Friday, November 2, 2012

autumn harvest cake + hurricane sandy.

On Monday evening, I lost my entire apartment to Hurricane Sandy and the 6 feet of water she brought into our home.  I’ve spent much of the past few days in a daze (lack of sleep and seeing most of your possessions soaked and littering the flour of your apartment will do that to you).  I’ve cried a lot and about stupid things like the loss of $16 smoked sea salt, bags of Jacques Torres chocolates, and bottles of aged vinegar.   I know in the grand scheme of things these are small and impractical things to be upset about (I should be more upset about the mattress and sofa..), but I find the little things that I come across while cleaning up to be the items that cause me to get overly emotional. 

As the water began to trickle into the apartment (and eventually pour in), I took this cake out of the oven.  It’s been the only thing I could stomach eating this week and the only thing that’s brought me solace.  It tastes like home and the warm spices and fall ingredients have brought me an immense amount of comfort.  I plan on having this be the first thing I make in my new apartment.  Here’s hoping we find one soon. 

I have been beyond fortunate to have the world's most amazing family, friends, and co-workers.  The sheer amount of kindness that has been bestowed upon us literally amazes me.  I have no words to express my gratitude and I hope one day when our life is in order I can pay this all forward.  (I have a lot of love around me and that is the most beautiful feeling in the world.)  There is nothing I can ever do to express all my thanks, but I am going to do everything in my power to try which means when I have a kitchen, I will be baking a lot of cookies and cakes and pies.  

Autumn Harvest Cake
Recipe adapted (barely) From One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton

Makes one 9 inch cake

1 medium butternut squash
1 teaspoon olive oil or canola oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 crisp apple (such as Empire, Crispin, or Honey Crisp)
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray.  

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and the strings.  Rub the oil all over the cut surface of the squash, and place it, flesh side down, in a baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the squash is soft to the touch.  Let the squash cool.  When it is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the baked squash.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.  

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the squash and the apples, and mix for 30 seconds.  With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix for only 10 seconds.  Take the bowl off the mixer and finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula.  Pour the batter in the prepared pan, and gently rap the pan on the countertop to even it out.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the batter.  

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Then turn the cake onto a clean plate, and then turn the cake back over onto a wire rack.  Let cool completely