Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Wow. I know it has been over a year since my last post, but it seems more like three lifetimes ago! 2020 has been a doozy for sure.

Thankfully, we are all healthy in the Vittles household and extended family (knock on wood). That's the most important thing, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones.

I feel like the pandemic experience has varied for people depending on a lot of factors, one of the biggest being location. New Jersey was initially one of the hardest-hit areas in the US, during a time when there were a lot of uncertainties about the virus. A lot of businesses were unable to reopen for months here due to restrictions, and those that could open had to really adapt to the new rules. 

Life has finally been seeming a little more normal these days, but as we head into the winter months I fear this taste of normalcy will be short-lived.

Just for kicks, I recently looked back in my text messages to Mr. Vittles from the beginning of pandemic. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say they were funny/incredibly naive. On March 16 (Day 1 of remote learning for my then-first grader, Mini):

"I am already losing my mind. I don't know how I am going to do this for two weeks."

Two weeks. That's all it was supposed to be! Remember that? And I literally thought that sounded like an eternity. 

In the beginning of lockdown, I was technically on leave because the kids' schools were closed. I was still checking emails and voicemails and responding accordingly, but I was not working full-time. Also, the Minion was still in Pre-K and didn't have any assigned work.

And still I was not sure I could do this? Yikes.

Fast forward almost 8 months, and I have not one but two kids remote learning 3 days a week with a pretty rigorous schedule of Google meets. I am also working from home full-time. On the other two days, the kids are face-to-face in school for half a day, leaving me with two mornings a week to go in the office or work alone. 

Remote learning days look like me and my Kindergartener sitting next to each other at the kitchen table, while we are both on our computers. I try to piece together the work I need to do while still listening to what his teacher says.

We start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance, then we sing "You're a Grand Old Flag" (complete with patriotic hand motions.) Most of the rest of the day consists of repetition, stories, songs and videos interspersed with his teacher's gentle reminders. 

"You have to put yourself on mute, honey." 

"You have to take yourself off mute, honey."

(At some point, I'm sure the kids will figure that out.... right?!?)

Or my personal favorite- "Can you hear me? Thumbs up if you can hear me."

I seriously have no idea how teachers are handling half the class at home while the other half is in front of them. Incredible.

Then in the meantime, my second grader is in her room with the door shut (so we don't disturb each other any further) trying to navigate her Google meets and assignments on her own. 

Luckily she's been an independent little thing pretty much from birth, so this hasn't been too much of an issue. But she's also a social critter, and I know she wishes she could sit with us too. 

Unfortunately my crowded brain can't handle that level of distraction.

To say it has been challenging is an understatement. I still don't know how a parent is supposed to do these things simultaneously.

I don't know how the kids are supposed to learn like this, or make friends like this.  

But they do. Somehow, we all do.  So many people's lives have been turned upside down in one way or another by this pandemic. And we are all just doing our best. 

But for all the trials and tribulations, spending this much time with my kids has inspired so many moments of joy, laughter, and awe at what these two are capable of. 

They have been 100 times more adaptable than me, and I know this is time we would never have had together under normal circumstances. I have to remind myself to take deep breaths and to cherish those moments.

On the kitchen front, I can decisively say that I have grown quite tired of preparing food. I always hated packing the kids lunches and snacks every night, but it seems that eating every morsel of food at home each day is equally exhausting. So is keeping up with the dishes that result.

Despite all that, I couldn't let my favorite season pass without making some homemade pumpkin treats. My mother-in-law's pumpkin bread is our tried & true, but I've been wanting to try a pumpkin crumb cake for a while now.

I've never really found any recipes that had the crumb topping and cake combo I was looking for until I came across one from King Arthur Baking. It checked most of the boxes for me... but here in Jersey, traditional crumb cake has powdered sugar on top, so I had to make that addition.

I also took out the cinnamon filling. I guess I'm a purist! 

Just not so much of a purist that I didn't swap pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon in the crumb topping.

And add extra pumpkin spice to the cake. 

Because... well... if you don't like pumpkin spice, you're in the wrong place my friends!

I really feel like this would be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving breakfast. I know we are all going to have to adapt for the holidays this year, so we need things to look forward to!

And I wish you all a wonderful day, no matter how you choose to celebrate. 

Heck, maybe your version of celebrating this year means making this cake, sitting on the couch in your stretchy pants, and shoveling in the entire thing before noon. 

I won't judge. 

Your secret is safe with me. 

Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Crumb Topping 
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 2/3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • *powdered sugar, optional 
  • 1.3 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking powder 
  • 1 1/2 C. flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square pan and set aside.

Make topping: In a medium bowl, whisk granulated sugar, salt, flour and pumpkin spice. Add melted butter and stir until combined. (*Powdered sugar is for later, after cake has cooled). Set bowl aside.

Make cake: In a large bowl, beat together oil, eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, pumpkin spice, salt and baking powder until smooth. Add flour and stir just until smooth and no flour streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly to edges. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake until cake is light golden brown on top and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 40-45 minutes).

Remove cake and cool on wire rack. When completely cooled, use a sieve to sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. You can also do this just before serving to avoid it melting into the cake.

Adapted from King Arthur Baking


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