courgette cake

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with all of you since May.

Seriously.

You might be wondering how a courgette cake recipe could be on my mind for such a long time?  Well you see … this is the recipe that just keeps on giving …  it worked as a layer cake … and as a bundt cake … then as cupcakes … and cute little pumpkin cakes … and they’ve all worked.   CLAPS!I’ve made it with zucchini and chocolate chips and chocolate chunks and ribbons of melted chocolate. I’ve frosted it with a whipped chocolate frosting … and with a cinnamon sour cream frosting … and finally with whipped brown sugar frosting.  All successes.

Then I thought about it … courgette doesn’t only mean zucchini.  What about swapping out the zucchini for some squash???  And so … with that in mind, I decided to completely twist up this recipe.

butternut squash mini cakes filled with caramel and covered in cinnamon sugar

What?

It sounds like a mouthful doesn’t it?

It is.  But it’s all good.  Really really good.

The inspiration for this one  came from two places… the first was Edgar’s lemon beignets and the second were Golden Eggs - a recipe I discovered this past winter when I read the book Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker (which I LOVED).  I figured by mixing and matching the two ideas together, along with the courgette cake recipe I love so much, that I would come up with a real winner.

I figured this was fall baking at its best.

Butternut squash, caramel, melted butter, cinnamon sugar … DELISH!

And if adding the caramel to the centre doesn’t catch your fancy, the butternut squash option also works really well with a dollop of sour cream cinnamon frosting.

So many options!

The original recipe comes from (no surprise here) the hummingbird bakery’s cake days (I heart that book).  The hummingbird bakery‘s version is a courgette, walnut and cinnamon layer cakeAs you can tell … I opted not to use walnuts in my version, and preferred to swap in chocolate for the zucchini version.  Perhaps the next time I make it with butternut squash I’ll toss in pecans and white chocolate chips … or pecans and dried cherries?  Who knows … Just remember to go with flavours you LOVE.  That’s the joy of baking!

Whatever you decide to do … just know that you will have stumbled on a winner of a recipe.  And you might become as obsessed with it as I’ve become.

Oh … you’ll notice that for these mini cakes I used pumpkin molds – they are basically the same size as a regular cupcake mold – so feel free to make these into cupcakes or even a regular 9-inch 2 layer round cake … it’ll all work

butternut squash mini cakes filled with caramel and covered in cinnamon sugar

ingredients:

3 eggs

300 mL vegetable oil

300 g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

300 g flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

300 g peeled, seeded and grated butternut squash (or zucchini)

caramel, at room temperature

3/4 c. butter, melted or as needed

cinnamon sugar, as neededPreheat your oven to 325 F.  Spray  each mold in your pumpkin pan or cupcake pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla until everything is well combined.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger and freshly grated nutmeg.

Add the dry ingredients to your wet mixture in two batches – beating well and fully incorporating everything.

Turn off your mixer and fold in the grated butternut squash.Divide the batter evenly between the pumpkin/cupcake molds (I was actually able to get the dozen pumpkins and 2 dozen mini cupcakes out of this batter).

Bake regular sized cupcakes for 20 minutes and mini cupcakes for 12 minutes.  You know when it’s ready … the tops will be springy to the touch :0)

Turn the cakes out of their pans IMMEDIATELY.  This is the one time you don’t want your cakes to cool completely.

It’s easiest if your caramel is in a piping bag … grab the caramel and stick the piping bag tip into your cakes and fill each centre with caramel.When they are all filled, grab each cake and dip them in melted butter, and finish by rolling them in cinnamon sugar.That’s it.  Simple eh?

And if you don’t feel like a buttery cinnamon sugar treat … this recipe works really well with a cinnamon frosting.  I opted to make a buttercream using cinnamon, vanilla and a solid dollop of sour cream to cut the sweetness factor.

harvest noir

October has just flown by.

I honestly don’t know where to start.

It started with a wedding.  Not my wedding … but I did bake a cake and 200 cupcakes for this wedding.  Plus an assortment of other lovely treats for the post-wedding luncheon.

That was the same weekend as Thanksgiving.

It was also the same weekend that I threw out my back.

What a pain (literally and figuratively speaking).

Sigh.

And then last Saturday was the weekend I’d been looking forward too for several weeks …

Harvest Noir.

The premise of the event … an elegant “dress your best in black” picnic and dance party … inspired by a  23-year old tradition of genteel annual picnic dining in Paris.

Oh yeah … and the location … unknown until 4 hours before it begins.

Cool?

TOTALLY.

As soon as I heard about it (thank you Kailey) I knew I just had to participate.

Now you’ll probably laugh at me … you see … I signed up after watching this youtube video (which is pretty awesome … doesn’t it make YOU want to participate next year???).

It was only after that I clued to the fact that I was responsible for bringing food.  And cutlery, dishes, glasses, linens …

I know.

Picnic = bring your own food … duh?  Apparently I’m a little slow.

And so … after assembling our table of 7 (Kailey, Alain, Tonya, Allison, Amanda, Platonic Jeff & I) … we all offered to bring a component of the meal – cheese, bread, patés, meats, dips, vegetables, assorted salads, goulash … and I brought dessert (no big surprise there).

The entire point of harvest noir is to use local and seasonal fare – I decided to whip up some mini french apple tarts (local apples) and then some mini butternut squash cupcakes, topped with cinnamon sour cream frosting and a home-made (as in by ME – yay!cinnamon gelato (not the smartest picnic food… although delicious).

I decided to use a favourite recipe – the classic french apple tart recipe I used for my father’s birthday dessert last year.  Only this time, I changed up the filling.

For this recipe, you’ll need a standard pastry dough.  Use your favourite recipe … or feel free to use mine.

You’ll also need enough apples to make your filling (I needed about 1 dozen small apples), as well as a couple apples to top the tarts (I used 2 and 1/2 apples).  If you aren’t going to serve with ice cream and/or caramel sauce, you might want to use a little apricot jam (warmed and lightly brushed over the baked tarts).

apple tart filling

ingredients:

1 dozen apples (they were quite small); peeled, cored and diced

1/2 c. sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Once you peel, core and dice your apples, put them in a medium saucepan, and add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Place the saucepan over medium heat, covered, and allow the apples to start cooking down in their own juices.  Check them from time to time, stirring (so that the bottom doesn’t burn), and as the apples break down, lower the heat, remove the lid, and continue to reduce the apple mixture until it’s thick – basically, you’re making apple sauce.  Only with diced chunks of apple :0)

Once you’ve gotten it where you’d like it to be – remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

At this point, take your pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it out.  Remember to generously flour your surface, and roll the dough quite thin.

Using a small knife, cut small circles out of the dough – enough to line the base of your mini tart pans (or, you can also use a cupcake pan).

I was able to get 1 dozen tarts lined using half my pastry dough recipe.

Fill each tart with your apple filling – you’ll probably use about 1 tbsp of filling. Once your tarts are filled, grab those remaining apples and peel, core and finely slice them.  You want thin slices of apple; they cover your tart (since this isn’t a double crust tart).

Place the tarts on a cookie sheet and then place the cookie sheet on your lower rack – baking at 350 F for about 15 minutes (you be the judge of how your pastry is cooking).  Then move the cookie sheet to the upper rack and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes – you want your apples to be baked.  You should see the juices bubbling underneath.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

These tarts travel really well – which makes them totally perfect for an outdoor picnic.

heart this event.

500+ people (of all ages) … surprise location (museum of civilization) … a light drizzle of rain … and inspired food.  Followed by dancing (which… I had to sit out of, but it was all good) and a pretty darn amazing hula hoop demonstration (totally cool).  I can’t wait for next year.