A few years ago, Christmas at our house was turning into a real shit show. Somewhere in the middle of gift shopping, choosing and decorating the perfect tree, baking and shipping holiday cookies and planning our Christmas Eve feast, it struck me (probably while I was stuck in holiday traffic) that I was super pissed about Christmas. I wanted to abandon the whole thing, book a flight to a sunny beach somewhere and drink margaritas for about a week. Not exactly what you’d call holiday cheer.
That was the year I decided to reign in the crazy and start making Christmas about people and not things.
These days, Beau and I buy gifts only for the children in our lives. (Because, come on, what’s better than watching kids open gifts?) We both have December birthdays, so we treat ourselves to a b-day/Christmas trip somewhere we can spend time with each other and un-plug. For everyone else, we prioritize getting together for a drink or a meal and just letting people know how much we love them.
If it sounds like fun, I bake holiday treats. And now that the pressure’s off, it usually sounds like fun. Even though we avoid sugar and processed carbs at home most of the time, I’m still nostalgic for baking up tins of Christmas sweets to give at the holidays.
This December is a busy one. I’m wrapping up the final details on food and photography retreats for the spring. I’m teaching classes at Book Larder. And I’m hosting another pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle this weekend. But I couldn’t resist the urge to fit in a little holiday baking.
So over the next few weeks, I’ll be popping in to say hello and share some new recipes for holiday goodies with you.
In the meantime, I urge you all to grab some winter squash and get busy making this amazing cake! The recipe is from Gjelina--a fantastic and stunningly beautiful cookbook. If you don’t have a copy, you need one.
This cake is insanely good. As in, Beau-and-I-ate-a-whole-loaf-in-two-days good. There are so many pumpkin spice recipes floating around the internet between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I’m sure some of you are thinking you’re done with pumpkin-flavored anything until next year.
This cake will change your mind.
This cake is moist, tender, chocolatey and darkly spicy (without tasting like pumpkin pie). And the olive oil glaze ties all the sophisticated, wintry flavors together. You need to bake one up for yourself. And then you need to bake up a ton of mini loaves and give them to everyone you think is awesome and amazing and deserving of the best winter squash cake ever.
You work on that, and I’ll work on bringing you some more stellar holiday recipes over the next few weeks.
Kuri Squash and Olive Oil Cake with Dark Chocolate
- 1 1-lb. (455g) piece of kuri squash, seeded
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 1/2 cup (120 ml)
- 1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons freshly-grated nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups (265 g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz (230 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons pepitas
*Notes: This recipe is from Gjelina by Travis Lett. It is originally entitled Kabocha, Olive Oil & Bittersweet Chocolate Cake. I made a couple small changes:
1) I substituted red kuri squash for the kabocha. Kuri is my all-time favorite squash and since its flesh is firm and relatively dry, you don’t need to drain it as the recipe calls for. You can just scoop and puree it. But I’m confident you could make this cake with just about any winter squash. If the flesh seems wet after roasting, drain in cheesecloth as directed in the recipe.
2) I accidentally halved the amount of olive oil since I was baking two cakes and forgot to double the oil. The finished result was delicious. So know there’s a bit of flexibility in terms of how much oil you need to use. (The amount of oil listed above is half what the original recipe calls for.)
- You’ll want to use a high quality extra-virgin olive oil as the flavor definitely comes through.
- I used Guittard 72% onyx chocolate wafers, which are my new obsession and go-to for chocolate desserts.
Full instructions for this cake can be found here.