It’s starting to snow again on campus, as I finish writing up this entry. They look like beautiful, soft flakes and remind me of my birthday in January when there was lots of snow! Maybe it’s the snow which is helping me get into the swing of Christmas this year. I started wrapping my Christmas presents on Saturday – a previously unheard of phenonemon for the queen of last-minute. But then again, Saturday was the first day of snow and also the BBC Good Food Show, so undoubtedly I was going to be excited. My highlights were of the day:
- Buying my amazing Titan peeler (see photo below) and later making a courgette, garlic, basil and parmesan pasta dish for dinner with it.
- Chatting to Alan Rosenthal, who has written a cook book called Stewed, about his business. I think the timing of the book launch is perfect for these dark nights.
- Having a fun day out with my former housemates, Claire and Sarah and tasting muchos good food. Mmmm…
Well, it has inspired me to write about a cake that we can indulge in guilt-free. I think it’s a handy one to have in mind for after Christmas. I was hooked the instant I saw this on Kitchenist’s blog, ‘And I’m Telling You: No-Butter Apricot and Almond Cake’. The title read like some sort of guarantee in a shop and drowned out the voice of guilt that says, “A moment on your lips, a lifetime on the hips”. (Actually at times, the voice of guilt likes to take on the unwelcome guise of various human beings – what is with that?!) But the real hook for me was to bake with a butternut squash. Who can resist one of those golden, odd shaped bad boys?
The original recipe is in Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache. There’s an amazon package sitting in the corner of my room, and I’m hoping my brother has sent me this recipe book as my Christmas present. I’ll let you know after Christmas.
When it came to trying out this recipe, I didn’t have any almond essence. And after staring at a bottle of almond essence in the shop for 5 minutes, I decided to not to purchase it but to substitute it with Amaretto (an almond liqueor) instead, which I had already.
I think that the hardest part of the this cake is peeling away at the hard skin of the butternut squash. The best advice I can give you is to invest in a good quality, sharp vegetable peeler. I didn’t have one both times that I made this cake, so I attacked said butternut squash with a knife.
Remember how I mentioned that I have now bought an amazing Titan peeler? It’s my newest kitchen purchase and I love it. It peels just about anything. I want to buy all sorts of root vegetables just so that I can peel them. I’m a bit ridiculous, aren’t I, for being so excited about a peeler. *v* Did I mention already that I love it?
So, here are the Ingredients for my adapted version of Butternut Squash and Apricot Cake:
- 16 dried apricots
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1tbsp of apricot brandy (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- 90g caster sugar
- 200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash *see top tip
- 1tbsp amaretto
- 60g plain flour
- 200g ground almonds
- 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- icing sugar (to serve)
Top Tip: Weigh out the butternut squash before you peel and grate it. If you go over that’s fine. You’ll lose some of the weight when peeling it. Oh, and double check the weight once you’ve done the difficult part.
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Line the baking tin with baking paper. In her blog, Kitchenist, Ele insists that this is a really important step and musn’t be overlooked because the cake has a tendency to stick to the tin as no butter is being added to the recipe. So, I obeyed.
2. In a small heatproof bowl, soak the dried apricots by barely covering them in boiling water and adding 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. For extra apricot-loveliness, try adding some apricot brandy to it, as I did the second time I made the cake. 1 tbsp of apricot brandy seemed a good amount for me.
3. Measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl – the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt
4. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy. Use an electric whisk if you have one. Otherwise, it’s a good workout for your arms.
5. Add in the grated butternut squash, amaretto, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and combine well.
6. Add in the dry ingredients in 3. to the wet mixture and give it a good mix so that the mixture is well combined. It should feel quite gloopy but thick.
7. Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Drain the apricots that were soaking and place them on top of the cake.
8. Bake the cake for between 35-45 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until the tester/knife comes out clean. The top of the cake should be springy and golden in colour. Let it cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then on a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar, just before serving.
Verdict? I think that the butternut squash adds a beautiful moistness to the cake, rather than a distinct flavour. The almond and mixed spice make it a truly delectable cake to eat.
So the combination of: no butter easing the guilt + butternut squash and apricot contributing towards your 5-a-day + amaretto and apricot brandy adding a sweet naughtiness to it = the perfect cake to feel good about whilst eating it. I baked it for my work colleagues on my birthday and, on another occastion, as my contribution to my church’s ladies day. Each time, it received good reviews. Mmmmm…