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Close your eyes and remember those lazy Sunday afternoons seated around the kitchen table. What’s the first thing you remember? Pampoen tert? Or perhaps pampoen koekies? There’s nothing quite like these delicious sweet treats, which oddly are made from a fruit. And there you thought we were going to say a vegetable! Actually, the pumpkin is considered to be a fruit because it is produced from a seed-bearing, flowering plant.

A little pampoen history

The pumpkin or pampoen (in Afrikaans) is also known as ‘ithanga’ in the Xhosa dialect and grows easily in most parts of South Africa. Apparently, in the old days, farmers and rural communities kept pumpkins on the farmhouse roof, which kept fresh for up to six months! Who needs a crisper drawer in the fridge?

Why pampoen?

This easily grown and relatively cheap food source is very versatile. This probably accounts for its popularity and the many South African recipes in which pampoen can be found. Recipes range from whole stuffed pumpkin, baked pumpkin, pumpkin soup, and even pumpkin cheesecake. Is your belly rumbling yet? Ours certainly are!

Types of pumpkins

The pumpkin species found predominantly in South Africa is called the Cucurbita Maxima, of which there are four varieties. These include the Queensland Blue, Flat White Boer, and Green and Gold Hubbard. No matter which variety you choose, they are all equally tasty. While enjoyed throughout the year, this staple food is also a typical kersfees kos. A Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without a variety of pampoen bykosse; there’s something to be said for the festive taste of pumpkin dusted with cinnamon and baked in honey.

That said, at this time of year, everyone starts thinking of their favourite kersfees kos and pumpkin is on the top of the shopping list. In South African households around the world, heated debates are had about the Christmas menu. But one thing that’s never debated is whether or not to have pampoen on the table. So, with that in mind, we thought a lekker pampoen recipe was needed to kick-start the festive season.

Check out this delicious pumpkin cake recipe we found; it’s pumpkin-licious.

What you need

For the cake

  • 300 g soft brown sugar
  • 300 g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoon bicarb
  • 180 g sultanas
  • 3 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 200 g salted butter, melted
  • 1x orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 500 g cooked pumpkin, mashed

For the icing

  • 200 g cream cheese
  • 100 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 85 g salted butter, softened
  • 1 x orange zest
  • ½ orange juiced

What to do

For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • Grease and line a 30 x 20 cm baking tray with baking paper.
  • Select a large bowl and mix the following dry ingredients—self-raising flour, brown sugar, mixed spice, bicarb, sultanas, and salt.
  • Using a beater, combine the eggs, melted butter, orange juice, and juice.
  • Then add the egg and orange mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
  • Now add the mashed pumpkin to the mixture. Before adding the pumpkin to the mix, place it on a paper towel to drain excess moisture.
  • Pour the cake batter into the baking tray and bake for 30 minutes. Note: pumpkins can vary in moisture content; therefore, cooking times may vary. Check the cake regularly towards the end of the cooking time to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 -10 minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.
  • Prick the cake with a skewer making tiny holes over the top. Then drizzle the cake with orange juice and leave to cool completely. This gives the cake a lovely orangey flavour, which compliments the sweetness of the pumpkin perfectly.

For the icing

  • Beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, butter, orange juice, and one teaspoon of orange juice with an electric beater. Ensure the mixture is smooth and creamy. Place the icing in the fridge to chill while the cake continues to cool.
  • Once the bake is cool, remove the icing from the fridge and loosen by beating lightly. Then use a palette knife to spread the icing over the cake. Finally, use a fork to create swirling patterns in the icing.

This cake is excellent served as an after-dinner treat with strong coffee or a decadent hot chocolate. That’s if you have any left after the kids dive in!  Aside from delicious cakes and pudding treats, pampoen is also great served as a side dish. So why not delve into the world of South African side dishes? You’re bound to find pampoen on the list! Of course, a traditional family favourite has to be the humble pumpkin fritter! However, the pumpkin is equally tasty, simply served as pumpkin mash sprinkled with lashings of cinnamon.

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