Autumn Recipes: "Pumpkin" Cake with Pecan Streusel & Maple Ice Cream

Fall is wonderful time for cooking. It's not too hot to turn on the oven, and there's plenty of fruit, root vegetables and squash to keep things interesting all season. KCET Food will be presenting a series of autumn recipes in the next couple of months - as perfect for any blustery day as they are on a holiday table.

This dessert recipe comes to us from Lucques' Sunday Suppers, the weekly creation of Chef Suzanne Goin. (It's also featured in the Sunday Suppers cookbook.)

Though it's called pumpkin cake, Goin actually prefers to use kabocha or butternut squash in this recipe. Those squashes are easier to work with, and, frankly, taste a little better. Though, with a streusel topping and maple ice cream on the side? You can't go wrong with your choice of gourd.

"Pumpkin" Cake with Pecan Streusel and Maple Ice Cream

1 kabocha or butternut squash
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little for the pan
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated
nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
11/2 cups whole milk
11/4 cups heavy cream
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon honey
Pecan streusel topping (recipe follows)
Maple ice cream (recipe follows)

NOTE: You can roast the squash and make the streusel a day ahead of time. Be sure to drain the squash after itʼs roasted and just before using it; it often continues to give off water. Iʼve been told you can substitute canned pumpkin in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet, cut side up. (Donʼt remove the seeds yet; they give extra flavor.) Cover with foil, and roast about one hour, until very tender. Let cool 10 minutes, and then scoop out the seeds and discard them. Purée the warm squash through a ricer or food mill and measure out 1 1/2 cups. (You can reheat any leftover purée, season it with salt, pepper, and butter, and eat it for dinner!)

Turn the oven down to 350°F.

Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the bottom of the pan with a little butter, and then line it with the paper.

Place the 8 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter (donʼt use your fingers, because the seeds will stick to them). Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally,until the butter browns and smells nutty. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Add the salt. Make a well in the center.

In another large bowl, whisk the reserved 11/2 cups squash purée, milk,1/4 cup cream, eggs, and honey to combine. Pour the liquid into the well in the dry ingredients, and whisk until incorporated. Stir in the brown butter, scraping with a rubber spatula to make sure you get all the brown bits from the pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 25 minutes, then remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Bake the cake another 45 minutes, until the topping is crisp and the cake has set. (The center of the cake will still be somewhat soft and wonʼt pass the toothpick test.) Cool the cake on a rack for at least 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 1 cup cream to soft peaks.

Cut six slices from the cake and serve with scoops of maple ice cream and dollops of whipped cream.

Pecan Streusel Topping

1/4 cup pecans
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all- purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet, and toast them 8 to 10 minutes, until they darken slightly and smell nutty. When the nuts have cooled, chop them coarsely. Toss the nuts with the oil and salt.

In a food processor, pulse the butter, sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg until just combined. Remove to a bowl, stir in the salted pecans, and chill until ready to use.

Maple Ice Cream
Makes 1 Quart
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/3 cup maple sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Bring the milk and cream to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and cover. Whisk the egg yolks and maple sugar together in a bowl. Whisk a few tablespoons of the warm cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Slowly, add another 1/4 cup or so of the warm cream, whisking continuously. At this point you can add the rest of the cream mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking all the time. Pour the mixture back into the pot, and return it to the stove.

Cook the custard over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently and using a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. The custard will thicken, and when itʼs done will coat the back of the spatula. Strain the mixture, stir in the maple syrup, and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturerʼs instructions.

[Image by Flickr user WhitA]



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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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