This week’s obsession: My Annual Rant Against Pumpkin Spice
Ok friends, it’s confession time: I, too, am a PSL Hater™. Actually hate is a strong word. And it’s not just PSL, it’s the whole 'pumpkin spice mania' that I don’t like. So, PS Disliker™ is who I’ll be. My distaste for it actually didn’t start until after I graduated from pastry school because I had a moment of self-discovery, which I’ll explain in a bit.
However, I do want to start by saying that I don’t hate pumpkin spice because people consider it “basic” or because women love it. For the record, I LOVE enthusiasm. I don’t care if I know absolutely nothing about the topic that you’re geeking out about or if I don’t really like it – the fact that you are SO into whatever it is is going to make me smile, so please feel free to share your joy no matter the topic (but seriously if you ever wanna have a Harry Potter geek-fest, I’m so your girl). Also, WHY does our society absolutely rail against everything that women love? Teen girls, too, for that matter. (Seriously, VSCO girls. Why are we hating on this? It’s so adorable, and they’re teenagers! Get over it and let them have their joy!!) So yes, if you LOVE when the weather turns pumpkin spice, by all means rock on. I will not rain on your parade!
Let’s finally get this out of the way: why do I dislike pumpkin spice anything? Well I don’t actually mind the flavor. “Pumpkin spice” is comprised of some really great spices: cinnamon (which we all know how I feel about that!), ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. It’s absolutely a delicious spice power blend, so what’s my problem?
Take a look at that list of spices again. I guarantee you that you have most, if not all of those spices in your kitchen right now. They’re readily available at ANY time of the year, and yet we wait for our beloved megapower coffee house to tell us annually when we’re allowed to start consuming these spices together, all while dumping the contents of our wallets directly into their cash registers. There’s no need! They’ve created this imaginary scarcity when in fact, they’re just depriving you of year round joy. Just make your own spice blend and brew it with your coffee grinds each morning and then you, too, can be pumpkin spiced whenever you please!
Next, I need to talk about how bothersome the phrase “pumpkin spice” is. Many moons ago when I was the pastry chef at a small French bakery in No-Man’s Land, Louisiana, I dubbed myself the Macaron Queen (not to be confused with the time some coworkers dubbed me the Doughnut Goddess years later when I was working at a novelty doughnut shop). I had free reign of the menu, so I developed a line of 13 different macaron flavors and then always had one or two seasonal flavors available on top of that. When pumpkin spice season started, we set about doing some R&D for how to incorporate it into our menu, and we ended up creating this delicious pumpkin mousse that worked really well as a macaron (and also a tart. I piped a beautiful swirl of mousse into a tart shell and drizzled caramel over the top #heaven ). I specifically labeled it as a “Spiced Pumpkin Mousse” macaron, because it actually had pumpkin in it (also, I have a degree in Communications, so word usage is extremely important to me. I say what I mean and mean what I say, and occasionally will agonize over word choices for hours. You don't want to know how many times I reworded that last sentence. Sometimes I’m super fun to be around ::insert eyeroll here::).
Apparently most people have been sadly misled to believe that pumpkin spice drinks/snacks/treats actually have pumpkin in it… so imagine my surprise [frustration] when people thought our spiced pumpkin macarons and tarts “tasted weird” because they weren’t expecting the whole, ya know, pumpkin flavor. In the spiced pumpkin pastry. That they just ordered. #facepalm I guess I can’t blame them though, because every single person who ordered a tart or macaron called it a “Pumpkin Spice” whatever, so I guess actually it’s still their fault for not reading the sign. #GonnaBlameThemAnyway
Anyway, to prove that I bear no ill will toward the spices that comprise our beloved “pumpkin spice” blend, I created TWO desserts this week that feature these flavors. The first is my sort-of-creepy-but-sort-of-cute pumpkin mini cakes. I made two cake batters for this guy - one was an actual pumpkin cake with all of the requisite spices, and the other was a chocolate cake with all the deliciousness that is chocolate. (I had a hard time not adding the spices into the chocolate batter as well, or at least some cinnamon and/or cayenne because that's how I like my chocolate. But I didn't because I was afraid of overkill.) I swirled them together in my mini bundt pans, whipped up some cream cheese frosting, and stacked them together to make little pumpkin mini cakes. I dyed some fondant greenish brown to create the stems and leaves, and some of them even got a creepy jack-o-lantern face made, too.
Next, to round out this spooky photo composition I made spice cake cupcakes - just to stick with the mini theme, of course. (There’s no pumpkin in the spice cake, hence I didn’t call it a pumpkin spice cake, but please note that these are all of the flavors that you know and love. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” [Someone PLEASE tell me that you got this reference without Googling it.])
If you read last week’s post, you’ll remember that I used crushed up Oreo cookies in the American buttercream that I frosted the cake with. Well as luck would have it, I still had plenty of those crumbs lying around waiting to be used so I did just that. I am a huge Halloween fan and wanted to have a little more spookiness around the house (it’s in short supply on this island given that we’re still breaking 90*F outside every day instead of enjoying this crisp chill in the air that typically accompanies ghosts and ghouls) so I decided to turn some of my leftover ice cream cones from my ice cream cake into witches’ hats. (Are you picking up on the theme here? REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.) I had a tough time getting this accomplished once I coated the hats in melted dark chocolate and rolled them in Oreo crumbs because cream cheese frosting just doesn’t want to stick to the crumbs, but I eventually made it work by scraping off a section of the crumbs around the circumference of the cone and piping a belt using a star tip. I freehanded the belt buckle and called it a day!
I hurried up and set up my photo light box with a black background this time (you know, in the name of spookiness!) and pulled together a quick arrangement of pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, witch hats, and plain old cupcakes before the lights melted everything.
After I snapped a quick photo or two, I put everything away and quickly changed into my swimsuit so I could go out and enjoy the sun because honestly, we only have 6 or so more months of sunshine and heat until summer arrives, so I gotta soak it in while I can (I need a sarcasm font). But if you’re in the area and find yourself in need of a spice cake cupcake, I have plenty to share so fly in on your broomstick and grab one!
Spooky eating, y'all!!
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