Well well well, Martha. Just when I think you’re getting to clever for your own good.
Michael’s face, when I told him the name of this cake, was the kissing cousin of the face one makes when given the option of either weeding the backyard on a Saturday, or watching all 566 minutes of Shoah.
Sure, squash is an enjoyable vegetable. Fennel has its place in the kitchen.
And pistachios… well personally they’re not a Top-5 nut on my list but, still, I can see the appeal.
But all three of these ingredients in a single cake? That didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in either one of us.
Really, if you hadn’t actually tried this cake, you might think it’s something Martha and her staff made up just to pad out the book. I can almost hear them plotting it: “Oh, no one will actually make this one. It’s not like anyone out there is going to take it upon themselves to make EVERY SINGLE CAKE IN THE BOOK. Who in the world possibly has that much time?”
But now that I’ve made it, I can tell you that even though it’s not going to end up one of my favorites, Michael absolutely adored this cake. When I asked him to describe his thoughts on the cake with 5 words, here’s where he went:
This cake lies pleasingly between sweet and savory, with a little bit of earthiness from the fennel seeds. If you aren’t a big fan of fennel, use just one teaspoon instead of two because it’s a sharp flavor, and its presence in the cake cannot be ignored. Other than that, this is a sold cake to sit alongside your morning coffee, or when you want a late night snack that’ll satisfy you, but that you’ll also be able to walk away from before making a Clydesdale of yourself.
And as for finding unsalted pistachios, I reached out on Facebook for recommendations on where to pick them up, and the following locations were supplied by my friends: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and pretty much every farmer’s market in the world.
And here’s a tip on shelling a pistachio: grab one of the discarded half shells from a previous opened pistachio, stick it into the small, opened end of the un-shelled pistachio, and pry it apart. Your thumbnails will thank you.
Two-Colored Squash Loaf Cake From Martha Stewart
- 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 medium yellow squashes (about 12 ounces)
- 2 medium green zucchini (about 12 ounces)
- 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped (about 4 ounces)
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
(Martha’s book and website differ on the temperature for this cake. The book gives one temperature for the entire bake, and that’s 350 degrees. The website version starts at 425 and drops down later to 350. I made the cake from the book and did the whole thing at 350, including toasting the pistachios, and it was fine. For this post, I will include the temperature shift from the website version, which happens at ten minutes of cake bake time. Aside from that, everything else matches).
Generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Coarsely grate squash and zucchini on the large holes of a box grater onto a large piece of cheesecloth; gather edges and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Spread the pistachios in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Use a flexible spatula to fold in the squash, pistachios, and fennel seeds. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until loaf is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before unmolding onto rack to cool completely.