Pumpkin Chai Loaf Cake

Is there anything more iconic than a Bundt pan? I love how vintage and retro they are, and how they effortlessly produce a beautifully-molded cake that practically needs no additional embellishment aside its decorative shape. Bundt cakes are the perfect cake to take to a religious or community gathering, a picnic, or a family reunion. You know that if you walk into any of these gatherings with a boldly-shaped Bundt cake, you’re guaranteed many oohs and aahs of approval, and the cake will speak for itself as to the kindness in your generous gesture. In this sense, the creator of the Bundt pans, H. David Dahlquist, completely succeeded in his aim to have his signature pan conjure the idea of get-togethers. I have a special spot for Dave Dahlquist, not only because he created this awesome pan or because he was an innovator who gave Nordic Ware to Minneapolis, but because he married Dottie, the daughter of Danish immigrants who also loved to bake, so I feel a special kinship since my great-grandfather was from Denmark, and I love to bake too. David and Dottie had met before World War II in Chicago at an art exhibit. After the war, Dave arrived back in America after serving in the US Navy and married Dottie, settling down in Minneapolis where they created their family business making bakeware. Dottie met the venture with much enthusiasm since she had always wanted to create a pan for the Danish pancakes known as ebelskivers, and this was her chance. In the process, David decided to use cast aluminum as the material of choice for the pans. That’s how in 1946, David and Dottie founded Nordic Ware with a foundry built in Minneapolis, and this is how the stage was set for the creation of the Bundt pan, when in 1951, they were approached by a local Jewish women’s group with a request to add a pan to their line resembling an old-world cake pan shaped like a ring known as kugelhopf, but the Minneapolis Jewish women affectionately called them bund, meaning “association” in German, in reference to how these cakes were served in their association meetings.

David and Dottie designed a ring-shaped kugelhopf pan with regular ridges on the base, and that’s how the traditional Bundt pan was born. This particular pan gained a lot of popularity over a decade later thanks to the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, when the Tunnel of Fudge Cake was awarded a second-place prize and it became a sensation all over the country in the 1960s. The Tunnel of Fudge Cake could only be made in a Bundt pan, because as the name indicates, there is a tunnel of fudge and nuts that would never set and bake properly in a regular pan with no hole in the center. It was nothing like the traditional Eastern European yeasted kugelhopf that had inspired the pan, but the Tunnel of Fudge Cake was so delicious and successful thanks to Pillsbury’s contest and promotion that soon, the demand for Nordic Ware’s Bundt pans came flooding in from all corners of the country. Millions of Bundt pans were sold, and the rest is history.

Fast forward to today, and you’d be hard pressed to meet anyone who doesn’t know what a Bundt pan or Bundt cake is. I have never met a Bundt pan I didn’t like! My basement holds a huge collection, and Dan teases me that I can never have too many of them. I wait for new releases of Bundt pans from Nordic Ware like some people wait for the release of a new Marvel movie or apparel from their favorite designer. The pans go from classic to quirky to traditional to modern and themed. They’re so reliable for bakers of all skill levels because they guarantee an easy release and have a special finish to help with that, so you don’t have to worry if the cake will release in one piece, so long as you’ve greased and floured your mold properly and you wait until the cake is cooled. Another advantage of the Bundt pan is that thanks to their high-quality commercial-grade aluminum material, the heat is conducted uniformly so that the cakes rise evenly, and they develop a golden crust consistently. Some of their most popular designs include: the Lotus Pan, capturing the image of the water lotus flower; multiple snowflake pans; a vintage star pan, whose design comes from Nordic Ware’s archives; and a crown Bundt pan for Nordic Ware’s 70th Anniversary that was created with the Scandinavian mountains in mind. Some other unique pans are: miniature bone-shaped puppy treats; Star Wars cakelet pans; a woodland cakelet pan featuring leaves, acorns, and pine cones; and the Jubilee Bundt pan with a diamond-shaped surface pattern that has a really modern feel to it. But my most favorite Bundt pans ever are those that belong to what I call the “harvest collection” of loaf pans, with designs featuring pumpkins, wheat stalks, sunflowers, and grapes. To me, these pans are worthy of the Thanksgiving table, the harvest table, and the autumn table, and I have an obsession to match the design of the Bundt pan with its appropriate seasonal flavor. I love my Nordic Ware pans so much because they last for ages and it’s always so satisfying to unmold the cake. Some of the first cakes I baked were made in a traditional Bundt pan mold a few years back when I had just started and I didn’t have any baking experience and I would only do a simple glaze or dust them with powdered sugar. You can never go wrong with a Bundt pan! They’re easy to cut into uniform slices thanks to their geometric shapes, and the pans are so gorgeous that they really inspire you to bake. If you’re like me, where you’re not a fan of frosting because it’s too sweet, the Bundt pan is a great option to get around that.

