pumpkin tea cake

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I often use baking as a stress reliever, a way to create something good out of something bad. however, there are days when the bad seems so overwhelming, it’s near-impossible to find the motivation to create.

I don’t have classes until the afternoon on thursdays, so I planned to make an easy pumpkin tea cake in the morning to mark the start of fall. I started listening to the supreme court confirmation hearings as I pulled out the ingredients I would need. I got as far as mixing together the dry ingredients. but as dr. blasey ford’s testimony continued, utterly compelling in its searing, honest tone, I had to turn my full attention to her words, and felt to my core that she was telling the truth.

her hearing went on so long that even as I walked to class, it was still going on. in the lecture hall, I saw a few of my fellow classmates wearing wireless earbuds in one ear, clearly still tuning into her testimony. even my professor seemed a bit distracted – and understandably so. while he was teaching us about legal precedents, we were in the midst of a hearing that bucked all formerly standard norms and would inevitably shape our future.

between classes, we tuned back in in fits and spurts, reading up on the live tweets of our favorite pundits (s/o to 538) and watching clips. as we discussed, the conversation took on mainly humanistic rather than legal tones because ultimately, though there was a judgeship on the line, we viewed this hearing as a testing of human decency and ethics. many of us unfortunately know someone who is a sexual assault survivor or are one ourselves. in that lens, we knew whose testimony rang more true.

we’ll never know exactly what happened in 1982. but i believe that if you hear dr. blasey ford and you believe her, even just a little, you must err on the side of caution. we must believe women. we must believe survivors of sexual assault.

and now, a hard swing back to this pumpkin loaf. I did finally get around to making it after a day of hard discussions and tearful truths, and the growing sense that despite all the progress that has been made in women’s rights, and to a larger degree, the protections of the vulnerable in society, we are about to witness yet another reminder of the limits of that progress and the beginning of a strong push back. after my last teacake, a friend had requested a pumpkin bread, and despite not really being in the mood to bake, I figured they would need it now more than ever. this recipe is moist, spiced and almost spicy, and not too sweet. happy fall.

makes one 9•5-in loaf

225g (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp + 2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) pumpkin purée
200g (1 cup) canola oil
270g (1 1/3 cups) granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsp turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 325ºF. lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5-in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl and set aside.
3 using either a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a mixing bowl and a whisk, beat together pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed or by hand until well-mixed. add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until incorporated before adding the next egg. scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then on low speed, add flour mixture and beat until just combined. (if mixing by hand, fold in flour using rubber spatula.) scrape down sides of bowl, then beat on medium speed for 5-10 seconds to make a smooth batter, which should have the consistency of a thick purée.
4 transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula (or just use the rubber spatula). sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, ~1 hour.
5 let cool in pan on a wire rack for ~20 minutes, then invert onto rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. serve at room temperature. cake will keep, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the fridge for up to 1 week (and can be frozen for up to 1 month).
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