Things in the garden are winding down, the cooler weather is slowing the production of my tomatoes and my pumpkins are now a bright burnishing orange. I didn’t grow any heirloom winter squash this year, but was craving it like crazy so I picked some up from the farmer’s market, musing about what to do with it. Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that I am a cake-maker. I make tall cakes, short cakes, fruit cakes, squash cakes, cakes with frosting, cakes with glaze, bunts and layered. Pretty much all the cakes. Except one.
There is one cake that I’ve never tried to make from scratch before, and that is the classic coffee cake. This realization was particularly surprising because I am kind of obsessed with crumb topping. The crunch, the sweetness, the spice, the coarseness, the buttery flavor, I’m pretty much head over heels for every aspect of it. So the idea of combining one of my favorite vegetables with my favorite topping made my head explode a little bit, in the best way possible.
I decided to top the cake with a refreshing ginger caramel sauce from Martha Holmberg’s cookbook Modern Sauces. I’ve been pouring over the savory sauces (the caramelized onion coulis goes great on prettttty much everything, and the apple cider chile butter sauce just sounds like the best kind of eating) but knew that I wanted to try something from the sweet portion of the cookbook. At first I was thinking of a creme anglais since that’s also a recipe that entirely new to me, but when I saw the ginger caramel sauce I knew the fresh ginger would pair so well with the coffee cake and give it so much zing, and caramel goes great on pretty much everything, so I went with it.
And boy am I glad I did. The buttery squash pairs so well with the spiced coffee cake, and the strudel on top adds the perfect crunchy texture, but the gingery caramel cuts through the richness of all the flavors and delivers a refreshing new type of spice and heat to the dish that I just love. This sauce would make a great topping for cheesecake, too, since the fresh ginger really helps balance out any overly rich flavors.
I’d highly recommend taking a peek at the cookbook, and Chronicle Books is currently doing a rotating e-cookbook sale, so now’s the time to do it. I’ll be writing another cookbook review later this week for Braises and Stews, so stay tuned for a new cool-weather recipe coming soon!
Winter Squash Coffee Cake With A Ginger Caramel Sauce
Winter Squash Coffee Cake
- 1 small winter squash about 1-2 pounds (Gold Nugget, Buttercup, and Red Kuri all work well)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 and 1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon Streusel Topping
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cut into pea-sized pieces
Ginger Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the squash in half, remove seeds, and place on baking sheet, center facing up. Rub the exposed squash with the olive oil and brown sugar and place in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until soft when poked with a fork. Remove and set aside to cool. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree it in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
- In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the sour cream, 3/4 cup of the pureed winter squash, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Lastly, add the flour mixture and mix until it is just incorporated. Set the batter aside while you prepare the streusel.
- To make the streusel, toss the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and butter in a bowl. Pinch the mixture together with your fingertips until it forms a crumbly sand-like mixture.
- Pour half of the batter in a greased and lightly flour 8-inch cake pan. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of the streusel, then pour the remaining batter over it and top that with the remaining streusel. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and fifteen mintes.
- While the coffee cake is baking, you can prepare the ginger caramel sauce. In a small saucepan, combined the cream and ginger and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Removed from heat and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Taste the cream, and if it isn't gingery enough, let it sit a few more minutes Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring unit the sugar is moistened. Let the mixture boil, without stirring but with an occasional swirl of the pan, until it is a deep amber, smells of caramel, and you can see the tiniest whips of smoke, about 9 to 12 minutes. The caramel will be very hot at this point. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully add a little bit of the ginger-infused cream, the caramel will bubble up furiously. Return the pan to low heat and whisk in the remaining cream a little at a time, then whisk in the burrer and salt. Continue whisking until the sauce is smooth, about a minute. Remove the pan from thereat and let the sauce cool to room temperature in the pan, it will thicken as it cools.
- Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan and allowing it to cool to room temperature on a wire rack, streusel side up. When the coffee cake and caramel have both completely cooled, drizzle the cake with the caramel and serve immediately.