All this rambling about my obsession with Bundt pans is to say their beauty and convenience inspired me to make this very classic and autumnal Pumpkin Chai Loaf Cake. It has a chai spice blend in it to make it a little bit more special. When you bake this recipe, you’ll have a delicious, moist and dense autumnal cake bursting with the flavors of pumpkin and chai spices emerging fresh from the oven. It’s a classic of the autumn coffee or tea hour, a dense, moist, and flavorful pound cake that can be the excuse to pause and have a break by yourself or with a friend in the middle of the day. Since it is baked in a Bundt pan, it is an accessible way to put something both beautiful and delicious on your table that elevates a snack cake from ordinary to extraordinary in a fuss-free way, making an everyday cup of tea and cake extra special. But perhaps more importantly, when you make this recipe, you will also have engaged in baking a modern American classic that is so quintessentially Minnesotan because it blends centuries-old  Eastern European and Jewish baking methods with the help of Nordic Ware’s modern, Minneapolis-invented cast-aluminum gem.

Pumpkin Chai Loaf Cake

Prep time:  20 minutes

Bake Time: 40-45 minutes (please see note below the recipe)

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp clove
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ + 1/8 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 7 oz pumpkin puree

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. While the oven pre-heats, grease and flour the inside of a cake loaf pan. Make sure to shake out the excess flour if you’re using a Bundt pan with a design so that the design comes out cleanly. You can also use cooking spray and then coat it with flour. Set the pan aside for when you’re ready to bake.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper, coriander, and nutmeg. Whisk well, until the spices are evenly distributed in the flour mixture. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if you’re doing it by hand, beat the butter until smooth. Add in the cane sugar and brown sugar and beat until it’s light, fluffy, and it lightens in color to a very pale yellow. It should take about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the sunflower oil and vanilla powder and continue beating with a whisk until well-combined. 
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue beating to combine.
  6. Add in about 1 cup of the flour mixture, stirring, and then add in the milk and mix until combined.
  7. Fold in the remaining amount of the flour mixture gradually and mix until just combined. It’s OK if you still see a few streaks of flour. If you over-beat the cake, it will be gummy in consistency.
  8. Finally, add the pumpkin puree and beat, making sure the mixture is smooth and the pumpkin is evenly distributed and well-incorporated in the batter.
  9. Transfer the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. There is some variability with loaf pans, particularly Bundt pans that come with a design, so if your pan is a little bit shorter, deeper, and stockier, you might need to add additional baking time, around 10 to 15 minutes extra. I recommend to start checking for doneness at around 50 minutes.
  10. When the cake is done, remove from the oven and let it cool 15 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake using a rubber spatula. Don’t use a knife. Let it cool an additional 20 minutes, or until the pan is at room temperature.
  11. To serve, carefully place a serving plate on the top of your loaf pan, hold onto the edges of the loaf pan and serving plate, and invert cake so that now the plate is on the bottom side and the loaf pan is on top, holding onto everything firmly. The cake should land on the plate gently, but if it needs additional encouragement, you can shake it up a little bit. Serve with whipped cream, caramelized pepitas, with ice cream, or on its own. Store in an airtight container. It will last about 1 week.

Note: If you choose to make it in the classic ring-shaped Bundt pan instead of a loaf pan, you will likely have to double the recipe, because the loaf pan accommodates approximately 4 ½ cups of batter, and a standard ring Bundt pan typically holds 10 cups of batter. Loaf pans are not standardized and cooking time may vary, so making sure that you test for doneness with a toothpick is vital.

© 2021 Carol’s Baking Adventures