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For the past month or so, the weather seemed unable to make a firm decision- was Minnesota in the autumn, summer or spring category?  Sometimes it was warm enough for tshirts and shorts, sometimes it was hard frost, and finally we had a two-day long, Class II Hurricane.  At any rate that’s how the TV weather people characterized it.   And today, we suddenly discover we are in the path of a major winter storm -warning with a big snow predicted for tonight!

What does this have to do with Squash Cake.  Well I received a gift of 2 gorgeous squashes, and a beautiful bottle of maple syrup, so I decided to make good use of them.  Squash cake is a warming, spicy and good-for-you treat.   I think one of the squashes is a kabocha, and I’m guessing that this brilliant orange fruit is an Ambercup.  You can see a good pictoral guide at this web-address:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm

This is basically the same as pumpkin cake- I use any winter squashes interchangeably:  Pumpkins, Acorn, Turbans, Hubbards, Butternut- you name it.  Some are lighter, some are meatier, some have a pronounced flavor.  I split one small squash, seeded it,

cut it into slender wedges and baked it on a tray covered with foil at 350F for about 45 minutes, and then allowed it to cool.  That makes it easier to remove the skin and mash it with a fork.  Canned or frozen pumpkin makes a perfectly good substitute, and it is less labor intenstive.

Prepare a 10-inch tube-cake pan or bundt-cake pan by greasing and flouring it well.  I have an old-fashion Kugelhopf pan, which makes a pretty cake, and  I like to use butter for the flavor.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

Ingredients:

2 cups refined or turbinado sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice (I grind this one fresh)

2 cups squash or pumpkin puree

Beat sugar and eggs until light, using medium/medium-high speed with an electric mixer.  Add oil and incorporate thoroughly.  Sift all the dry ingredients together and add to the batter beating for about a minute, followed by blending in the squash puree.  That is truly how simple this recipe is.

Pour into the tube pan and bake at 350F for 1 hour, and do not open the oven door or disturb it for the first 20 minutes.  The cake will pull slightly away from the sides, and you can test it at the hour-mark with a wooden toothpick or wooden skewer.  Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before removing to  a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before putting on a plate- and this cake is good either with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or cream cheese frosting.  You can also probably bake this very successfully in a 9″ X 13″ cake pan, or 2 round cake pans (I’d recommend 9″ pans).  In this case, adjust your baking time, but I suggest keeping the temperature at 350F.

Pound cake is another simple, elegant, universal recipe.  Whether you  have guests or are having an little snack for yourself, homemade pound cake is always heartwarming.  It is a little rich, and not too much trouble.  The name comes from using a pound of each ingredient: flour, butter, sugar.  This recipe comes from an old standby cookbook, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

I used a natural shortening, called Earth Balance, with some butter mixed in for flavor:

Wonderful Pound Cake

2/3 cup shortening

1-1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 tblsp lemon juice

(I added a tsp of vanilla)

2/3 cup milk

2-1/4 cups flour

1-1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

Set your oven to 300F and butter and line a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with parchment paper (or butter & flour it)

Mix the shortening and sugar together with the lemon zest and beat until light (3 min).  Add lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat in the milk.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat on medium speed with a hand held mixer for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides of your bowl.  Then begin adding your eggs, one at a time, beating a minute after each addition, and then beat everything together for another minute.  Don’t overmix, or you will develop the gluten, which will toughen your cake.

Finally, put the batter into your baking pan and place in a slow (300) oven and bake for 1 hour & 20 minutes.  Allow to cool enough to remove from the pan and let it cool completely.  A little cracking on top is perfectly natural.

A little custard and fruit- you have a little slice of heaven 🙂

Last week was pie, this week it’s cake!  This is my grandmother’s recipe

Nonnie’s Rhubarb Cake

½ c shortening

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs Mix well

Sift:            2 cups flour

½ teas. Salt

1 teas. Soda

Add alternately with

1 cup buttermilk (I used yogurt today, since I didn’t have any buttermilk)

Beat well and fold in rhubarb

Sprinkle over top of cake the following:

1 cup brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Bake in a well greased and floured 9X 10 pan for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

2 or 3 cups of rhubarb should be cut in length once then in pieces about an inch long.

(Today I also added a couple of cut up, sliced apricots, because I had them nearby- they made for a nice variation on this simple cake, which is almost like  a pineapple upside down cake recipe).

We always had this cake, and other simple homemade desserts when we were growing up.  We often froze quantities of rhubarb in the spring so we were able to make rhubarb cake all through the year.  But of course, it was always wonderful when it went right from your garden into the kitchen and into whatever you happened to be cooking.  We also took the fresh rhubarb stalks and dipped the ends in sugar, which was a very big treat for very small children.

I almost forgot to tell you.  I nearly destroyed this cake- after more than 30 years in the kitchen. The oven was at 300, instead of 350, so I turned up the heat to almost 400, on and off for about 5 minutes.  It survived pretty well, which says something about the recipe and not the baker.