A cake for the first day of autumn

How do you bring in the seasons? How do you honor the change in the weather, in the mood, in the rhythm of life?

Well, I don’t know what you did, but I hosted a backyard concert for a friend. I didn’t specifically plan the concert to coincide with the arrival of autumn, but I was pleased to have a reason for celebrating my favorite season as part of the festivities. I spent two weeks composing this cake in my mind while we were on holiday in Scotland, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, if I do say so myself.

Autumn is rich, deep, strong, spicy. So is this cake.

Pumpkin chai-rye cake


1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canola oil (I ran out of canola oil, so I used about 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 melted stick of butter, and topped up the rest with olive oil)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons roasted ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2-1 teaspoon allspice
3 bags chai tea
3 knobs stem ginger, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped medjool dates
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (reserve 2-3 tablespoons for top of cake)
1-2 tablespoons rye whiskey
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin


Date syrup
Stem ginger syrup
Rye whiskey

Commence baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; toast the walnuts for about 7 minutes while it’s heating. After they’re toasted, toss them with the tea from one of the tea bags. Grease and flour a standard size Bundt pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and oil/oil-butter until blended. Add eggs one by one, beating well after each is added. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, remaining tea and spices. Add to the oil-sugar-egg mixture, alternating with pumpkin and whiskey, mixing well after each addition. Mix in dates, ginger and nuts (minus those reserved for the top).

Pour into Bundt pan and bake for 60-65 minutes or until a tester stuck into the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack, then let cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. I did not measure the ingredients out precisely, but I used about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of date syrup, plus all the syrup from a 350-gram jar of stem ginger, and about 1-2 tablespoons rye whiskey. To make, stir the date and ginger syrups together in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Turn the heat down slightly at that point and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture begins to thicken a bit. At that point, stir in the whiskey — the mixture will likely foam and bubble, but keep stirring, and turn down the heat a bit more, if necessary. Once the mixture has reached a consistency of runny molasses, remove from heat.

My cake was a bit craggy on the surface, but if yours isn’t, prick it gently all over with a toothpick or fork, then brush the glaze all over the cake until you think it can’t possibly absorb any more safely. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts and the tea you’ve mixed with them.

The cake is excellent by itself, but it would also be nice with some unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.