Thursday, I had the day off; however, Claire was going to be gone until 8:00pm, which meant that I had a day to myself, yet with no ideas on how to utilize my free time. Therefore, I did what any reasonable person would do, post my quandary on Facebook. A friend suggested making a dessert to enjoy with Claire once she got home. The more I thought about it, the more the idea began to resonate with me.
With cooler, Fall-like temperatures finally returning to Southern California, I could finally turn on the oven again. And with butternut squash in the fridge that needed to be used, I figured that butternut squash could easily be turned into bread/cake/bars of some kind.
A quick Google search yielded a recipe on My Baking Addiction’s website that the author described as perfect. Good enough for me. As I ran some errands that morning, my mind was turning as to how to make this into a dessert.
My idea finally coalesced into this. Instead of making a loaf of bread, I would make bars. And chocolate always makes a dessert better, so chocolate chips should be added. Cream cheese icing is my favorite, and I figured if it is good on spice cake, it would definitely be good on this cake, since the cake has cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom in it. And finally, for some reason, as I thought about butternut squash, I kept thinking of bacon, so why not add bacon to the top? Bacon makes everything better.
So after I returned from my errands and picking up the ingredients needed to make such a dessert, I went to work. I roasted the squash with a little butter and brown sugar for close to an hour, after which I pureed it, adding a little cinnamon and nutmeg to it as per Baking Addiction’s recipe. (I only had four ends of the butternut squash, so I adjusted my recipe accordingly.)
I then followed her recipe, adding a half cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I think the cake would be even better with mini-chocolate chips, but I had the regular size in my pantry already). I baked the cake in a nine inch square pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. I think the baking time would be anywhere from 30-35 minutes. Just don’t make my mistake of not having any toothpicks to check the cake. But just be warned: as you bake this cake, your house will be filled with scents that scream Fall. You will be tempted to dive straight into the product as soon as it is finished baking, but stay strong my friend, for the finished product is so worth the wait.
For the cream cheese frosting, I beat one eight ounce package of cream cheese along with six tablespoons (3/4 stick) of butter until it was light and fluffy. I added one cup of sifted powdered sugar to that and beat until incorporated. This made the perfect amount of frosting for the cake – enough to taste, but not too much as to overpower the other flavors.
Finally for the bacon I coated seven pieces of bacon in brown sugar and baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The bacon did not crisp up as nice as I was hoping. I think that next time I will simply pan cook the bacon until crisp, as the added sugar on the bacon is not needed. Claire also suggested that chopped pecans, spiced or not, would be a great addition instead of bacon.
The finished product was amazing! The cake was very moist. The chocolate plus the spice nicely counterbalanced the sweetness of the cake and the icing. And then the bacon added a touch of saltiness/savoriness to the dessert. I was also hoping for the textural contrast of the bacon with the moist cake, but alas, I did not succeed this time.
It is a dessert definitely worth making with Fall descending upon us. And plus it is something other than all the pumpkin and apple desserts that you will be eating this time of year.
Most importantly, it was so pleasant to sit down at the table together with Claire and talk about our day together over a nice dessert. In the midst of the busyness, sometimes just taking the time to sit at the table and enjoy dessert together is special not matter what type of dessert it is. It was a way of saying: “This is our time to be together and no one can interrupt that.”
Butternut Squash + Chocolate Chips Bars
Adapted from: http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/butternut-squash-bread/
1 cup butternut squash purée
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 inch square pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, water and sugars until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butternut squash mixture. Combine just until incorporated; do not over mix. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1. Cream cream cheese and butter in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Mix in vanilla extract
3. Slowly added the powdered sugar and mix until well incorporated.
4. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to use.
7 strips of bacon
½ cup packed brown sugar
1. Coat each strip of bacon with brown sugar.
2. Bake on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bacon is crispy.
3. Chop bacon and sprinkle over frosted cake.