When I first moved in with my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time), I remember being very excited to cook for him. Before I moved in, I had been living out in Park Slope with a nice roommate found on Craigslist. We never ate meals together since we had completely opposite schedules, and I rarely cooked since cooking for one is no pleasure at all. I ate a lot of hummus, salsa and egg salad on rice cakes. Looking back, I don’t know how I went without a hot meal for so long. I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that I was in love, and hot meals were a very low priority at the time. I’m still in love with my husband but hot meals have moved up the priority list since then.
After getting settled into Mr. K’s apartment, I started to cook up a storm. I remember feeling like I wanted to really impress him with my cooking skills. I had made a couple of meals for him out in Park Slope, but I was going to blow him away with my talent. He was going to feel so loved and nurtured by my cooking. He would become so appreciative of having a girlfriend that could not only cook but could BAKE that he would be walking around in a constant state of bliss. We were going to have long, leisurely conversations as we ate our home-cooked meals at the table. Well, it didn’t really happen that way. To begin with, I noticed that he would stop talking the minute food was put in front of him. He also ate his food extremely fast. In addition, he had become used to eating in front of the television after several years of living solo. I wanted to have a conversation with him about food. More specifically, what food meant, means, to me. For me, food is pleasure, comfort, gratification, and satisfaction. I feel nurtured when someone makes a home-cooked meal for me. Likewise, I cook for people to show them that they are important to me. When I shared this with him, I asked him if he felt the same way. Turns out, we approach food differently. He, like me, loves to eat but he doesn’t look at it as a way of nurturing himself. Rather, it is something to simply be enjoyed. Throughout our 4-1/2 years together, he has cooked approximately 6 meals for me. It would be a lot easier for me to accept the fact that he does not enjoy cooking if he were, in fact, a horrible cook. But he is a fantastic cook! Everything he makes is exquisite, and it only makes me wish that he cooked more often. Even better, there is real entertainment value in watching him make a meal. He’s like a mad scientist in the kitchen. He tapes his recipe to the cupboard, and not only am I not allowed in the kitchen, but I am not allowed to speak to him while he is cooking lest he lose his concentration. After we eat the delicious meal he prepared, I step into the kitchen where it looks like it has been ransacked by wolves. He hasn’t quite gotten the art of cleaning up as he goes. But I’m confident he’ll figure it out eventually.
I haven’t made a cake in a very long time. This recipe is the perfect gateway to bigger and fancier cakes. It is very simple but still fulfills your cake craving. The squash adds moisture, much like zucchini does in zucchini bread. The pecans are in the cake as well as sprinkled on top so you get some crunch. But I think the highlight of this recipe is the ginger. I fell in love with ginger a couple of years ago. I don’t think it’s used enough, especially in baking. Most recipes call for dried ginger, but I say go ahead and add freshly grated ginger whenever possible. It really does make a difference. The white chocolate frosting is a very thin layer. If you like a sweeter cake, double the frosting recipe. If you are someone like me who loves baked goods with fall spices this time of year, try this recipe. And because of the squash, you will be eating your vegetables along with the cake.
Ginger-Squash Cake with White Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine
Yield: 8 servings
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup finely shredded peeled butternut squash
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, divided
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk flour and next 6 ingredients in medium bowl.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat squash, brown sugar, butter, egg, ginger, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in large bowl to blend.
4. Fold in flour mixture and 1/2 cup pecans. Transfer to pan, spreading to edges (layer will be thin). Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool.
5. Bring cream just to boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat.
6. Add white chocolate and remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla; whisk until smooth.
7. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes. Spread over cake. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup nuts over cake.