There is a season: Turn that squash into a tasty cake

  • Mascarpone frosting adds another layer of richness to warmly spiced squash cakes.  MOLLY PARR

For the Gazette
Published: 11/14/2020 11:07:00 AM
Modified: 11/14/2020 11:06:50 AM

As a New Englander, I pride myself on knowing my way around a squash. But I recently learned a new, dead simple technique, from a Ugandan-Indian-British woman, no less. MeeraSodha, the Guardian’s vegan columnist and the author of “EAST,” my latest cookbook obsession, confessed to her own unfamiliarity with large winter squash. So instead of hacking it into halves and scooping out the seeds, she decided to simply roast it whole.

It seemed so simple: Crank up the oven to 400F, prick a large squash all over with a fork, rub it with some oil and salt, and put it in the oven for about an hour and a half. The skin peels right off, and then you pull out the seeds once the squash has cooled down.

I had a blue hubbard squash from a farm stand a few weeks back that I decided to try it out on. And, my dear readers, it worked!

All of a sudden I had an entire squash to play with, and a hankering for cake. A spiced pumpkin cake with a mascarpone frosting from Food and Wine caught my eye, but there would be a few tweaks. First and foremost, I exchanged pumpkin for half a hubbard squash. Then, I added chopped up candied ginger to the batter — it just felt right to me. And lastly, I cut down on the powdered sugar in the frosting.

The decisions paid off. The bits of ginger mingled well with the spices and the tangy frosting. Only afterwards did I learn that Ina Garten puts candied ginger into the mascarpone cream cheese frosting for her carrot cake. It sounds pretty amazing and could only make this fabulous cake better.

“What’s not to like?” as my mother would say.

The frosting does need time to set in the fridge, but your cakes will still be cooling down. Once frosted, the cake will look a little naked, with less frosting on the sides than in the middle and on top. However, this will not affect your enjoyment of the cake. As you can see from the photo, it still looks very pretty on a plate.

Squash layer cake with mascarpone frosting

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

Unsalted butter (for greasing)

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

4 eggs (large)

1 ½ cups light brown sugar (packed)

1 cup squash or pumpkin puree

1 cup canola oil

½ cup chopped candied ginger

FROSTING

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (softened)

Up to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Kosher salt

1 ½ cups mascarpone cheese

Directions

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 cups of all-purpose flour with the cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the eggs with the brown sugar, pumpkin and oil at medium-high speed until blended. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Once everything is incorporated, add the ginger.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter with the confectioners sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Add the mascarpone and beat at high speed just until smooth; do not overbeat.

Refrigerate the frosting until just set, about 30 minutes.

Set one cake layer on a platter. Spread 3/4 cup of the frosting on top and cover with the second cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

The cake can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Molly Parr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She's been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. She was furloughed from Smith for the summer and is using the time to work on her first cookbook. Send questions or comments to molly.parr@gmail.com




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