Flapjack O’ Lanterns with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread (or, Tony Rides Shotgun)

30 Oct
Giant stack of Flapjack O' Lanterns

Giant stack of Flapjack O' Lanterns

A little history.

Flapjack O’ Lanterns are on their ninth year for my wife and me. That first time we made them was in a little house we rented on the north side of Iowa City. I think we had a single spatula that had been melted on one side, a giant Tupperware container that served as a mixing bowl, and money only for the can of pumpkin puree (and a rubber check for the rest of the ingredients). We had no griddle, and instead made the cakes, one at a time, on the small frying pan we possessed (which was warped). I don’t even remember who we cooked them for that first year, though my money is on my usual partner in crime (brother from another mother, James).

There forward, Flapjack O’ Lanterns became a part of every Halloween weekend. Friends rotated through during these nine events, some returning, some getting to work the next day on desperately making alternative plans for the next Halloween weekend. I think these cakes are pretty damn fine, but really, I wouldn’t know if they weren’t anyway. They’ve become about much more than just the cakes. Hell, they embody the very things that inspired this whole Griddler project to begin with, notably the conversations and camaraderie that occurs around them.

And now a little more history.

Tony rides shotgun for The Griddler

Tony rides shotgun for The Griddler

I’ve never taken cakes on the road, but this year our family headed east a few hours to visit some dear friends, Tony and Kate Guzzaldo, in Illinois. When Tony (pictured at right) asked if I was bringing the cake show on the road, my only thought was: I thought you’d never ask. Tony is an old college friend and roommate of mine, from a time when he had more nicknames (most of which deserve their own blocks of text entirely) than I had clean pairs of boxers. He and his wife, Kate, are two of the greatest people I know, so the idea of foisting the Flapjack O’ Lanterns upon them at long last was an excitement all my own.

So, after Tony served us dinner Friday night–a dinner he had spent all day preparing–he and I struck out for the local grocery store in search of my outstanding ingredients. He turned over his kitchen that night as I prepared batter, and again Saturday morning as I griddled my autumn offering. We all ate, and chatted, and even shared some leftovers with some friends who arrived later in the morning–a perfect milepost to an as-always great weekend with the Guzzaldos. The fact that cakes were prepared and griddled in the same kitchen Tony used to delight us with homemade pastas and pizzas all weekend was an honor The Griddler does not take lightly.

Rundown time.

Pants: We were guests in someone’s home. We have some decorum.

Planning: I plan all year, every year, for this day. And really, none of the planning has to do with the cakes. If there’s one recipe I know, it’s this one. The only real planning involved coordinating with Tony about some ingredients logistics. I also packed my spatula and griddle, as well as the measured dry ingredients for Saturday morning expediency. I prepared the cream cheese spread early, too, for the sake of minimal work on our weekend away.

Gathering: An assist from my wife again, and she came through with aplomb. I asked for cream cheese, organic, and preferably local. She found me some Wisconsin Neufchâtel at our local food co-op. Score one for awesome spouses!

Execution: The Griddler was happy to have help this weekend, and happier still that it was in the person of a dear friend. Dude rides a hell of a shotgun. Always has, really, so the flapjack assist was no surprise. Special thanks to his lovely wife, Kate, and their incubating unborn in the proverbial oven.

The only note I can think to pass along about execution is the actual griddling of the cakes. They’re quite dense, and can take some extra time to cook. Don’t expect much in the way of bubbles to flag you. Get in there with the spatula and peek instead, looking for the color of pumpkin pie (ish) before flipping.

Results: The conversation was great. I hear the cakes weren’t too shabby, either.

Crossover Potential: Extra cakes in the fridge, along with any leftover pumpkin cream cheese spread, makes for one honey of a decadent snack over coffee. So does the spread with a loaf of pumpkin bread. And Kate suggests using the spread as a cookie icing, to which I retorted: I like your moves, Ms. Guzzaldo.

The cakes recipe (for roughly 8 cakes):

  • 1.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp. orange peel
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • Maple syrup for drizzling (if desired in addition to the spread…HIGHLY recommended)
  1. Preheat griddle to 350+ degrees (though not quite 375)
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking together until well combined
And the pumpkin cream cheese spread recipe:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Healthy pinch each of cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Mix using electric mixer until smooth; keep cold in refrigerator

Note: Cakes recipe is culled from years of my own tweaks and modifications, and I couldn’t tell you their original source if I wanted to. I don’t think they bear much resemblance to whatever that recipe was anyway. Spread recipe adapted from http://www.bhg.com/recipe/cheese/pumpkin-cream-cheese-spread/

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5 Responses to “Flapjack O’ Lanterns with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread (or, Tony Rides Shotgun)”

  1. Susan October 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Another excellent installment in the weekly pancake saga. It is nice to know that you do have some decorum. 😉 I am going to use your cream cheese spread as a filling in the cinnamon cupcakes I am making tomorrow. Thanks and Happy Halloween!!!

  2. Amber Cummer October 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Oh, the classic pumpkin flapjacks. It just wouldn’t be Halloween without them! Promise to make these when we’re 80? They get an A++ every time.

  3. ajguzzaldo November 6, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    You are too kind, brother. Given that we’ve both reached a level of domestication that makes the kitchen the setting in which we are most in our respective elements, it was an honor to share in a few culinary adventures with you and yours.

    How awesome do I look on a tricycle? Seriously.

    • The Griddler November 7, 2011 at 9:50 am #

      I think it should be part of your new look. Christmas is right around the corner. Just sayin’…

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