wholemeal pumpkin scones with maple pecan butter


I was given a pumpkin last week. An organic, home grown butternut, with white sap still oozing from its freshly cut stem. Now, in regular circumstances, gift acceptance isn’t permitted in my line of work. However, at the tail-end of a poignant home visit in the late afternoon, I’m less likely to object. Particularly if the said gift is from the garden.


This particular pumpkin was grown by the husband of a woman with whom I’ve been working for over six months. He passed away last week, completely unexpectedly. He was his wife’s main carer; a strong, coarse man of eighty three who spent his career working as a truck driver. In his later years, he developed a passion for home-grown produce, cooking and preserving; in part, to nourish the health of his languishing wife.

Now she is here, and he is not. All that remains is a pile of matter, an empty ache, memories and a nourished garden. His name was John.



On Wednesday afternoon, I arrived home with John’s pumpkin in my worn leather handbag. I felt a certain amount of responsibility to do it ‘justice’, seeing as it was the last of his beloved crop. I ran my hands over the smooth exterior, removing clumps of dirt with sentimental fingers before placing it in my vegetable box. There it stayed for my remaining day of work before the long weekend.

On Good Friday morning, I woke early. I poured a bowl of oats and sat, notepad in hand, as the sun illuminated the plant pots on our balcony. I chewed reflectively, jotting down baking ideas, herb combinations and general recipe thoughts. Upon emptying my bowl, I felt settled on a combination of mashed pumpkin, coconut sugar, pecans and maple, tumbled in a bowl of wholemeal flour. Scones it would be.


bussoeggs2The following recipe was created according to my personal preference for nourishing, whole wheat baked goods* that can later be slathered in smooth nut butter. The extra pinch of baking powder ensures a sufficient, gentle rise and a fluffy, moist crumb.

If you prefer the more traditional flavour of Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s pumpkin scones (for those overseas, Lady Flo was the wife of a Queensland parliamentarian who was famous for her home baking), exchange the wholemeal flour for refined white self-raising and substitute the coconut sugar for white sugar. Those with a sweet tooth might also appreciate a drizzle of raw honey upon the subtly sweet, nutty maple pecan butter.


It’s the kind of deliciousness that takes me back to my childhood days in the sunshine. I like to think that John would have approved.

*I probably would have used spelt flour if I had it, so feel free to exchange quantities if you have some residing in your cupboard (150g spelt flour is equivalent to 1 cup wheat flour; add 2 tsp baking powder per 150g).


Wholemeal Pumpkin Scones

Makes approximately 18 round 6-cm diameter scones

  • 2 1/2 + 1 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin (preferably roasted rather than boiled, cool before using)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • good pinch of sea salt
  • good pinch of baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk (almond, soy or dairy all work well)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Lightly dust two flat baking trays with plain flour.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg, milk and mashed pumpkin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, spices (if using) and salt together into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add your liquid ingredients.


Mix together with your hands, adding a little more flour if required (from the extra cup listed in the ingredients) until you have a soft but workable dough.


Turn out onto a floured surface, knead until smooth. Flour your rolling pin, then roll the dough out to a 2cm thickness. Cut into squares or rounds (I used a 6-cm diameter glass), re-rolling your dough as required.


Place the scones onto your prepared baking trays, 1cm apart. Sprinkle tops with a little plain flour. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and slightly golden. Serve hot with a generous slather of maple pecan butter (recipe to follow).



Maple Pecan Butter

I personally use 2-3 tsp maple syrup in my maple pecan butter for a gentle hint of sweetness, however during taste tests several commented that they’d like it a bit sweeter. Taste, contemplate and add a little more maple syrup if it’s your preference.

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 tsp pure maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1 cup toasted organic pecans
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional

Blend 3/4 cup pecans into a fine ground using a food processor. Add the butter, blend again until smooth and fragrant. Add the maple syrup, salt and cinnamon to taste (start with 2 tsp maple syrup, taste and work your way up – I was happy with 2 tsp but most thought otherwise!). Crush the remaining pecan nuts in a mortar and pestle into a coarse ground, add to the butter mixture.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to using. Wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for a month.

sconesaerial2 bite

hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut sugar

topA couple of nights ago, my husband arrived home from work as I was happily baking away in our matchbox-sized kitchen. “What are you making?” he inquired, peering over my shoulder as he headed towards the shower. “Hummingbird cake”, I responded, absentmindedly pouring the thick batter into my lined cake tin. He smiled slightly, re-entering the room.

“How many did you put in it?”

I looked at him quizzically, licking some batter off my finger before sliding the cake onto an oven rack. “Uh… how many what?”


