Actually Squash Cake
As will soon become self evident, I love me some cake.
I don’t know where this love came from, but I know it’s not going away. Though I’m not one to be picky when cake’s on my plate, my favorite kinds probably invoke autumn and are not probably but definitely covered in cream cheese frosting. And right now, even though everyone I know in the Northern Hemisphere is sweating balls, down here in Australia it’s suddenly winter, my first in July. I’ve just moved from New England, where autumn is a religious experience, to Sydney, where autumn doesn’t exist. Actually, this winter is really similar to what I’d call autumn. Just a long, un-crunchy autumn. With flowers and shit. It’s nice. But it’s still weird. Which is to say that I’ve been craving comforting, autumnal cakes like this one. Winter without autumn will take some getting used to…But in the meantime? Let’s eat cake. Acutally Squash Cake to be precise.
This cake can be made with any number of squash products. I’ve used canned pumpkin in the past but, wouldn’t you know, Australians haven’t picked up on the whole putting pumpkin in cans phenomenon. Honestly, though, they seem to put pumpkin just about everywhere else (including, but not limited to, burgers. I know). Though I’m most likely generalizing in a rash and bothered way, they don’t do sweet pumpkin. Which means no pie! And hence, no cans. So sometimes, you’ve got to improvise.
The general Australian propensity to cover things in pumpkin means that it and other gourds are pretty widely available. I’ll sometimes buy a butternut squash or small pumpkin intending to make soup and then after two straight nights of pumpkin pureé, I’ve actually found myself feeding it to the dog.
So instead of wasting perfectly good pumpkin, or, in this case, squash, I decided to use it to satisfy my homesick cravings for fall. In July.
And so, after much tangenting, I give you Acutally Squash Cake, so named because I’d say it was “pumpkin, no, actually, squash cake,” to whomever I was trying to ply with sweets at that particular moment. And there were lots of them. Because one innocent little butternut squash gave us 4 servings of soup plus enough leftover for THREE cakes. Yes, THREE. And we ate them all. Because this cake is that good.
ACTUALLY SQUASH CAKE
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
generous grinding of fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil (or 3/4 cup oil + 1/4 extra pureé)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (or a 15 oz. can) pumpkin or squash pureé*
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Butter and flour two springform pans** (or a muffin tin for cupcakes).
In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices together.
In another bowl, mix the eggs, oil and vanilla.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture until just combined, then add the pumpkin and any extras (such as dried cranberries or raisins). Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans, then, when cakes are completely cooled, generously frost each layer with my favorite cream cheese frosting.
* Making your own pumpkin/squash is really easy: just cut your gourd in half, pierce the flesh with a fork and bake, skin-side down, in a medium-hot (350F/180C) oven for about an hour or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. Cool the squash then scoop it out into a soup pot. Add some water and cook down, mashing with a spoon as you go, adding water if it gets too dry, cooking if it’s too wet, until it’s pureéd! One butternut squash will give you tons of flesh…way too much for one (or two) cakes. If you, like me, can’t eat pumpkin soup more than two meals in a row, just freeze it until you’re ready to make some cake, muffins, or pie.
** This recipe makes enough for 2 9″ pans, or 2 7″ pans with some leftover.