- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2005

As much as I love my children and adore seeing them in Halloween costumes, I

enjoy being with other adults on this fun holiday. Halloween has always lent itself to fanciful fall menus of roasted vegetables, pork, aromatic apples and a dessert that contains pumpkin, of course.

Sure, you can bake a pumpkin pie, but that dessert seems more at home on Thanksgiving than Halloween. The recipe that follows is the cake to serve when the weather turns cool. It’s delicious with a plain butter cream frosting or an orange-flavored frosting.

The next day, after it has had time to sit and mellow in the refrigerator or right from the freezer, it is wonderful served in slices. (Because it makes a lot of servings, feel free to tuck leftovers in the freezer for meals the next week.)

For a nice touch, top the just-frosted cake with chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds. You’ll enjoy the play of the crunchy nuts with the creamy frosting as much as your children will enjoy diving into their sacks of Halloween goodies.

Five time-shaving ways to use a can of pumpkin:

• Add half of it (about 1 cup) to your favorite cake batter in place of some of the liquid and some of the oil.

m Add the whole can to a sauteed onion and garlic, then pour in two cans of chicken broth and a little cream, heat, season to taste with cinnamon, salt and pepper and spoon into bowls for an easy pumpkin soup.

• Add half a can to your favorite mashed potato recipe. Turn the already-warm mixture into a lightly buttered gratin dish, top with grated Parmesan cheese, and run under the broiler until browned and bubbly.

• Add half a can to your favorite cookie recipe in place of some of the liquid and oil.

• Make a pumpkin pie using a store-bought pie crust but top with real whipped cream.

Pumpkin spice cake

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 18.25-ounce package plain spice cake mix

1 3.4-ounce package vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup pumpkin, canned or mashed fresh

cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

teaspoon ground ginger

Fresh orange cream cheese frosting (recipe follows), optional

cup pecans, walnuts or almonds, toasted and chopped, optional

Lightly mist a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Set pan aside.

Place cake mix, pudding mix, pumpkin, oil, cup water, eggs, cinnamon and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop machine and scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it out with rubber spatula. Place pan on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 32 to 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Frost with fresh orange cream cheese frosting, if desired. If frosting, sprinkle with toasted nuts. Slice into squares and serve. Makes 18 to 20 servings.

FRESH ORANGE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)

Place cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add confectioners’ sugar, a bit at a time, blending with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well combined, about 2 minutes.

Add orange juice and zest to the mixture. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until frosting lightens and is fluffy, 1 minute more. Use immediately. Makes 3 cups.

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