This is certainly a year of unpredictable weather. Last week, most of Turkey’s airports were snowed to a standstill, we were hardly visible under our many layers of clothing and competing with the cats for space by the stove. This week we’ve felt more like ducks – paddling around in huge puddles and acres of mud, dodging the storms and trying to park our car under cover, where it won’t be hit by the golf-ball-sized hailstones. Eeek.
Today, it is like a different country – the temperature has rocketed from zero to 19 degrees and I’ve just discovered a strange man supine in my garden. Oh no, it’s OK, it’s just Robin – he was obviously thinking about sweeping up those leaves in the pool before they blocked the drains, then decided to have a little lie down on a handy sun lounger while he gives it more thought.
We’ve barely been out for a walk in the last week, so it was lovely to have a quick march along the boardwalk and the marina to the Friday market this morning, and we are planning to go further afield for a ‘proper’ walk tomorrow (one that involves boots, sandwiches and at least one dog – my favourite type of walk).
For this excursion, I have also made pumpkin ginger cake. I bought a huge wedge of pumpkin in last week’s market, and now that Friday has come around again, a lump of it is still lurking in the fridge. I’ve made my usual ginger pumpkin cake, but have used aquafaba (that’s bean juice to you and me) instead of eggs, as we still have a week of Veganuary to go.
The result is one of those happy accidents that sometimes happen when you bake things and have to substitute a different ingredient. Instead of the cake having its usual carrot-cake-type texture, it has turned into the stickiest, most decadent ginger cake you can imagine. I will definitely be making this again.
I don’t bother to cook or grate the pumpkin – I just cut it into chunks and process it into small bits before I chuck in the rest of the ingredients.
I normally use the zest and juice of a lime in my pumpkin cake, as I don’t like oranges, but today I have used a Seville orange, as a) they are less evil than their sweet cousins, and you can’t taste it anyway with all the ginger going on, and b) we have zillions of them in our garden, so it seems daft not to use them when I can. I will use lime for the icing though – that would definitely be a step too far into the depths of Orange Hades.
I’ve just bought a big bag of crystallised ginger in the market – it is so deliciously squidgy, it was in danger of being scoffed on the way home, but enough of it survived to become a cake component. If you can’t get crystallised ginger (they usually have it in health food shops if you can’t see it in the supermarket), you could certainly use glacé ginger or finely chopped preserved stem ginger (or even grated fresh ginger, but probably use a bit less if you go down that particular gingery road).
Wickedly sticky pumpkin ginger cake (vegan)
150g pumpkin or butternut squash (or carrot or sweet potato)
175g brown sugar (I used Demerara)
8 tablespoons aquafaba (or 3 eggs, but the cake will be more like carrot cake in texture)
175ml vegetable oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime or 1 orange
175g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
50g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
For the topping:
100g icing sugar
1 lime or orange
A few chopped walnuts or pistachios for sprinkling
You will need a baking tin, greased and lined. Mine is a 17cm x 27cm oblong tin, but you could also use a 20cm x 20cm square tin (or similar dimensions).
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Make sure your tin is lined and the ginger is finely chopped before you mix the rest of the ingredients, or the baking soda will start working before it’s made it to the oven.
Cut the pumpkin into chunks and put it in a food processor (if you don’t have a processor, grate it on a box grater).
You don’t want the pumpkin to be complete mush – just tiny pieces, as in the photo below. Don’t forget it will get processed more as you add the rest of the ingredients.
Put the rest of the ingredients in the food processor, except for the walnuts and sultanas.
Whiz until fairly smooth – there will still be tiny bits of pumpkin in the mix, that is fine, as it will disappear as the cake bakes. (If you don’t have a processor, add the ingredients, as above, and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined – then chop the walnuts and add to the mix with the sultanas).
The mix won’t look very promising, but keep the faith, the cake will be delicious. Add the roughly chopped walnuts and pulse until they are chopped into small pieces – just a few seconds is enough. Finally, add the sultanas and pulse just to mix them in.
Pour the mix into the lined baking tin and bake for about 1 hour 20 minutes, until the cake feels firm to the touch when pressed gently. Cover with foil after about 50 minutes if the edges are starting to look brown, but then remove it for a few minutes at the end, so that the top can crisp up. If you are using aquafaba instead of eggs, it seems to take a bit longer to cook – I gave mine 1 hour 15 minutes, then a further 10 minutes with the foil removed.
Here’s mine going into the oven, looking a bit dubious:
One hour, 20 minutes later, looking deliciously sticky:
Allow to cool completely before topping with the icing.
If you want to, you can save a few strips of rind for decoration or use a zester or microplane grater to grate the zest into the icing.
Put the icing sugar into a small mixing bowl (with the grated zest, if using) and add a few drops of juice from your lime or orange. Add the juice a few drops at a time until you have the consistency you want – it should be firm enough to leave a trail if you mix it with a spoon, but runny enough to drop off the spoon.(Trying to take a photo with one hand, while mixing madly with the other, is not an easy task you know). If you overdo the juice and it goes a bit too runny, just stir in a little more icing sugar.
Use a teaspoon to trickle the icing over the cake in whatever pattern you like – I find diagonal lines easiest and they look quite pretty. Sprinkle over the chopped walnuts and the rind if you wish. (Update: have tried this recipe again using flax eggs and it was even better. Use 3 flax eggs – 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg – leave to stand for at least an hour in the fridge before using, overnight is good).