Gooey, slimy, guts… this is what awaits all pumpkin carvers at Halloween. For some, it’s the most tedious task, one which delays the creativity & artfulness of creating your masterpiece, for others it’s an oddly satisfying ritual (yes, I am the latter).
The tradition of pumpkin carving at Halloween actually originated in Britain & Ireland (that’s right, not America). It is based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain, a celebration that marks the end of summer & the beginning of the new year on November 1st. During Samhain, the Celts believed that from dusk on October 31st until dusk on the new year that the souls of those who had died that year would pass on & those that didn’t would return to their homes (basically there were ghosts everywhere).
To ward away any evil spirits, people would carve jack-o’-lanterns out of turnips or potatoes, fill them with lumps of burning coal & place them on porches & windowsills. People would also wear disguises to hide themselves from wandering souls.
Pumpkins weren’t carved until much later when Irish immigrants brought the folklore of Stingy Jack to America. Stingy Jack was a drunkard who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. When he died, God didn’t allow him into heaven & the Devil denied him entry into hell, instead his soul was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity with only a hollowed turnip lantern to light his way. In Ireland, people would carve demonic faces out of their turnips to frighten away Jack’s wandering soul. When they arrived in America, turnips were few & far between so they began to carve jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins, a gourd more native to the region & thus began the pumpkin carving we know today which is synonymous with Halloween.
Whatever your inclination towards hollowing out pumpkins, most of us tend to do the same thing with the stringy, slimy innards, we throw them away. Some thrifty folk salvage the seeds from their pumpkins, drying them out or toasting them for snacking or for use in cooking (I love mine to top soups, porridge or yogurt), but what about those guts?
Carving pumpkins (those grown specifically for our spooky enjoyment) aren’t as naturally sweet as those grown for consumption, they are more watery & fibrous, but they are still perfectly edible & can be used in a plethora of recipes. As someone who doesn’t like to waste food & has an unhealthy interest in introducing vegetables into baking, I set myself the challenge to try & come up with something to satisfy my peculiar habits.
I’ve made many a cake using pureed pumpkin before & my pumpkin spice cake is one of my personal favourites at this time of year, but what about the rest of my pumpkin? I was curious what the outcome would be if I were to use my leftover Halloween pumpkin innards in a cake, I’m talking about all of those stringy, slimy guts. The result was actually a beautiful, delicately spiced, sweet & satisfying little loaf. This cake has a lovely dampness about it that reminds me a little of gingerbread but with an added crunchy demerara topping for contrast. This is a lovely one to toast & lightly slather in butter for a sweet, seasonal breakfast.
LEFTOVER PUMPKIN LOAF
(makes one 2lb loaf)
- 175g butter
- 140g golden syrup
- 1 egg
- 100g soft light brown sugar
- 160g pumpkin fibres (all of those stringy guts), seeds removed & excess liquid squeezed out using your hands
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 275g self-raising flour
- 2 tbsp demerera sugar
- A few pumpkin seeds
- Grease & line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment
- In a large saucepan, gently melt the butter & golden syrup together over a low heat before setting aside to cool
- Once cooled slightly, add the egg & soft light brown sugar to the pan & beat this into the syrup mixture
- Add in the pumpkin fibres & stir through the mixture, breaking up any clumps
- Sift the flour & spices into the pan & fold these through the mixture until fully incorporated
- Pour into the loaf tin & sprinkle over the demerera sugar or pumpkin seeds
- Bake the cake at 180°c for 1 hour – 1 hour, 10 minutes until it springs back when pressed lightly with a finger (if the cake is browning too quickly on top, cover this with a piece of baking parchment until baked)
- Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in its tin before removing & placing on a cooling rack to fully cool