“Ohhhh. Right.” (my failure to identify this joke earlier in the conversation was rather abysmal, wasn’t it?)

bananaeggmontAnyway, I’ll stop the conversation there, as it took a rather non-animal-friendly turn (think: comments about fried and baked hummingbirds, minced hummingbirds, the nutritional value of hummingbirds) but ever since that night I’ve been wondering how this moist, spiced banana, pineapple and coconut cake got it’s rather interesting name.

slice2Enter Google (how I ever survived without this search engine, I’ll never know). A few clicks revealed that the printed origin of this cake dates back to February 1978, when a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina submitted the recipe to Southern Living magazine. Since then, it’s been the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history, winning all-time favourite recipe in 1990 and collecting numerous blue ribbons at country fairs across the United States.

sugar2There’s also speculation that the cake existed long before being printed in Southern Living magazine. Variations exist around the world (with different quantities of fruit, nuts and spices) under names such as ‘Jamaica Cake‘ and ‘Granny Cake‘. Hm, I’ve just experienced an epiphany:

  1. The hummingbird is the national bird of Jamaica
  2. Hummingbirds like sweet things, especially nectar of fruits and flowers
  3. Grandmothers also like sweet things (well, at least mine did. She stole my Galaxy Minstrels on more than one occasion)

…it’s all starting to make sense! Well, uh… sort of.

insidecanAnyway, enough musing for one morning. Below you’ll find my recipe for the Jamaican Granny’s Hummingbird cake (I’m being all-inclusive here) which has been slightly altered from the original by substituting walnuts for pecans, organic coconut sugar for brown sugar and raisins for… well, an absence of raisins. I’ve also chosen to bake it as a single layer cake, cutting down the usual amount of frosting to a singular, thick layer on the top.

This version of Hummingbird cake is topped with a layer of crunchy, toasted coconut, organic coconut sugar and cinnamon. I think it adds a delicious dimension of flavour and texture that echoes those of the cake itself. If you’d like to be a traditional Southerner, I’d suggest substituting this for the more traditional topping of toasted walnuts or pecans. Yee-haw!

slicefrontHummingbird Cake

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 270g organic coconut sugar (I use Coco’s Organic Blend from Gewürzhaus, however Loving Earth Fairtrade Organic Coconut Sugar is also fantastic… the added bonus is that they sell in bulk)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 440g can crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 200ml sunflower oil

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (338 degrees f). Grease and line a 23cm cake tin, then set aside.

Sift your flour and spices into a large bowl. Add in your coconut sugar, dessicated coconut, raisins and walnuts, then stir to combine.


Lightly beat your eggs in a separate bowl, then add in your other liquid ingredients (mashed banana, sunflower oil, drained crushed pineapple). Add the liquid ingredients to your dry ingredients, stirring until well combined.

nutsbowlmontPour the mixture into your lined cake tin, tapping it lightly on the bench top to remove any trapped air pockets. Bake for 40 – 60 minutes, depending upon the efficiency of your oven (it takes about 65-70 minutes in my little gas cooker!). Your cake is done when the top is light golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool your cake in the tin on a wire rack, then refrigerate until you’re ready to top it with frosting.

ibbestCream Cheese Frosting

*the quantity of frosting below has been calculated to cover the top of the cake only. If you intend to fully cover your cake or build traditional layers, I’d suggest that you double or triple the mixture accordingly.

  • 125g cream cheese
  • 50g unsalted, organic butter
  • 150g pure icing sugar, sifted
  • lemon juice, to taste (I used about one tablespoon)

Beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together until you have a smooth mixture. Add a little lemon juice, beat again, then taste. Add more lemon as desired. Refrigerate until you are ready to ice your cake.

lemonicingingTo ice: place a pile of the cream cheese frosting in the centre of your cake. Using broad strokes with a palette knife or spoon, work the icing outwards until it reaches the edge. Continue smoothing the icing in a circular pattern, rotating the cake under your knife, until you have a smooth, even layer over the top of your cake.

icingcakeRefrigerate for 20 minutes before adding your toasted coconut sugar topping (recipe below).


Toasted Coconut Sugar Topping

  • 1/2 cup coarsely shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Place the shredded coconut onto an oven tray. In a moderate oven (180 degrees C/356 degrees f), toast the shredded coconut until it turns a light shade of golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, then place in a small bowl. Add in the organic coconut sugar and ground cinnamon, stir to combine. Use to top your cake if desired.



  • Coconut sugar is a minimally processed product made from the sap of cut flower buds from the coconut palm. It’s a soft, golden, dense sugar that tastes similar to brown sugar, with soft notes of toffee and caramel.
  • Coconut sugar has a low gycaemic index (>35) for sustained energy. It’s a rich source of minerals including potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron (in comparison to brown sugar, it has 36 times the iron, four times the magnesium, and over 10 times the amount of zinc). It also contains B-vitamins and 16 essential amino acids.
  • Due to it’s minimally processed nature, coconut sugar can vary slightly in terms of sweetness. However, in general you can use it as a 1:1 substitute for brown sugar in your favourite recipes. If you’re worried, taste your product before using it and add a little extra if it seems less sweet.

sugarspoonP.S. Today is the 26th January, 2013: Australia Day for all of those from the Great Southland! I just want to say a big ‘Happy Aussie Day’ to all of my fellow citizens, wherever you are in the world… especially those whom I count as beautiful friends and family. I love our country and I consider it a privilege to celebrate the foundations of Australia as we know it today. Have fun, whatever you’re doing (e.g. eating meat pies, drinking beer, watching cricket or baking lamingtons… come to think of it, I probably should have posted a recipe for lamingtons or Anzac biscuits today. Oh well… maybe next year).

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