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at



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