kabocha turmeric tea cake

Another week and another bake from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter. The fourth recipe in Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person is Kabocha Turmeric Tea Cake. We’d seen photos of this cake from fellow bakers who are working through the book, and the colour was electric, but aside from this we were both a little skeptical about this recipe.

Lauren’s Take

Hi friends! Another week, another loaf. I’m feeling conflicted because these loaves have all been super tasty and easy to do, but I’m itching for more of a challenge…however I know very soon that challenge will come and I will look back longingly at the simple loaf and remember it fondly.

This week we tackled Claire’s slightly altered interpretation of a pumpkin loaf. At first when you look at the recipe list, it’s a bit intriguing how all these more savoury flavours (pumpkin seed, turmeric, garam masala, squash) are going to come together to make a dessert. But no fear friends, because the flavours come together beautifully to make such an excellent smelling and tasting loaf with enough complexity to keep your tastebuds excited.

For this loaf, I was running low on time to make it so I got some leftover pumpkin puree from my boyfriend’s mom (thank you Jackie!) to use in substitution of the squash. I love pumpkin flavour so I probably would have made this substitution regardless but it definitely made it a lot easier.

I got stumped on a couple things that maybe I shouldn’t have; do I need to take the shell off of the pumpkin seeds? And when Claire says a half cup of warmed coconut oil, does she mean solid and them warmed or liquid? Despite my tired brain trying to complicate things for me, the loaf still turned out amazingly well (and no room temperature eggs were harmed this time around).

The loaf leaves your house with a wonderful, warm aroma which you won’t regret. And cutting into the loaf is also super pleasing to the eye due to the wonderfully bright yellow colour created by the turmeric. I also really loved the sugar crust on the top; it creates a beautiful looking crackle but also tastes delicious. I don’t know if I’ll make this loaf consistently, but it was definitely fun to try and expose myself to different baking flavours I don’t normally use (but I mean, it’s hard to live up to the poppy seed almond cake, am I right?).

Julia’s Take

I have to admit that this was not one of the recipes I was dying to try. Even though the bright yellow colour looked amazing, I wasn’t excited about the flavours and had sort of written this off as a loaf that would be “just OK.” I was so pleasantly surprised with how it turned out and how much I liked it!

I’ve seen kabocha squash in my local grocery store before, but usually only around Thanksgiving, so I decided to substitute acorn squash for a similar earthy flavour. I followed the same steps outlined in the recipe and roasted the squash whole, then mashed it up to add in with the rest of the wet ingredients. It would be easy enough to use anything else in the pumpkin family for this recipe; it makes for a great texture but isn’t the flavour that comes through most so is an easy swap to make.

You do get the flavour of the garam masala, which I loved, but it’s subtle enough to not completely overwhelm the cake. The best part of this recipe for me was a toss-up between cutting in to the loaf and getting that amazing bright yellow colour (so fun and unique!), and the incredible sugary crackly crust along the top.

The taste of this may not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great spin on a regular pumpkin loaf. For anyone who’s on the fence about garam masala, it would be easy enough to use cinnamon or nutmeg instead, which is something Claire recommends in the book. If you’re not afraid of trying something new though, this recipe will not disappoint. All that said, trying to get a photo of this cake without ruining everything in my kitchen was a struggle; the lingering turmeric stain is no joke. You’ve been warned!

Coming up: we need to skip over the Spiced Persimmon Loaf for now—not a persimmon to be found anywhere at this time of year—so we’ll come back to it at the end of the year, and take on the Mascarpone Cake with Red Wine Prunes.

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