Sunday Suppers at Lucques: "Pumpkin" Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping
It's nice to have a sweet ending to a meal. Although I never like anything too super sweet and usually prefer a cheese plate, I really enjoy making desserts and am constantly looking for different recipes to try. Since I had made my entire meal out of recipes in the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook, I wanted to stick with the theme and chose the "Pumpkin" Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping to end the meal last Saturday night.
The kabocha after baking
The quotes on the pumpkin are there because the cake is made with kabocha squash- a Japanese variety that I grew up eating. Sliced kabocha is very popular and delicious as a tempura, and chunks of it stewed in a sweet soy and bonito stock is another winter favorite. Suzanne Goin (could a chef BE any more Audrey-Hepburn-esque??!!) states that she prefers to use a butternut or kabocha squash in this cake because regular pumpkin contains too much water. I was intrigued and picked up a fat kabocha at the Farmer's Market, ready to try my hand at baking the cake.
Dry meets wet ingredients
I first sliced the kabocha in half (which takes quite a bit of strength, I must admit!) and roasted it, covered, in the oven for one hour. After it'd cooled a bit, I simply scooped out the seeds (which Goin recommends leaving in while roasting for extra flavor) and then the soft flesh. And what did I do with the soft flesh? Well, dear readers, this is when I broke a Cardinal Rule Of Cooking. I know so much better than to do this, but I was not thinking. The book says to put the kabocha in a ricer or food mill. Although I do not own a ricer (and I've been meaning to get one!!) I do have a food mill, but I was feeling lazy. Or stupid. Or both. Because I did do the one thing that you should never do.........I put the flesh of the kabocha in the food processor. NO! SAY IT ISN'T SO! Now all of you fellow cooks know what happens when you try to mash potatoes in the food processor- they get gummy. And my kabocha did the same thing. The worst part is, I knew it would- I just had a momentary lapse of brain function. After I scraped the gummy mass of kabocha out of my Cuisinart, I tried in vain to mix it in with the liquid components. It just wouldn't blend together at all, so I poured the entire thing through a fine-meshed strainer and pushed all of the kabocha gumminess through the sieve. That worked and a nice, brown liquid resulted which I mixed in with the dry ingredients, poured into the pan and popped in the oven. Phew. Disaster averted.
Crunchy, salty, sweet, crumbly
After 20 minutes in the oven, I took the cake out, per instructions, and sprinkled the pecan streusel on top and put it back in the oven. The whole house smelled of roasted pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg- all the lovely scents of Autumn! I took the cake out, let it cool and made a batch of brown sugar whipped cream to serve alongside each slice.
I have to say, the cake was very good- the flavor of the kabocha is pronounced and you can definitely tell the difference between that and a regular pumpkin. The topping was my favorite part since the pecans are tossed in grapeseed oil and then with sea salt- the sweet/salty combo was absolutely addictive. I do think that my Cuisinart misstep resulted in a tougher crumb than I would have liked. Although the cake was very moist, it just had a slightly tough texture that made it more of a breakfast type cake than a dessert one. Next time I will definitely use my food mill so that the kabocha turns out nice and fluffy.
Sunday Suppers at Lucques