I find it hard to imagine the challenge of surviving and cooking with fresh seasonal produce centuries ago at this time of year. They say the hungry months start in April when the winter crops and stored produce has disappeared and the summer crops have yet to come on stream, but for me the variety of produce I can rely on is getting more and more limited already. I know there is all the stuff I have preserved and frozen in the golden good times of summer ( I am a modern girl after all!) but for fresh vegetables & fruit I am now reliant on the strings of garlic, onions & shallots I plaited and hung in our garage in July, or the apples & quince in boxes and beetroot stored in sand. I do have parsnips, bags of potatoes and of course plenty of squash which should see me through to March and I even have the odd courgette stored in cool, dry conditions. Bottled tomatoes, shelves of piccalilli and strings of chillies shine out in the darkness of my storage area and the scent of the stored apples and quince is a delight reminding me that I must be inventive and creative with what I have. The promise of Spring with its wild garlic, zingy rhubarb and early asparagus must wait – for now it’s the squash I choose to make a delicious cake.
Now while I do like squash as a vegetable, best baked I feel with a swirl of harissa paste or grated ginger, it can become a little tedious on the palate especially if you are making your way through a whopper of a specimen. I prefer to grow ‘Crown Prince Squash’ which has a beautiful blue-bloomed skin and gloriously nutty flesh. It stores well into Spring and works well in soups, pies, casseroles & preserves. I’ve chosen a cake because it is a little different and someone told me this was the nicest chocolate cake they had ever had and I didn’t tell them it was made from squash! Have a go and I hope you enjoy it!
Squash Cake with Salted Buttercream
Preheat the oven to 200C; 180 Fan, GM6. Grease and base line 2 x 20cm round baking tins
Before you begin, prepare 350 g of squash – peeled, deseeded, diced and boiled or baked. Puree. You will use 300g in the cake and 50g in the buttercream
Ingredients for Cake
300g squash - pureed
100g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
300g ground almonds
1 Tbsp Baking Powder (gluten free) or traditional
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
75g dark chocolate – melted in a heatproof bowl over simmering water
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together then add all of the other ingredients and whisk together thoroughly.
Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Allow the sponges to cool in their tins, then turn out onto a wire tray.
Ingredients for Buttercream
150 g dark chocolate melted in a heatproof bowl over simmering water & cooled for 5 mins
100g softened butter; 50g pureed squash; 250 g icing sugar: Sea Salt to taste
Mix all of these ingredients until smooth, then use it to sandwich the two cake layers together and to make a decorative top.