When I was a kid, Halloween wasn’t such a fuss. We used to do a few fun things at home with the family, but didn’t go to parties or go crazy with the dressing up. We certainly didn’t go trick or treating! But we did carve a scary face into a swede. Not a pumpkin, no no, they weren’t readily available back then (“but surely that was only 10 years ago!”, I hear you cry). Dad would spend hours scooping out the innards of a swede, on which my sister and I then drew a few triangles, and Dad duly cut out. In went a tea light and we were delighted. Even now, I can recall the scent of warming, then burning swede flesh. It’s one of the smells that’s most evocative of childhood for me. That, and pipe smoke, from when my grandad used to smoke one all the time. Love it.
Back to pumpkins. Nowadays they are ubiquitous at this time of year. The ones you find in the big supermarkets are usually grown for size and shape, designed for carving more than eating. That’s fine if that’s all you plan to do with it, but their flesh is a little bit watery and not as tasty. I like to get the most from my pumpkins, and so that means I want something a bit more flavoursome. We like to get ours from Kenyon Hall Farm – one of my favourite places for a family afternoon out (Summer or Autumn). They have a large pumpkin patch where you can go and pick your own, which really adds to the experience. The kids have much more of a sense of occasion about carving a pumpkin they’ve chosen themselves. You also get a tasty pumpkin out of it too. They also sell all manner of unusual squash varieties in their marvellous shop. I challenge you not to come away with oodles of stuff from that shop, it’s a foodie paradise of produce!
When it came to using up the innards of our pumpkin this year, the first cake I decided to make was a simple loaf cake – this was a last minute cake I needed to rustle up to take to Mumclub Halloween party at our friend’s house. It’s basically a carrot and apple cake that I thought would work with pumpkin instead of the carrot. I baked the carrot version for Apple Day in Philips’ Park at the end of October, and it got loads of praise (yay!) so I hoped the pumpkin would work as well. You’ll be glad to hear that it did!
This is a simple recipe. It doesn’t need any fancy equipment – not even a mixer! If you want to use one, of course, feel free, but I find a wooden spoon does the job just fine and means less washing up.
- plain flour – 160g
- plain whole wheat flour – 120g
- baking powder – 1 ½ teaspoons
- bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon
- 2 large eggs
- vegetable oil – 60ml
- caster sugar – 230g
- ground cinnamon – 1 ½ teaspoon
- ground nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon
- vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
- greek yoghurt (I used full fat but low fat is fine) – 80ml
- pumpkin flesh – grated/in strands – 300g
- apple (cooking or eating) – 1 large apple (about 175g chopped weight), diced finely. Skin on (but remove if you prefer)
- sultanas – 80g
- Demerara sugar (for topping)
- Preheat the oven to 180 (170 fan)
- Use a 2lb loaf tin – line it with greaseproof paper. I use the ready made liners for ease (like these from Lakeland but they’re widely available)
- In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and yoghurt. If using a mixer, give it a quick whizz – just a few seconds really. By hand just mix until well combined.
- Add the pumpkin, sultanas and apple. Stir lightly (by hand).
- Sift together the flours, baking powder and bicarb. Add the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Don’t mix too much, the flour should be fully incorporated but don’t go mad!
- Put the batter into the tin.
- Sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar – I use about a tablespoon but it depends how much crunch you like on top.
- Pop into the middle of the oven and cook for around 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine takes about 50 minutes. Test with a skewer in the centre of the cake. You’ll be able to feel if the mix is cooked or still a bit soggy. If you’re not sure, don’t worry, it’s a really moist cake so an extra 5 minutes in the oven to make sure will not dry it out.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15/20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
If you can, serve this whilst still warm from the oven, it’s scrumptious! Or room temperature is fine too. The cake is moist and will keep well in an airtight container for a few days…if it lasts that long!
Don’t want to use pumpkin? Try this with butternut squash or the original carrot. For another twist, it also works with parsnip.
Leave off the Demerara sugar and top the cooled cake with a cream cheese frosting for a lovely alternative. You can flavour this with lemon or it’s lush with maple syrup.
So that’s it! Hope you like it…and if you try it please do let me know. Always nice to hear from you.