How are you all doing out there? I hope you are all okay. How are you feeling about it all, in your heart and soul? It’s a lot, isn’t it? Are you able to find some ways to feel alright, even when everything is so… not alright? Can I offer you some pumpkin gingerbread cake to help you feel a little more at home right now, in a good way?
I have been busying myself by cooking things to fill the shelves; homemade nutella, preserved plums and quince jelly with fruit from our trees, and yes, just like everyone else, I’ve been baking sourdough bread. I feel calmer when the shelves are full, so it’s been good to channel some of my nervous energy into making things I’ve always wanted to, but never felt like I had time to before.
Life at home feels more like something we’ve chosen when we keep ourselves busy, even better if it’s by making or enjoying something delicious; it’s grounding and gives us direction when we just don’t know what to do – projects that keep our hands busy and don’t require inventing something out of thin air are what I’m looking for. Cooking and eating surely help get the days done, and make them feel a little brighter, which is just the thing we need to get through all these weird times.
Eating something we’ve actually made together gives the moment greater significance; the reward of our efforts is in the pudding and the feeling of satisfaction makes a memory for the day. Sitting down to morning tea gives the day rhythm and makes us feel special, a little weekend kind of vibe on whichever day it is, which is good to have as part of every day when you’re also tackling school or work. It just makes life feel a bit more like we are actually living it.
This time has invited us all to value simple things once again, things we used to enjoy without much thought (or dare I say, take for granted) now hold so much more significance. Won’t it be amazing to do all the things once again? I hope we can hold on to some of the amazing feeling of the luxury of choice when we come out the other side.
It’s been a time for many to get cooking again, and to find creativity, comfort and a ‘can do’ attitude in the kitchen. It’s time for learning how to grow things, learning to mend what you already have and making fun with what you’ve got. We are learning to use everything up in new ways – and make the things we can’t get. And as much as there has been some fear there has also been much kindness, with good caring hearts sharing what they have and what they know, so we can find inspiration and make these days feel like a more full life for us all.
If we learn lessons from our experiences in life, then I hope the lesson I remember from this time is how good and clever people are and how creative we all can be, without a bunch of things, by finding something true from deep within.
Life will surely feel a little brighter if we can find a way to make the best of whatever our situation is, right now.
I made this cake as a way to use up a flavourless pumpkin; it wasn’t tasty enough to use on it’s own, but as a base for something else it could become a whole lot better. I roasted it up and blitzed it into this cake which, given the lack of flavour from this pumpkin, turned out not pumpkin-y at all – great for when you find yourself with a whole lot, or just don’t feel like making the usual pumpkin-y things. The gentle spices bring it more into gingerbread territory, and the pops of fruit add a little brightness (I’m always a fan of a little brightness). We used frozen cherries leftover from the summer, but you could use any frozen berry or some diced pear or apple, or even a few raisins thrown into the batter if dried fruit is what you have or is your favourite thing.
Next time you have a pumpkin that you just don’t know what to do with it, give this a go – turn lemons into lemonade, or dud pumpkins into pumpkin cake, or something like that.
This is a tender cake, perfect for snacking. In the future, I imagine it will be great in a lunchbox, or for taking on a weekend walk; for now it’s good to eat in your day pyjamas on the couch, or during a break from school at home alongside a cup of morning coffee. I like my slice spread with salted butter, but the kids prefer it on its own. Take it on a picnic in the backyard (you could even pack a thermos) or enjoy a slice for a quick breakfast – made with fruit, vegetables, protein and a little healthy fat, it sounds like a perfectly acceptable breakfast to me. #cakeforbreakfast
The cake is just gently sweet, which is how I like it, but you can increase the honey if you like things on the sweeter side, or you could drizzle your slice with a little extra honey after you’ve buttered it. Maple syrup would make a delicious substitute to the honey for a deeper flavour, or if that is what you have on hand. Feel free to increase the amount of cherries (or other fruit) if you would like to make the fruit more of a feature, you might just need to increase the baking time by 5 or 10 minutes depending on the moisture content of the fruit you choose.
Because we’re all so very flexible at the moment and good at making do with what we have, you could use plain flour or a gluten free flour blend for this recipe instead of the light buckwheat flour. The tapioca flour makes for a really tender crumb but if you don’t have it, don’t worry about it! It’ll be cake either way.
Feel free to change up the fruit as you wish, or even switch to dried fruit, maybe plumped in some hot tea for half an hour then drained, if that’s your jam. Sliced dates or prunes, or currants or big juicy raisins – they would all be very good. You know what, you could also just make it plain and serve some preserved fruit and yoghurt or cream alongside (I’m saying yes to cream) and make it a dessert. Dessert with hidden vegetables, I like.
And I know I don’t even have to say it, but here you are – a generous handful of chocolate chips added to the batter would surely be most excellent, and entirely appropriate if you ask me. You don’t need my permission, but I’m giving it to you anyway.
Think of the flavouring aspect of baking as a choose your own adventure; take it where you like it, make it what you will.
I baked my cake in a bundt tin because honestly they just feel like more fun plus a cleaning frenzy resurfaced this pan that had been hiding for a while, so it was just begging to be baked in; you could also easily bake this in a loaf pan, just check the cake with a skewer after 30 – 35 minutes – increasing the baking time by 5 or 10 minutes or so if you need.
A.K.A. I can’t believe it’s pumpkin cake!
220g cooked pumpkin, cooled
60g (1/3 cup) olive oil
150g (1/2 cup) honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla paste
135g (1 cup) light buckwheat flour
70g (2/3 cup) almond meal
30g (1/4 cup) tapioca flour
1/4 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
80g (1/2 cup) frozen cherries, or other fruit, or 1/4 cup plumped dried fruit
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a bundt tin generously with butter, and dust with a little flour – or grease and line a loaf pan with baking paper.
In a food processor, puree together the pumpkin, olive oil, honey, eggs and vanilla until smooth.
Stir through the dry ingredients until completely incorporated, then pour the batter into the pan. Give it a little jiggle to help the batter settle, then push the cherries or other fruit into the top of the cake – if you are using dry fruit I suggest you stir this completely through before pouring into the pan.
Bake in the centre of the oven for around 35 minutes, or until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
I love to serve a slice of this cake warm, slathered with salted butter and pretend we’re having a luxurious, lazy day in. You can eat yours in your pyjamas, or on your balcony, or after yoga! Or drop a few slices off on your neighbour’s doorstep. Dip it in coffee or brandy, if that’s what you need! Enjoy in whichever way feels right to you, and take care of yourselves xx
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