As I inch towards my late twenties, I find myself struggling with the idea of aging, growing up, whatever you want to call it. I have all these questions, ones that no one really knows the answers to. But I guess that’s what life is about: finding those answers.
My mother came to visit recently; it’s been a year since I’ve last seen her. I still always cry whenever she arrives and when she leaves, we both do. It was nice to have her with me again, the comforting familiarity that places the heart in a warm and calming space is something I often miss when she’s gone. The more I begin to understand my mother the more I grow to love her. I wouldn’t have my spirit if it weren’t for her. I asked a lot about my beginnings while she was here– trying to connect the dots and figure out why I am the way I am.
“Did I always like to eat?”
“ OHMYGOODNESS YES! You aaaalways sooo hungry, always eating eating eating. When you born in the hospital, they wheel babies into your room and I always hear you cry cry cry. I know that must be my hungry baby. Really, you eat a lot! Why you think I always worry you fat?”
“So was I always a happy baby? Was I ever difficult?”
“Actually you’re pretty easy. Yes always happy happy, smiling, laughing but when you hungry, oooo you sooo fussy.”
“I see nothing’s changed. And how did you get pregnant, was I planned was I an accident?”
“NO! Accident? Mommy plan to have you! I think to myself – am I ready to be a mom? So one weekend 6 month after we marry, your father and I go to SuZhou with our friends and we have such the perfect weekend. We so in love so happy so I knew this was good time to try. So we did and first time I get pregnant!”
And just like that, I began.
The kitchen is quiet for once since mom has been here. She was leaving soon in a few days. What better way to mend a heavy heart than with the perfect dessert? I pulled out all my new baking toys from the wedding and wasted no time baking away. I adapted this recipe via Epicurious because I had a couple of Kabochas just begging to be used. I doubled the recipe to make 6 1 cup ramekins but the original recipe I am posting makes 6 3/4-cup ramekins. And the cream? Yes it’s worth the 15-minute effort. Ask mom, she ate practically the whole thing to herself. The textures are similar to light fluffy cake clouds with rustic undertones of all those feel good spices – cinnamon, cardamom, ginger. Top with generous pillows of the brown sugar cream and it’ll send any soul to the most glorious of dessert heavens.
Brown sugar cream:
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded kabocha squash (from one 3-pound squash)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup lager (mild-flavored beer)
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For brown sugar cream:
Place 1 tablespoon water in cup. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 10 minutes to soften.
Stir cream and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add egg whites and whisk until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes (do not boil). Add gelatin mixture; whisk until dissolved. Strain into large clean bowl. Chill until cold. Cover and chill overnight.
Combine squash and milk in heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Drain squash. Place in processor and blend until smooth. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray six 3/4cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 cup squash puree in large bowl (reserve remaining puree for another use). Add sugar, oil, beer, and egg to puree and beat to blend. Sift flour, spices, baking soda, and salt over; beat to blend. Divide batter among prepared ramekins.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in ramekins. Turn out onto plates. Beat brown sugar cream to firm peaks; spoon alongside cakes.
*** If you do not have ramekins you can also bake these in cupcake liners. Reduce the baking time to about 12-15 minutes.