Fall's here. I love Fall. The sweltering heat has left, and cool (but not freezing) weather has arrived. I love it when the wind blows on my face when I walk home from school. It's refreshing. I love passing by cars parked on the side of the street and seeing my reflection on the car windows. I prefer the tinted windows - they give the best reflection of my hair dancing along with the wind. It makes me happy to see another sign of Fall entering in.
I know, within a month or two, the weather will get freezing cold. I'll need to start wearing my big, bulky down jacket. At least it's pink.
I'm trying to enjoy the weather while I can. I've been jogging outside at dusk whenever I can. I don't like the treadmill much. I only see the basement while I'm exercising. There's no way of keeping track of how far I went except for looking at numbers. Numbers are boring. Numbers don't really have much behind them. Numbers are just a quantity - how many miles you've gone. The treadmill doesn't give me scenery or the sound of dried leaves crinkling under my feet. I've learned a few things about jogging in the fall though. Here's my advice:
- If it's a particularly windy day, don't brush your teeth (with mint toothpaste) before you jog. If you do, you will regret it once you start opening your mouth and panting. The cool wind + minty teeth = cold and sore teeth. It's already uncomfortable jogging - don't make it even worse. Do yourself a favor and brush your teeth after you jog. (You may ask me why I brushed my teeth before I jogged. That's because I was going to take a nap, and I care about my pearly-whites. But then, I realized that jogging was probably a better option, since that improves your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. (big words I learned in P.E. Believe it or not, we filled out lots of worksheets in P.E. concerning vocabulary) So I went jogging with freshly-brushed teeth.) Drinking water to flush away the mintiness does not help.
- Look around. Look for cars that might whamboozle you. Look for suspicious people who might kidnap you. And don't just look at eye-level. Look down too. 'Tis the season for huge fallen branches annnddd yoo-uuu don't wannnttt ttooo tripp. (Sing that in the tune of 'Tis the season please) And as everybody knows, tripping is embarrassing.
- And my last tip - this actually applies to any season, really. Look for ran-over squirrels. People drive. People will drive over squirrels. LOOK ON THE GROUND AND MAKE SURE YOU DON'T RUN OVER THE (already ran-over) SQUIRREL (literally). The squirrel's poor enough, okay? Don't stomp on it with your feet and squish it even more! Also, it is for your own good. Looking down for already ran-over squirrels will save you the trouble of cleaning your shoes. (Can you even wash away squirrel blood?) Also, you will not need to worry about contacting rabies and any other diseases. This almost happened to me once. But then I looked down. And saw a 2-D squirrel. So I kept some distance and went around it. Trust me. This was a life-changing event. I have converted to a look-on-the-ground-for-ran-over-squirrels type of jogger. You should convert too. Trust me... I have first-hand experience. Oh! But you don't need to convert if you live in an area where there are no squirrels or if reckless drivers already ran over the whole population of squirrels in your area.
Let's move on. I'm not going to elaborate on 2-D squirrels anymore.
Let's talk about Pumpkin Spice Cake. The cake is awfully moist. It's awfully good too. Pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, and cloves all mixed together. What says Fall more than that?
Brown sugar lining the rim of two measuring cups
Fall is the time when flavors change. Goodbye to berries and hello to pumpkins and squashes! Spicy, aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg start to become omnipresent in desserts around this time. Warm, rich comfort foods replace the lighter summer fares. Who needs to go on a diet when bathing-suit season is over? Certainly not now, when a pumpkin spice cake just came out of the oven.
Generously topped with glossy, white cream cheese frosting, this pumpkin spice cake is delish. The flavors meld together nicely. And hey - there's a vegetable in there. It's like, a healthy, yet guilty indulgence. Okay, that's an oxymoron, but just imagine it that way.
I wouldn't say that this cake is a cinch to make. It's not terribly difficult, just time-consuming. It's more complicated than a cake mix, where you dump the cake mix into a bowl, crack open a few eggs and add some milk and oil. But I wouldn't say that it's the hardest of all cakes to bake. This cake is certainly worth the time. The entire house smells like Fall when it comes out of the oven, and if you bring some to school (or work, if you're past the school stage in life), your friends will love you for it.
Pumpkin Spice Cake
adapted from: Joy of Baking
yields: one 9x13 sheet cake, or 16 squares
Note: The frosting is quite generous. If you are a frosting type of person, you will be fine with it. If you don't like frosting, you might want to reduce the recipe. If you are a geeky person, you will be delighted to know that each slice of cake is 7.31 square inches, and each slice of cake will have about 40 grams of frosting on top.
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups of cake flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Put parchment paper onto the pan, covering the base and two sides and leaving an overhang for easier removal. Spray non-stick cooking spray over the parchment.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Put in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Sift in 1/3 of the flour mixture and combine. Add 1/2 the buttermilk and combine. Sift in half of the remaining flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the rest of the buttermilk and mix until combined. Sift in the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Transfer the cake into the prepared pan. Using a spatula or a knife, smooth the top of the cake. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 ounces) of cream cheese
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
3-3 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar, sifted
Using an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese and butter. Add the syrup and confectioners sugar. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add more syrup and sugar as needed. The consistency should be quite thick, not thin.
Using a knife, spread cream cheese frosting over the completely cooled cake. Cut cake into 16 servings. Remove from pan, being careful not to transfer the parchment paper as well, and place slices on a serving plate. Enjoy!