If you love anything pumpkin spiced, you're gonna love this spiced kabocha loaf cake! Made with fresh kabocha and seasoned with cinnamon and ginger, it's the perfect autumn treat. Enjoy it straight out of the oven or toasted and topped with butter and honey, delicious!
Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)
What is Kabocha?
Kabocha is a type of Japanese winter squash. It tastes kind of like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato. Some people compare it to a butternut squash.
In Japan, we use kabocha for many different kinds of recipes, it's a common ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes. Any recipe where you might use butternut squash or pumpkin puree, I'm sure you can use delicious kabocha!
The skin is a dark green colour while the flesh is a deep orange. In fact, the skin is also edible after it's cooked and it's full of nutrients. Kabocha is usually grown during the summer and harvested in autumn.
I mentioned before that kabocha can be used in sweet or savory recipes, here are a few example dishes:
- Kabocha purin
- Kabocha mont blanc
- Kabocha baked cheesecake
- Kabocha tart / pie
How to prepare kabocha squash
Scoop & Peel
My first step for preparing the kabocha, is to scoop out the seeds and pulp from the centre. You don't need to be too exact and you can save the seeds and toast them if you don't want to throw them away.
Next is removing the skin. Although kabocha's skin is edible when cooked, we don't use the skin in sweets. We want the texture to be smooth after all!
Although the skin is quite thick, because of the round shape I like to peel it with a potato peeler. I've also tried peeling it with a regular knife but I find I waste quite a lot of the flesh when I do that.
Peel it until there's no more green left on the kabocha.
Kabocha is pretty firm so make sure to use a large, sharp knife to cut it. And be careful!
While many people roast pumpkin to make it soft (and by all means you can!) that takes a lot of time and I wanted to speed up the recipe. I like to soften the kabocha up in the microwave and make a puree using the following steps:
- Cut the kabocha up small and place it in a microwavable bowl. (Small pieces microwave faster.)
- Add ½ tbsp of water.
- Cover the bowl in plastic wrap.
- Microwave for 4 minutes at 600W.
I've never needed to microwave it longer than this, but pierce it with a fork and if it's not soft enough, microwave again in 20-30 second intervals until it's soft enough to mash. This is especially important if you cut the pieces big or are using more kabocha than stated in the recipe.
Making a puree
My final step is mashing up the microwaved kabocha until no more lumps remain. I use a potato masher for this!
A food processor will make it even smoother, but I like to save on the washing up as much as possible.
Kabocha Pumpkin Bread
Although kabocha pumpkin bread is easy to make, I have a few tips I want to share with you.
I usually bake my kabocha loaf at 160°C (320°F) for 45 minutes and then keep piercing it with a toothpick every few minutes after that. To me, there's nothing worse than a dry loaf cake!
The toothpick doesn't need to come out perfectly clean, moist crumbs means it's perfectly cooked.
Adjust the Pumpkin Flavour to your taste
The reason I don't give a specific amount of kabocha on this recipe, is because it's customizable depending on how strong you want the pumpkin flavour to be!
I've tried adding between 100g - 300g and I found that I personally like to add 175g of kabocha. For me, the flavour is subtle but pumpkin-y enough. However I know many people love a stronger pumpkin flavour, so you can add up to 225g.
Please note that adding more pumpkin will make it more moist, so it might take a little longer to cook.
Fresh Kabocha VS. Pumpkin Puree
While pumpkin bread (and pumpkin pie) are usually made with pumpkin puree, did you know that most pumpkin puree is actually made from butternut squash?
That's one of the reasons why Japanese kabocha works so well for recipes that call for pumpkin puree. It has a lot of similarities to butternut squash.
If you can't find kabocha in your country, it's fine to use pumpkin puree for this recipe. If you're using the canned variety, I'd recommend using half a 15oz can (425g) OR if you want to use the whole can, you can double the recipe.
Whenever I make loaf cakes or muffins, I like to add a sprinkling of a sugar we call "zarame" (ザラメ). It's a brown sugar that comes in large crystals. They don't melt very well, so the top of the loaf becomes crunchy, it's so good! You can use demerara sugar to create a similar effect.
It's also nice to decorate it with green pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for extra colour and texture.
This recipe makes enough batter for one small loaf tin. My loaf tin is 18x8x6cm (7x3x2.3inches) which fits about 2 cups (500ml) worth of loaf mixture.
Originally, I recommended increasing the recipe if you are using a standard American loaf pan (9x5) but actually, after some feedback from one of our valuable readers, it turns out there is no need to increase it. The loaf rises a lot in the oven, so it's actually enough batter even for pans larger than the one I used.
Just be aware that the baking time might change depending on the size of your pan. (Deeper will take longer, wider will bake quicker.)
I recommend eating a few warm slices straight from the oven to fully appreciate the freshly made kabocha pumpkin bread... but if you don't finish the loaf, you can store it in the following ways:
- 2 days - Room temperature in an air tight container
- 1 week - In the fridge in an air tight container
- 3 months - In the freezer in an air tight container (defrost at room temperature.)
I seriously love this loaf straight out the oven, it's also great toasted and then topped with a bit of butter and honey. Delicious!