- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If you’re like many Two’s Company households, your Thanksgiving meal is often spent in the company of others. It’s a pleasure to be a guest at someone’s holiday table and share in the holiday bounty.

However, you may want to contribute to the festivities. Bringing a home-cooked food allows you to feel as if you’re participating in the mealtime preparations.

Selecting the right dish is tricky. Ask most hostesses and you’ll be told not to bother, which isn’t much help. The usual courses — mashed potatoes, stuffing and the glorious bird — are the purview of the cook.

That leaves dessert.

Let’s face it, by the time the Thanksgiving cooks are halfway through their kitchen marathon, baking a sweet often loses its appeal. That’s where you, the guest, can step in.

Offer to bring pumpkin praline cake, a moist, satisfying cake with a rich topping of pecans and cream. To score extra points, bring a quart of vanilla ice cream to serve on the side.

This snack cake is easy to transport if you leave it in the baking pan. Just be sure to save a few slices for yourself.

Pumpkin praline cake

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon mace, optional

1/4 teaspoon ginger

STREUSEL TOPPING:

½ cup lightly packed golden brown sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

PRALINE TOPPING:

1½ cups lightly packed golden brown sugar

½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream

2 cups toasted coarsely chopped pecans

Combine sugar, oil, butter and pumpkin puree in bowl of electric mixer. Beat at medium speed to blend, about 30 seconds. Beat in eggs.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, mace and ginger in a bowl. Add ½ cup at a time to mixer, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Spoon batter into greased 9-by-13-inch cake pan.

Prepare streusel topping. Combine brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture forms crumbles. Sprinkle over cake, covering evenly. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Prepare praline topping about 5 minutes before cake is done. Combine brown sugar and half-and-half in a small heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir in pecans and remove from heat. Sauce should be lukewarm, not hot. Don’t make sauce too far in advance since it firms up as it cools. When cake is done, remove from oven. Spread praline sauce over cake.

Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate for 1 hour for sauce to harden.

Makes 20 to 24 servings.

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