Dear friends, I apologize for not writing in this space in a looooong time! The reason is I’d actually been writing a lot elsewhere: my English book ‘Edible Paradise’ is finally finished and getting designed as we speak!
I’ll share more as soon as there’s any news – like when the book has a cover- but meanwhile I’m back to keep a long ago given promise which was to share a recipe for the best winter squash/pumpkin cake. Now, I too, am suspicious of any recipe claiming to be the ‘best’ but believe me when I say this one has been thoroughly tested. I’ve basically been baking a winter squash/pumpkin cake on a weekly basis for the past two winters and have tried MANY recipes and many variations and here’s the one that I always come back to. It’s beautiful in its simplicity but I do suggest lots of variations too, in case you’d like to play around with the recipe later.
So: what’s different about this recipe? Unlike most recipes, mine uses homemade squash puree, not canned pumpkin. I prefer the ‘real’ stuff, have plenty of squash from the garden and can’t get the canned stuff here in the Netherlands anyway. That being said, you can’t just use any old squash for this: it should be sweet and not watery and it doesn’t hurt when the flesh has a nice bright orange colour. Pretty much any squash from the Cucurbita moschata–family can be used – I oftentimes use a butternut, roasting one on Sunday and then using it for several dishes. This year I grew another squash that turned out even sweeter and better for this purpose: ‘Anvers’. Apparently, it’s a miniature version of ‘Long Island Cheese’ so if you grow that one, I expect it would be great as well.
Intermezzo: here’s a video about our 2018 winter squash harvest:
Because the squash I use is naturally sweet, I can use less sweetener. I also like 1/3 of the flour I use to be something interesting and whole-grain – I like rye flour for this but have used spelt or kamut flour too. Whole wheat flour can be used instead, if that’s all you have. And of course you can use pumpkin spice, but I like the Dutch speculaas spice mix here even more. When we move closer to Christmas and I start baking gingerbread cookies I also like to use my gingerbread spice mix for the cake. But again: use what you have and like, this recipe is versatile! Likewise, a mix of milk and yogurt can be substituted for buttermilk if you don’t have buttermilk. Do try to use a decent olive oil though, the difference is noticeable.
So without further ado: here’s the recipe, followed by 6 variations:
Best winter squash cake
150 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
70 g (½ cup) rye flour (or spelt/ kamut/ whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp speculaas spice, gingerbread spices or pumpkin spice
250 ml (1 cup) winter squash puree (here’s how to make it)
125 ml (1/2 cup ) olive oil
125 ml (½ cup ) buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 g (1/2 cup) raw cane sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 Fahrenheit). Brush a small loaf pan with a bit of oil and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to size.
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients (both flours, soda, baking powder, salt and spices). In another bowl or a measuring jar, mix together the puree, olive oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir well so that the sugar dissolves. Add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients and stir until combined but do not overmix. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the surface. Bake until the top is golden and an inserted skewer comes out dry – about 50 minutes. Let stand for about ten minutes, then take it out of the pan and let further cool on a wire rack.
MIX ‘N’ MATCH VARIATIONS
You don’t have to choose just one of the variations below – you can combine several! For example, if you really want to go for it, you could combine 1+2+3+4, making a marbeled bundt cake with walnuts and a chocolate glaze. In fact, I think I’m going to do just that next weekend!
- Mix 2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa with a bit of hot water into a paste, then stir the paste into half of the batter to make a marbled loaf.
- Melt 60g (2oz) of dark chocolate with about 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water (au bain marie) and use it to glaze the top of the cake.
- Stir ½ cup of walnuts or pecans into the batter
- Bake the cake in a small bundt cake pan for a fancier look
- Instead of the spices suggested above, use 1 tsp Garam masala for an interesting flavour twist (I have Emily Connor and her post on Instagram to thank for this idea)
- Add streusel to the top of the cake
- Use sweet potato instead of winter squash (I haven’t tried this myself but Win Lacour did and shared the tip with me on Facebook)