I decided the pumpkin cake pan was cute enough to justify a purchase, especially off eBay--not at list price. (As a side note, the pan is normally stocked at my local cake-decorating store, Cake Art--but a pumpkin cake make the cover of Southern Living recently, so Cake Art was sold out.) I did decide to substitute the simpler Golden Neoclassic Buttercream for the Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream with its three-stage recipe, and had difficulties.
But let me start with the cake. It's a spice cake with pumpkin for flavor and moisture, and walnuts. The spices are cinnamon and nutmeg, and the combination works wonderfully well. The cake was pretty easy to put together, especially using canned pumpkin--toast the walnuts, beat the liquid ingredients, then beat in the mixture of flour, spices, leavening agents, and the walnuts and the batter is done. It went into the double pumpkin pan and into the oven.
I had a moment of panic when I pressed gently on one of the cakes to see if it would spring back, and instead the crust broke and the cake appeared to be headed for collapse. But no, I just closed the oven door and kept baking, and it came out fine. A small crater was still visible, but the cake rose under it and finished baking.
I baked the cake Saturday and wrapped it in plastic wrap overnight. Sunday morning I started on the Great Buttercream Adventure (see link above), and then frosted the cake with the not-so-happy result. Take note: it's not easy to frost the valleys and ridges of a pumpkin-shaped cake with a smooth coat of frosting. Filling in the valleys is inevitable (or it sure was for me), and I kept finding the ridges when I smoothed a little too much and spotted cake under the frosting. It took a while to find a technique that started producing a smooth finish--I pulled up from the base in long strokes, up to the crown. Except I usually couldn't manage that in one stroke, leaving the frosting looking a little ragged. I think I might also have gotten a little closer to the ideal (that is, the picture in Heavenly Cakes) if I'd switched to a wider spatula for the last round of strokes, making the darker orange streaks.
On to the decorating....
A few nights ago, younger niece came over and we colored marzipan (the supermarket stuff in a tube) and made the pumpkin decorations. Niece started trying to color the stem with cocoa powder, but we just couldn't get a smooth color with it. When we added a little brown powdered coloring that solved the problem. We also made batches of green, orange, and red, then started trying to blend them to get a fall color effect, using the behind-the-scenes pictures Rose posted as a guide. It worked pretty well, though we're still clearly amateur class with this stuff.
The marzipan sat at room temp in a ziplock bag until today, and was not very stiffened--we reshaped leaves as we needed to complete the pumpkin. Funny how just adding the stem instantly transformed the 'round orange cake' into 'pumpkin'.
Appearance got raves all round.
Sister-in-law: that's a really lovely spice cake--the nutmeg really makes it pop.
Older niece: it's good. I like it. The walnuts make a nice crunch.
Younger niece: One of the best so far. (Along with the apple upside down cake, the Jancsi torta, and the brownies.) Moist. Frosting is too buttery.
Nephew: Really good. (He was very impressed with the pumpkin shape, too.)
General reaction from co-workers: This is really good!
Me: the too-buttery frosting is bothering me more and more, and I wish I'd cut back on the butter to try to compensate for the loss of sugar syrup. The golden syrup does give the frosting a great flavor, though. Next time I think I'll try this cake unfrosted--it's moist, tastes good, and really doesn't need frosting. One co-worker, when we discussed the frosting disaster, suggested that it would be very good with an orange cream-cheese frosting or glaze.