Squashes, pumpkins and gourds.
Crown Prince, Turks Turban, Harlequin, Onion, Gem, Wee be little, Gold Dust, Howden Big Boy, Sumo, Rouge de Temp, Munchkin ….
I can go on and on and on!
One of autumn’s most versatile vegetables, I really love the squash family which also includes courgettes and marrows.
The harvest is in October, but as they store well, the pumpkin season can last until January. When buying pumpkins look for unblemished skins. They should be heavy for their size, which indicates ripeness.
I usually roast pumpkins, cut into slices and well seasoned, because this concentrates the flavour, before using in soups, risottos and pasta.
They also add wonderful bite when added in chunks to curries and stews.
To ring the changes from savoury, here follows a recipe for a wonderful cake that makes the most of pumpkin’s inherent sweetness and dense texture.
Based on a recipe by Leela, author of the beautiful and inspirational food blog www.shesimmers.com this is without doubt my favourite cake at the moment!
Light as a feather, soft and with a texture best described as a cross between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.
Autumnal, easy to make, delicious with (whipped) cream this cake can easily double as a dessert.
Perfect for those of you who are not that keen on regular cheesecake (me included: too rich, too claggy) or traditional pumpkin pie.
To lighten the cake somewhat, I have replaced the mascarpone (40% fat) with ricotta (8% fat). I used large eggs, slightly less milk, a smaller spring form and also reduced the baking time.
Use good quality, free-range (and organic), eggs. It really makes a difference. I love Burford Browns but they are too small for this recipe.
The whiskey and vanilla come through (more as a scent than a flavour especially when the cake is still warm), but they don’t overpower the subtle flavour of the ricotta and pumpkin providing just a hum in the background – as it should do.
Instead of butternut squash you can ofcourse use any other squash or pumpkin. They’ll all give the cake a subtly different colour.
Leela says its OK to use canned pumpkin but I don’t see the point of that when squashes are so plentiful at the moment. If you are going to make this cake, having to boil + puree a chunk of pumpkin should not hold you back.
I urge you to give this cake a try – you won’t regret it!
This is what you need:
A buttered, bottom lined with baking paper, 8 inch/20 cm spring form or round cake tin
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 240g pumpkin (I used butternut squash), boiled until soft + pureed until lump-free and left to cool completely
- 140g granulated sugar
- 125g ricotta
- 3 tbsp milk
- 2 tbsp whisky
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring!)
- 50g butter, melted
- 65g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
This is what you do:
- pre-heat the oven to 170C
- in a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the milk
- using a handheld electric mixer, whisk in the vanilla extract, whiskey and melted butter until the mixture is smooth
- add the egg yolks, one by one, whisking (on low setting) to make sure each egg yolk is fully absorbed before you add the next one
- using a spatula, mix in the pumpkin puree
- gently whisk in the flour and salt
- in a freestanding mixer/food processor, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar
- add the sugar in 3 lots, continuing to whisk until the mixture is glossy and starting to form peaks
- using a large metal spoon, lightly fold 1/4 of the eggs whites into the squash puree until absorbed
- mix in the remainder of the egg whites until well combined and the mixture is streak-free
- pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin
- bake for 50 minutes and then check to see if the cake is done: the cake should be golden brown and the middle should feel firm but springy when pressed lightly with a finger
- if not add continue baking and check at 5 minute intervals
- remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the baking tin before turning the cake out
I love the soft sheen on the top of this cake and its pale orange colour and therefore prefer to leave it unadorned, but you could dust the cake lightly with icing sugar.
Serve as it is or with whipped cream.
Hello autumn – happy baking!