This is an extraordinary cake. It is really a cake that should have been made on Halloween, but I’m very behind with everything and luckily the squash season isn’t as unforgiving as miserly old Time (flying meanly by). I can’t claim to have invented it, as much as I would like to, but of course I have changed it (almost) beyond recognition. It was introduced to me by the brilliant Allegra D’Agostini, who is very talented, young and full of energy. As bright eyed and bushy tailed as a spring squirrel, she finds all sorts of good recipes on Instagram and online in a way I am too old, too slow and too stupid to do. The original is made in a loaf and has cacao nibs; I took away the nibs (can’t find them) changed all the quantities, added orange – well clementines actually, because they are just arriving in the market, cold and small and determinedly orange, with their bright, waxy green leaves that look almost fake in their stubborn unseasonal vibrancy, and I baked it in a bundt because I have a weakness for bundt moulds since I discovered how cheap and easy they are to get hold of in Italy.
I think the clementines are a masterly addition, if I say so myself, because all things orange go together, and because squash and orange remind me of Orange Squash, which is a happy thought, and something truly hallowed. All hail Orange Squash.
You can ignore me and bake it in a loaf if you prefer. I have no ego when it comes to changing my recipes, in fact I’d prefer you to do so. Make it your own! Why listen to me, anyway. I’m just over here in the corner banging on about Orange Squash.
But – a description of the cake! It has a vivid orange crumb - so soft, impossibly soft, so moist and deep and earthy and fresh and zingy and Autumnal and almost Christmassy too and then the rich dark rumble of chocolate and then a green grassy echo of olive oil. There is so much going on in this cake after I ate a slice this morning I had to think about it all day. And the icing! Olive oil in an icing. A revelation of the happiest sort.
It could be a breakfast cake, a Halloween cake, a tea cake, a Christmas cake, a November cake, a Sunday cake, a pudding cake. An everything cake.
And that’s enough from me.
Happy (very late) Halloween.
1 medium sized squash – use a dry creamy squash, and if you have to use a waterier one, drain it after roasting. I used a large onion squash (the bright orange onion shaped ones which have a good concentrated flavour and not too much water).
230g squash puree (from above squash – see method)
230ml olive oil
3 tsp baking powder
Grated zest of 3 clementines or 1 large orange
1 tsp salt
180g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
For the glaze:
150g icing sugar
1.5 tbsp orange juice
1.5 tbsp olive oil
Orange zest to decorate
Heat the oven to 220. Cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the seeds and place it cut-side-down on a non-stick baking tray (you can line with baking paper if you prefer – there may be some sticky caramelised squash bits to scrub). Roast until totally soft, around 30-45 minutes (it will magically steam itself).
Scrape the flesh away from the skin and puree in a blender until smooth.
Measure out 230g of the puree (use the rest as you see fit) and let it cool.
Lower the oven heat to 170 and butter a large bundt tin well. (Paint it with melted butter and a pastry brush to make sure you get every crevice, or you can use a baking spray if you prefer).
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the oil, sugar, squash puree, clementine zest and eggs together. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and whisk in the wet ingredients until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for up to 1 and a half hours, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool before turning out.
Mix the orange juice with the icing sugar until you have a glaze the consistency of honey. Whisk in the oil and then pour over the cooled cake. Decorate with pumpkin seeds or orange zest, or with extra chocolate shards/cacao nibs.