Kabocha Pumpkin Cream Cake

Kabocha Cream Cak

Regular readers will know that I don’t bake. You also know that I am incurably lazy in the kitchen and can’t be bothered to follow complicated recipes. That’s why I was both honored and mortified when Emily Fleischaker from Bon Appetit invited me to a Holiday Bake-Off at the Conde-Nast offices in Times Square.

As I read my way down the invite and came to the list of judges, names like Barbara Fairchild, François Payard, and Dari Alexander hit me like a bag of sugar. Any initial giddiness fluttered away, and with them, any thoughts of winning.

I accepted the invite, but I waffled back and forth on whether to participate or not. Visions of disapproving judges filled my dreams and it got to the point where I just didn’t want to think about it anymore. So with only a tupperware of poached kabocha in my fridge, I entered the work week knowing that I wouldn’t have time to bake anything.

Somehow the week flew by and three holiday parties and a hangover later, it was noon on judgement day. “What the heck am I going to make?”, I asked myself. My original submission, “Kabocha Pumpkin Cream Cake with Caramel Ganache”, sounded too heavy and too finicky at this stage in the game and my experience using a gelée to cover a cake was non-existent.

Discouraged and a little lost, I loaded up the hopper of my potato ricer with the kabocha I had poached over the weekend and gave it a half-hearted squeeze. Like little droplets of golden sunshine sent down from the heavens, a rain of brillant orange granules fell from the ricer and into the white bowl. With 3 hours left until the judges would be tasting my dessert, I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to present.

Poached Kabocha Riced

While I’ve never seen kabocha used in Japanese cakes before, this one is still very Japanese in spirit. It is light, not too sweet, and uses a fluffy mousse instead of a buttercream filling. The topping is just a blanket of sweet poached kabocha passed through a potato ricer, and the little flecks of fleur de sel and candied yuzu rind gives it some contrast that makes the whole thing pop… At least that’s the vision I had in my head. I didn’t actually have a chance to taste it before rushing out the door to get to the bake-off.

Click here to see what happened »

poached kabocha pumpkin

3 lbs Kabocha pumpkin
2 C water
1 C sugar
1 vanilla bean halved lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick

Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the kabocha in half from top top bottom. Scrape all the seeds and pith out of the center using a spoon then use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the green skin along with any green flesh. Cut the kabocha into wedges then into 1 inch chunks. Put them in a sauce pan along with the water, sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat until a fork easily passes through the kabocha (about 20-30 minutes). Do not let it boil as it will crumble and absorb too much moisture. Cool and transfer the kabocha and poaching liquid to a sealed container and refrigerate overnight, or up to a week.

Genoise (from Tartelette)

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 C of sugar (150g)
pinch of salt
1/2 C cake flour (70g)
1/4 C cornstarch (30g)

Setup a double boiler with a pot large enough to hold your mixing bowl then bring the water to a simmer. Move your oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 400 degrees F. Prep an 18″ x 13″ jelly roll pan by spraying oil on it and lining it with parchment paper (the oil helps the paper stick to the pan). Then lightly oil the top of the parchment paper.

Put the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt in a metal mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Put the bowl in your double boiler and whisk, heating until the mixture reaches 100 degrees F (luke warm). Mount the bowl on a mixer and beat on high with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. The volume will triple and pale yellow ribbons of egg will flow off the whisk when they’re ready.

Combine the flour and cornstarch. When the egg mixture is ready, sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the eggs and use a folding motion with a spatula to gently combine the flour with the eggs. Repeat twice more, folding between each addition until you don’t see any more clumps of flour. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and smooth the top off (a clean plastic ruler works great for this). Bake for 7-8 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let the genoise cool on a rack.

Kabocha Puree

poached kabocha (from the recipe above)
1/2 C sugar

Using either a ricer or food mill, make 1 packed cup of mashed kabocha (this step is important as it removes any fibrous bits from the kabocha). Add this to a food processor along with the sugar and process until smooth and creamy.

Kabocha Cream

2 C cold heavy cream
2 Tbs water
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
1 kabocha puree (from the last recipe)

Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.

Put the water in a small microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it “bloom” for a few minutes or until you don’t see any more powdered gelatin on top. Microwave it for 20-30 seconds until it just starts to boil (be careful, it will overflow quickly).

Mix the kabocha puree and melted gelatin together with a spatula. Dump this into the cream and continue whipping until the kabocha puree is mixed in and the cream holds stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip the cream.

