• Makes 1 loaf cake

You know that classic squishy, cozy pumpkin bread? This is that same lovable loaf—except pastry chef Nicole Rucker ratchets up every flavor, then splashes a genius, extra-glossy glaze over the top. And just like the classic, it makes a very happy gift that keeps astonishingly well for days.

As former Gjelina chef Travis Lett wrote in the Gjelina cookbook of Nicole’s cake, “This cake goes down equally well as a breakfast pastry, tea cake, or simple dessert. The deep mineral flavor of the kabocha, and the rustic crumb it produces is swirled with dark bittersweet chocolate.”

A few more tips: If you’re wondering if you can bake this cake ahead, yes—not only does it keep extremely well, but I happen to love the flavor most on days two and beyond. If you can’t find kabocha squash, red kuri squash is a good substitute, or other dry, creamy squash varieties. If you needed to substitute butternut or other more watery varieties, Nicole recommends adding in this step from the original recipe: “In a large piece of cheesecloth, wrap the pureed squash in a tight bundle. Put in a colander set over a bowl, and let drain at least 4 hours. Squeeze by twisting the cheesecloth to remove extra water.”

Recipe adapted slightly from Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California (Chronicle Books, October 2015).



  • 1 (1-pound / 455-gram) piece kabocha squash, seeded

  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (255ml)

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 8 ounces (230 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • 3 tablespoons raw pepitas (for the glaze)


  • 1 1/4 cups (150 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

  • 2 tablespoons hot water

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons crushed cacao nibs


  1. Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C). On a sheet pan, drizzle the squash with olive oil, turn the piece cut-side down, and cook until very soft and beginning to caramelize around the edges, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Scrape out the squash flesh and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

  2. Measure out 1 cup (225 grams) and let it cool to room temperature. (Store any leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 5 days—the puree is very good smeared on toast.)

  3. Heat oven to 325℉ (165°C). Butter a 9x5-inch (23x12-centimeter) loaf pan.

  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, olive oil, squash puree, and eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the squash mixture. Whisk until just combined. Stir the chocolate into the batter.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until browned on the top and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert the cake from the pan and let cool on the rack for another 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate.

  6. In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, gently toast the pepitas until just fragrant and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool.

  7. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with 2 tablespoons hot water until you have a thick glaze. Add more confectioners’ sugar or water as needed to create a smooth glaze with the viscosity of honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly.

  8. Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Sprinkle with the cacao nibs and pepitas and let the glaze set completely before serving, about 1 hour.

Reprinted with permission from Food 52’s Genius Recipes as originally published here in their December 2020 Issue