In China, these cakes are a common sweet treat, with different renditions made from other texturally similar gourds or stuffed with fillings like red bean paste. But the ease and simplicity of this three-ingredient version that I've been eating since childhood makes them my go-to. Whip up a batch of these kabocha squash cakes for breakfast or dessert … or just because it's autumn.
Technique tip: Depending on the moisture level of your squash or pumpkin, you may need slightly more or less flour than noted.
Fill a wide pot with 2 inches of water. Place kabocha squash onto a steaming rack, skin-side down, then set the rack inside the pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let the squash steam for about 25 minutes, or until the flesh can be pierced effortlessly with a fork. Turn off the stove and remove the squash from the heat to cool.2.
Remove the skins of the squash and discard. In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to mash the squash flesh into a paste. Add sugar and mix to combine. Add half the glutinous rice flour, using a wooden spoon to incorporate it into the squash mixture. When the mixture becomes resistant to stirring, use clean hands to bring everything together and form a dough. Continue incorporating a couple more tablespoons of flour at a time, until the mixture firms up into a consistency resembling playdough and pulls away cleanly from the edges of the bowl. Continue to knead by hand for a few more minutes to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated. Shape the dough into discs, approximately 3-inches wide and 1/2-inch tall. At this stage, you can optionally coat the cakes in breadcrumbs.3.
To a nonstick pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, add the cakes in a single layer and let cook for 4 minutes, or until golden-brown. Flip the cakes and cook for another 4 minutes on the opposite side, or until golden-brown. Transfer the cakes to a plate and enjoy while warm!