Friday, November 02, 2007

"The Best Cake I've Ever Had"


This is the story of a cake. It had great aspirations and always knew it could do better. Each time it failed, it saw it as a chance to rise up and do better...

Okay, I'll stop with the crazy story that isn't anywhere close to true. This cake came straight out of October's Bon Appetit, and came out fine on the first try. And only took two hours start to finish. And I move slowly, though my grandfather did help me with the hard parts. (He offered to help, so I gave him what I knew my fussiness couldn't have a problem with: Grating the ginger, and then when he finished that, he finished grating the squash for me.)

I was supposed to be over at my aunt and uncle's around 6:30, but ran late because of the cake. I don't think anyone minded. The cake was a shining star at the end of the meal, and due to my poor cutting skills and trimming of the gigantic pieces, my uncle was left with three small pieces to enjoy the rest of the weekend. He is the one who said it was the best cake he's had. And I had low expectations for this cake.

Even though it's a ginger-squash cake, the squash hides in the background while the ginger is mellowed by the other spices and, while dominant, not overly pushy or dominant. I was a bit hesitant, because I once put too much candied ginger into bulgur pudding, and I couldn't handle it. But the ginger was just right in this cake.

Ginger-Squash Cake with White Chocolate Frosting
from Bon Appetit October 2007
Serves 8 (unless you cut poorly like me and get 9 squares and three little strips)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (I used 1/2 teaspoon, but my allspice is just about dead)
1 cup packed finely shredded butternut squash
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts (about 4 ounces), divided

3 Tablespoons whipping cream
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x9x2 inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray, or otherwise prepare for baking. Whisk flours and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat squash, brown sugar, butter, egg, ginger, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in large bowl to blend. Fold in flour mixture and 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Transfer to pan, spreading to edges (layer will be thin). Bake cake until tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add white chocolate and remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla; whisk until smooth. (Alternately, do all of this in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.) Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 (I only needed to let it stand about 10.) Spread over cake (layer will be thin.) Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup nuts over cake. Let stand at room temperature.

Cut into squares and serve. (The recipe says 16 squares and serves 8, so I just went to cut it into 9 at my aunt's suggestion. She thought the 16 square would be too small.)

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