The early sun is casting the most excellent morning shadows in the trees outside, I just hefted the Sunday times upstairs from the porch, and there’s a big pumpkin in the oven roasting . The whole house smells like fall and this day could repeat itself every morning until the end of time and I wouldn’t complain about it in the least.
These mornings – when I wake up early, make coffee, and get busy reading/cooking/riding/brainstorming are about to come to an end because the Jersey Boy who shares this house with me is going to be home next weekend after nearly three months away. We’ve had a only a few days together since he left (I went to Chicago earlier in the month to eat things and make sure he was still alive. He was.) I miss the way he makes coffee and the way he seems to love everything I bake because…he just DOES (wtf who is this guy?) But I’m also going to miss quiet mornings when there’s no one around to worry about but me, and no one minds if I bake too early, eat dinner too late, or stay up reading in bed. As guilty as I feel admitting it, I love time all to myself. Do you ever feel like that?
In between now and then, it’s going to be a busy week. These fudge pops are going to be shared with the world on the Skratch Labs blog and I’ll be busy developing recipes for the holidays to share. If you’re in Boulder on Tuesday night, I’ll be cooking + baking up a storm for this very cool little event (check out the menu!) This afternoon, I’m baking a fuckton of pies with my closest ladies and then of course in between I’ll be cleaning and organizing and laundry and all the things I haven’t really attended to this month (!!) because I’ve been on the road cooking and riding like a mad woman.
Did you realize that different squashes smell differently when they bake? This makes perfect sense of course; not all of those squashes on the fall display at the grocery store look alike, and they are absolutely not alike on the inside. Their flesh, and flavor is different, their best-uses are different, and so of course their smells are as well. Without waxing too poetically, there’s nothing I don’t love about this season and all of the unsung rituals – embracing dark mornings, spinning wheels through the chilly forests, morning mist, crunching leaves, filling the house with baking smells, pulling pajamas straight from the dryer and leaping into bed wearing them, cozying up until the tiny cracks of morning light beg you to get up and do it all again. Baking pumpkins and squash regularly is one of these unsung rituals and in this season, that’s just what I do. (You too! Because of this!) This is the fifth pumpkin I’ve roasted in half as many days because naturally, we’ll need creamy pumpkin soup when the babes come over today to go with all that pie crust. And because this Kabocha Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake is on the menu for Tuesday.
I first fell in love with kabocha pumpkin in particular when the farmers who tended fields around our house in Okinawa would leave them for me on the porch as little gifts. Kabocha is different than other pumpkins and squashes you’ve tried. They’re stout and green and when you bake them with a little bit of olive oil for a long-ass time, their flesh becomes so soft and buttery they’re basically begging to be baked into a cake.
About this cake: I spotted this recipe first in this new cookbook when I was perusing the shelves at Omnivore Books in San Francisco the other week, and then I saw it again here. Since then, the book has been my late night bedside reading. This cake is the first thing I made upon returning home from all that travel. Fine tuning a bit, I jammed a slice in my pocket when we rode our bikes out to watch the cyclocross races yesterday and it held up beautifully (even after I jammed my gloves in the same pocket because it was like 70°F degrees out!) It stands up so well because, instead of using butter, this recipe calls for olive oil (hence the name), and so there aren’t any little air pockets in the crumb; just moist, dense, luxurious cake. (Hint: it would stand up to a big purse too!) Another reason to love it? The method here couldn’t be easier: roast pumpkin, chop chocolate, sift dry, whisk wet, mix together, bake and eat. Another reason to love it: the olive oil glaze – not so sweet, and the perfect glue to stick pepitas + crushed cacao nibs to the top of the loaf that lend a pleasant crunch and take the cake over the top.
Two more things: first, finding a kabocha! Most well-stocked grocery stores will have these babies in the token pile of squashes and pumpkins that appear this time of year. You’re looking for a squat, round, heavy little pumpkin. Second, the Iga-yaki sesame seed toaster that you see in the images above (with the pepitas in it!) was a very special souvenir from this amazing place in Sonoma County. I’ve been using it to toast everything under the sun. Simple joy – yay!
Enjoy this one. Hope you’re digging into fall too! – xo L
- One 1 medium sized (roughly 1 lb or 455g) kabocha squash, seeded
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp [255 ml]
- 1 1/2 cups [180 g] all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups [265 g] granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz [230 g] bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp pepitas
- OLIVE OIL GLAZE
- 1 1/4 cups [150 g] confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 2 Tbsp hot water, plus more as needed
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp crushed cacao nibs
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F [220˚C]. On a baking sheet, drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil, turn the cut side down onto the sheet, and cook until very soft and beginning to caramelize around the edges, 45 minutes to one hour. (Hint: the longer you roast at this stage, the less water you need to squeeze out in the next stage!) Remove from the oven and let cool. Scrape out the squash flesh and transfer to the food processor. Pulse until smooth.
- If you've baked the pumpkin long enough, the flesh will be creamy and thick, and ready to be used. (If its a bit watery in the least, wrap the puréed pumpkin in cheesecloth, bundling tightly. Put the bundle in a colander set over a bowl and let drain at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Squeeze by twisting the cheesecloth to remove any excess water. Unwrap the drained squash and measure out 1 cup [225 g]. (Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, saving for another use).
- To make the cake: preheat over to 325˚F [165˚C]. Butter a 9-by-5-in [23-by-12-cm] loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, olive oil, pumpkin purée, and eggs. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the pumpkin mixture. Whisk until just combined. Stir the chocolate into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until browned on the top and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, 75-90 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Using the parchment paper, pull the cake from the loaf pan, remove the paper and let cool on the rack for another 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate.
- In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, gently toast the pepitas just until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the 2 Tbsp hot water until you have a thick glaze. Add more confectioners' sugar or water as needed to create a smooth glaze with the viscosity of honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly.
- Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Sprinkle with the cacao nibs and pepitas and let the glaze set completely before serving, about 1 hour.