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Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting (& Other Adventures with Kabocha Squash) for Joanne's "Recipe Imp

Posted Oct 26 2010 3:35am

When my good friend Joanne of Eats Well With Others announced her " Recipe Impossible: Joanne Eats Well With Others Edition " I just knew I had to enter. First off, I love Joanne and helping her feed her winter squash addictions and turn orange to get her mom off her back for being so pale seemed like a great cause to me! ;-) Secondly, the chance to receive a "Top Secret Mystery Package" with 8 ingredients from the wonderful Marx Foods was too good to pass up. It feeds into all my Iron Chef / Chopped fantasies to be challenged to use at least two of these ingredients in an original recipe. Finally, I am a recent fan of winter squash, having spent many years avoiding it like the plague, so getting creative with this orange veggie seemed like a good growth opportunity.

Probably would have been better to take a picture of the ingredients before I used them!

I was excited to be selected as one of the 10 challengers and the box from Marx Food arrived just a few days later revealing the mystery ingredients:
The mission? Use at least two of the eight ingredients in an original recipe using some type of winter squash. My squash pick: Kobocha (aka Japanese pumpkin), because it is plentiful and locally grown and it was the first winter squash I really decided I quite liked. Kabocha, like all winter squash is rich in beta carotene (necessary for making Joanne orange), iron, vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients.

The decision to go sweet or savory was the next step and since Kabocha is such a naturally sweet squash to begin with, I decided to go that route. Since I know that Joanne loves cupcakes and believes in balance, I decided to go with healthy carrot-cake style, almost a muffin Kabocha Cupcakes, topped with a not-so-healthy, decadent Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, dusted with Maple Sugar. Between the cake and the frosting I would be using three of the eight ingredients: vanilla beans, coconut sugar, and the maple sugar.

For the cupcakes, I looked at a couple of healthy carrot cake recipes and my mom's zucchini muffin recipe and melded parts of them together with my own touches to come up with this cake. Without the frosting, it is a less-sweet muffin, perfect for breakfast. With the icing, it becomes a dessert-like treat.

Kaboacha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 Large Cup Cakes)

1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed coconut sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup natural applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups grated kabocha squash
1 (8 oz) can drained crushed pineapple in natural juice
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut, toasted (see note below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners.

Scrape the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean into a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, orange zest, cinnamon coconut sugar and brown sugar and beat until thick. Stir in the applesauce. Sift the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Fold in the grated kabocha, pineapple, and toasted coconut.

Using a medium ice cream scoop, spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the center cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in their pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Note: For the coconut: I used large coconut flakes/chips and toasted them in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring each time until browned. Once cool, I ground them for a few seconds in my mini-chop food processor until coarse.

Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes enough frosting for 12+ cupcakes)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 vanilla bean
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup maple sugar + extra to garnish
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon

With a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Scrape the seeds of a vanilla bean into the mixture and add powdered sugar, maple sugar and maple syrup and continue beating until well combined and smooth. Refrigerate until firm and pipe or spread on completely cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle frosted cupcakes with maple sugar. Store frosted cupcakes and leftover icing in refrigerator.

Notes/Results: Delicious! The frosting is very sweet and creamy and compliments the less-sugary sweet, moist and dense cupcake very well. The cake has the texture of a carrot cake but has more of a pumpkin/squash flavor and it retains its moistness with the pineapple and applesauce filling in for oil. The frosting is very soft, so it is probably better spread than piped, and should be stored in the fridge--but it is so creamy and good that seriously, I could just sit and eat a bowl of it. ;-) And the maple sugar--OK, yum--I will be sprinkling that on top of toast, oatmeal, ice cream, my tongue, etc. ;-) I will make make both the cupcakes and the frosting again. I can see Joanne eating and enjoying these after a run (to work off the frosting!) Much thanks to my visiting sister Phyl for being my chief taster and frosting piper!

I was having so much fun with my mystery ingredients and I still had a bit over half of my kabocha squash left after making the cupcakes. I got to thinking that with Joanne being a grad student, I knew she wouldn't want me waste anything so I set my own challenge to use the rest of my mystery ingredients and the rest of my squash, even the seeds.

I cut the rest of my kabocha into wedges about 1/2" thick and tossed them with some olive oil and black pepper, sprinkled them with the ginger salt and then roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, turning them once, until they were soft and slightly caramelized. The ginger salt with its little zing of flavor, paired really nicely with the sweet squash and the wedges make an excellent snack or side dish.

I had saved out the kabocha seeds and washed and dried them. Liking the pairing of chile and coffee on meat, I thought it would also be good on roasted squash seeds. I ground one of each chile with their seeds into a fine powder and mixed it with the espresso salt and a dash of the fennel pollen to coat the seeds before roasting them.

Chili-Espresso Roasted Kabocha Seeds
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/4 cup or more, depending on the size of squash)

seeds from kabocha squash, cleaned and dried
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Aji Panca chile
1 Pasilla Negro chile
1 tsp espresso salt
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fennel pollen

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Chop the chilies coarsely and grind them with their seeds in a spice grinder or blender until a fine powder. Mix 1 tablespoon of the chili powder with the espresso salt, sea salt and fennel pollen in a small bowl. Toss kabocha seeds with olive oil in a medium bowl and sprinkle with chili-espresso powder mixture and mix until evenly coated.

Spread coated kabocha seeds in a single layer on lined pan and place in over. Cook about 15 minutes or until seeds begin to pop. Cool thoroughly on pan and then store in an airtight container. Use for snacking or on salads, in soups as a garnish, etc.

Notes/Results: Very tasty--these are mild chilies so no heat, just a rich, savory taste that my sister called "kind of addicting." You catch a little of the espresso taste and the fennel pollen just adds a complexity to the flavor. A tasty little snack that provides protein, vitamin K, iron and copper, and is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

And that ends my adventures in kabocha squash and the Joanne Eats Well With Other Recipe Impossible Challenge. An entire kabocha squash plus all of the mystery ingredients put to good use, and a whole lot of fun working with such great and diverse quality ingredients.

You'll be able to see my Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting and all of the other entries at the Marx Foods site (and you can vote in the poll for your favorite--hint, hint!), on November 1st. I am sure that collectively we will have Joanne a gorgeous golden shade by Thanksgiving.

This also seems like the perfect dish/post to link to the Heart 'n Soul Tuesday Blog Hop hosted by my friend girlichef and other fabulous bloggers (A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy), featuring good food cooked from the heart that feeds the body and the soul.

So, what's your favorite squash?
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