Assemble Kabocha Cream Cake

genoise
1/2 C reserved kabocha poaching liquid strained through a tea strainer
kabocha cream
remaining poached kabocha
fleur de sel
candied yuzu peel

Remove the genoise from the pan along with the parchment paper and set it on a flat surface. Cut two 8″ x 8″ squares out of the center of the genoise. Peel away the scraps and reserve for another use (they’re great for making triffles or tiramisu).

Brush the tops of both genoise squares with 1/4 C of the poaching liquid. Peel the parchment paper away from one square and place upside down on a clean piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of this piece of genoise with half of the remaining poaching liquid.

Spread enough kabocha cream on top to make an even 3/8″ layer of cream (a clean plastic ruler works great for this). Peel the second square of genoise off the parchment paper and flip upside down onto the first layer. Brush the remaining poaching liquid on top and add another 3/8″ thick layer of cream.

To make the topping for the cake, use paper towels to dry off any excess liquid from the remaining poached kabocha and add them to a potato ricer. Rice the kabocha directly on top of the cake to make an even layer of orange “rice”. Clean up the edges with a pastry knife and keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the cake into serving sized pieces then top each piece with a light sprinkle of fleur de sel and one strip of candied yuzu.

  • http://www.mytartelette.com/ Tartelette

    What a incredible day that had to be! Love the idea of the genoise with kabocha! Well done!

  • http://www.mytartelette.com Tartelette

    What a incredible day that had to be! Love the idea of the genoise with kabocha! Well done!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Well done Marc…now I’m curious to see how it all went down!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Well done Marc…now I’m curious to see how it all went down!

  • http://colloquialcooking.com/ Colloquial Cook

    Maaaaaaaaaaaaaarc!!!! Your cake is the miniskirt and long/batting eyelashes ;-)! I am so excited! Bravo, bravo!

  • http://colloquialcooking.com Colloquial Cook

    Maaaaaaaaaaaaaarc!!!! Your cake is the miniskirt and long/batting eyelashes ;-)! I am so excited! Bravo, bravo!

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ pigpigscorner

    Great use of kabocha! Well done!

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com pigpigscorner

    Great use of kabocha! Well done!

  • http://trissalicious.com/ Trissa

    ARGHHH – you’ve got me at the edge of my seat to find out what happened! In the meantime, I’ll day dream about your Kabocha Cake – it looks delicious!

  • http://trissalicious.com Trissa

    ARGHHH – you’ve got me at the edge of my seat to find out what happened! In the meantime, I’ll day dream about your Kabocha Cake – it looks delicious!

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/ Chef E

    Love this, and my first time to hear of kabocha…good luck with the judges!

    I am going to try and make this…

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/ Chef E

    Love this, and my first time to hear of kabocha…good luck with the judges!

    I am going to try and make this…

  • http://zencancook.com/ zenchef

    haha! What a tease! :)
    I know the outcome so i won’t spoil the suspense. This cake looks fabulous, Marc. Love that you used candied yuzu peel with the kabocha squash. What a great combo this must have been and what a exciting day!

  • http://zencancook.com zenchef

    haha! What a tease! :)
    I know the outcome so i won’t spoil the suspense. This cake looks fabulous, Marc. Love that you used candied yuzu peel with the kabocha squash. What a great combo this must have been and what a exciting day!

  • http://www.sassyradish.com/ radish

    the only thing that will make up for lack of this cake here is the fact that the store nearby carries Poky (I’m holding you responsible for this newformed habit). The cake was so amazing – you SO deserved the win!!

  • http://www.sassyradish.com radish

    the only thing that will make up for lack of this cake here is the fact that the store nearby carries Poky (I’m holding you responsible for this newformed habit). The cake was so amazing – you SO deserved the win!!

  • http://foodmayhem.com/ Jessica@FoodMayhem

    Wow, what an impressive last minute cake and an honor to bake for those judges! Can’t wait to hear what happened!

  • http://foodmayhem.com Jessica@FoodMayhem

    Wow, what an impressive last minute cake and an honor to bake for those judges! Can’t wait to hear what happened!

  • http://freshlocalandbest.blogspot.com/ Christine @Fresh Local and Bes

    This is an intriguing recipe! I adore kabocha, and wouldn’t have thought to send this sweet and nutty squash through the ricer. Your creativity and imagination is impressive.

