Two Fall-Themed Cakes for Thanksgiving

Roasted pear cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

Roasted pear cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

The falling temperatures this time of year always inspire me to test out new baking recipes. What’s more, there could’t be a more thrilling time for new ingredients than the fall harvest.

These two cakes incorporate two of my favorites: butternut squash and pear. The results are two fall-themed desserts with the distinct flavors of pear and squash in each.

Both cakes are easy to mix together. The best part: You can prepare both the squash puree and poached pear in advance and then have them at the ready for your Thanksgiving Day baking.

Butternut Squash Cake and Roasted Pear Cake (each yields 15 slices)

Squash Pureeing Directions:
*On a sheet tray lined with aluminum foil, roast butternut squash, halved, at 425 degrees. (For a medium-size squash, this will take approximately 1 hour—or until tender.)
*Take out of the oven and cool. Then scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor.
*Once cooled to room temperature, store the squash puree in a sealed plastic container for up to 2 days.

Pear Poaching Directions:
*Add 4 quarts of water and 1 cup of white wine to a large pot.
*Add 4 cups of sugar and stir to dissolve.
*Peel 4 lemons and add the zest to the pot.
*Scrape 2 vanilla beans and add the inner paste and the beans to the pot. *Bring the mixture (this is your poaching liquid) to a boil.
*Meanwhile, peel the pears, halve them and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife or a melon baller.
*Add the pears to the boiling liquid, lower the temperature to medium heat and poach for 30 minutes—or until tender.
*When cooked, remove the pot from the heat and “tent” it with plastic wrap.
*When cooled slightly, slice the soft pears.
*Once cooled to room temperature, store the poached pears in their liquid in a sealed plastic container for up to 5 days.

Butternut squash cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

Butternut squash cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

Butternut Squash Cake Ingredients:
¾ cup (1½ sticks/170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons honey
4 large (200 grams) eggs, at room temperature
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup orange juice
16 ounces/454 grams squash puree (prepared as directed above), cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup pumpkin seeds

Butternut Squash Cake Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your baking dish with Pam® (a 9-inch springform pan is suggested).
*Cream together butter, sugar and honey until color lightens and texture is fluffy (using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, this will take about 2 minutes).
*Meanwhile, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix with a whisk and set aside.
*Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl with a rubber spatula and (with electric mixer running on low) gradually add in the eggs.
*Scrape down bowl. Add in milk, then orange juice, then the squash puree.
*Scrape down bowl. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled! Everything will come together once the dry ingredients are added.
*Add in dry ingredients (with mixer stopped). Mix gently (on lowest speed) until the ingredients come together. Scrape down bowl and remix (on medium speed).
*Spread batter into baking dish and sprinkle the top generously with pumpkin seeds.
*Bake for about 45 minutes—or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
*If using a springform mold, immediately remove the sides of the mold and set the cake aside on wire rack to cool.

Roasted pear cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

Roasted pear cake. Photo by Melanie Moss.

Roasted Pear Cake Ingredients:
2 cups (4 sticks/500 grams) butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cups (500 grams) sugar
10 large (500 grams) eggs, at room temperature
4 ½ cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
6 bosc pears (poached as directed above)

Roasted Pear Cake Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your baking dish with Pam® (a 13 x 9-inch baking dish is suggested).
*Drain cooled pears from poaching liquid. Slice each halve in three pieces, lengthwise.
*Cream butter and sugar until they are white in color.
*Gradually add in eggs, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl in between each addition.
*Mix thoroughly (using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, this will take about 2 minutes on medium-high speed).
*Gradually add in flour, stirring gently (on lowest speed).
*Mix thoroughly to combine (on high speed for 30 seconds).
*Scrape batter into baking dish and spread evenly.
*Place the poached pears on top and bake for approximately 45 minutes—or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Melanie Moss is a pastry cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. She loves to experiment with recipes that combine savory flavors and her classic culinary training with the pastry methods she uses at work. Cooking since age five, Melanie feels lucky to be in the kitchen every day.

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