What are pepitas?

Monday, October 25, 2010
As much as we like to think we treat all birthdays the same, the truth is all birthdays seem prone to a certain amount of seasonal influence. Summer birthdays will hold on to a resentment about their largely ignored birthdays well into adulthood. (Who knew bringing birthday treats into school meant so much?!) Birthdays right around Christmas will inevitably get neglected. And no matter what the season, it seems birthday sweets will always be influenced by the outside weather.

As an early spring (as in, the snow is just starting to think about melting) birthday, my birthday sweets have usually been citrus based: lemon filled layer cake, key lime pie. There's something about the tangy promise of hot places in a citrus dessert that proves to be just what you want at winter's tail end. Meanwhile, the autumn birthdays bring about heavier desserts. Just last year, I made Andy a chocolate stout cake (hello Oktoberfest!) for his mid-November birthday and I whipped up a pumpkin pie which I neglected to put sugar in for my father's late October birthday.

My father's birthday was yesterday and after last year's disaster of a pie (he literary had to poke holes in last year's sugarfree pie and drizzle it with maple syrup to make it palatable), I knew I needed to redeem myself in the birthday baking department. I decided to make a cake from the cover of the latest Fine Cooking which Dad had taken a shine too.

Here it is: Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake - Fine Cooking Recipes, Techniques and Tips

The recipe looked straight forward enough, although I decided to make a couple minimal modifications to the recipe (see note below).  Then I noticed a slight problem. The recipe called for pepitas. What the heck?

I'm no pastry chef, but I'm fairly familiar with all the ingredients that would normally be involved in baking a cake. And pepitas? That was a new one for me.

In the whole foods co-op, I had an epiphany. Turns out pepitas are just hulled pumpkin seeds.

Now: what's the need for all the sugarcoating? Can't we call a pumpkin seed a pumpkin seed? Don't half the problems in the world come from refusing to call something what it really is?

But as I roasted pepitas and pecans in melted butter and tossed them in brown sugar, I started to have second thoughts about my indignation over the sugarcoating of pepitas.
Maybe all that sugarcoating's not so bad after all.

(Note: I followed the directions for the Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake basically verbatim. However, to ease transport of the cake, I baked all the cake batter in a 9x13 pan and increased the baking time to 40 minutes. Many other reviewers of the cake complain about its richness. I resolved the richness problem a bit by just putting a half batch of frosting on top. A half batch of frosting looks a little skimpy, but the topping classes it up and the cake is one rich puppy even with half as much frosting on top.)


  1. Wow! That's all I can say. Or maybe not, I want to taste a piece of that cake! You have one lucky dad.

  2. Okay, I had no idea. Looks delicious no matter what you call them.


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