  • http://freshlocalandbest.blogspot.com Christine @Fresh Local and Best

    This is an intriguing recipe! I adore kabocha, and wouldn’t have thought to send this sweet and nutty squash through the ricer. Your creativity and imagination is impressive.

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    That cake looks like a winner to me! Best of luck to you with the contest. I love the strands of kabocha on the top that look a little like a childhood Playdough-Pumper machine made them.

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    That cake looks like a winner to me! Best of luck to you with the contest. I love the strands of kabocha on the top that look a little like a childhood Playdough-Pumper machine made them.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    It looks beautiful! The riced squash on top is lovely, and the candied yuzu sounds great.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com lisaiscooking

    It looks beautiful! The riced squash on top is lovely, and the candied yuzu sounds great.

  • http://www.adinnerparty.net/ Lisa (dinner party)

    Marc, I can’t believe you don’t consider yourself a baker! That cake was absolutely stunning.

    Great to meet you and discover your site!
    Lisa

  • http://www.adinnerparty.net Lisa (dinner party)

    Marc, I can’t believe you don’t consider yourself a baker! That cake was absolutely stunning.

    Great to meet you and discover your site!
    Lisa

  • http://anediblesymphony.blogspot.com/ Muneeba

    You are one helluva baker, Marc … and you shouldn’t be intimidated by any panel of judges, ‘coz you can totally blow them away! Now excuse me while I go back to stare and salivate over your kabocha cream cake!

  • http://anediblesymphony.blogspot.com Muneeba

    You are one helluva baker, Marc … and you shouldn’t be intimidated by any panel of judges, ‘coz you can totally blow them away! Now excuse me while I go back to stare and salivate over your kabocha cream cake!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com/ Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    Wow, this cake looks amazing and I just love the vibrant orange color of the kabocha topping, beautiful! Can’t wait to hear what happened with the judges!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    Wow, this cake looks amazing and I just love the vibrant orange color of the kabocha topping, beautiful! Can’t wait to hear what happened with the judges!

  • Shirley Karasawa

    What an amazing cake! I love anything with kabocha and this looks delicious.

  • Shirley Karasawa

    What an amazing cake! I love anything with kabocha and this looks delicious.

  • http://allmypetsupplies.com/ Fish tank supplies

    It is so hard to find good recipes that use kabocha. This looks amazing, can’t wait to eat it.

  • http://allmypetsupplies.com Fish tank supplies

    It is so hard to find good recipes that use kabocha. This looks amazing, can’t wait to eat it.

  • http://www.thewrightrecipes.com/ Caroline Wright

    Hey Marc– This cake was truly delicious. It was great to meet you and get to know your beautiful site a bit better. Thanks for sharing and hope to see you around again!
    Cheers, Caroline

  • http://www.thewrightrecipes.com Caroline Wright

    Hey Marc– This cake was truly delicious. It was great to meet you and get to know your beautiful site a bit better. Thanks for sharing and hope to see you around again!
    Cheers, Caroline

  • http://cheffresco.com/ cheffresco

    Wow that’s awesome- the cake looks amazing!

  • http://cheffresco.com cheffresco

    Wow that’s awesome- the cake looks amazing!

  • http://www.soyoufound.me/ joni

    Mmm, looks yummy! (Although I have no idea what kabocha is and I’m too lazy to google.)

  • http://www.soyoufound.me joni

    Mmm, looks yummy! (Although I have no idea what kabocha is and I’m too lazy to google.)

  • http://www.WordsAreFood.com/ Kristin Conroy

    Congrats on the win, Marc! Great job! And you don’t normally bake? Wow, you’re just a natural I guess;)

  • http://twitter.com/WordsAreFood Kristin Conroy

    Congrats on the win, Marc! Great job! And you don’t normally bake? Wow, you’re just a natural I guess;)

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    this is beautiful. because you don’t often post recipes for desserts, i treasure the ones you post up more! and they’re always such a looker too. :)

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    this is beautiful. because you don’t often post recipes for desserts, i treasure the ones you post up more! and they’re always such a looker too. :)

  • pavithra

    Wow the cake looks truely delicious.. yummy…

  • http://dishesfrommykitchen.blogspot,com pavithra

    Wow the cake looks truely delicious.. yummy…

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  • Mariza

    is there a way i can just use a boxed cake mix. maybe angel food cake mix??? This such an amazing recipe!

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