What to call this post? ‘Pumpkin re-visited’, or ‘Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween - The Return’, or ‘The cake that didn’t make it to the birthday party’, or ‘The cake that eventually got shared’. You choose!
But whatever I call it I need to write the recipe up and tell a wee story.
I make this cake once or twice a year, a great way to use up some of the huge pumpkins and squash I grow, is tasty, not too sweet, oh and has alcohol in it. Ready?
The recipe uses Grappa to soak the sultanas and we had run out of it. I tried to get some locally but it was a no-show and I really didn’t want to go to a supermarket – I avoid them as much as is humanly possible, in fact if I could avoid them on a permanent basis I would. A bright idea, ask my local Italian restaurant-pizzeria if they could get me some Grappa. Well of course they could, how much did I want? I fessed up and said it was for a cake and all I needed was a shot glass. Well then you don’t need to buy a whole bottle as it its only for cooking, have ours. 2 minutes later, clutching a carrier bag with a bottle of Grappa I made my way home.
Don’t you just love your local pizzeria!
So of course as I’d supped on their Grappa I had to take some of the cake as a thank you – and yes we played the “what is the cake made of” guessing game, and no, nobody guessed correctly.
The cake is very moist, not a crumbly little airy thing, I used a 10 inch cake tin and baked it at 180C for about 20 to 30 minutes and then turned the oven down to 160C to finish cooking. As I said it’s very moist and you don’t want to burn the bottom or the top while the middle remains uncooked, so I find a lower temperature and patience is your best ally. You can either cook the pumpkin as per the recipe, or bake it and then add the butter or as I did and steamed / microwaved the pumpkin and then added the butter.
Torta di Zucca – Pumpkin Cake from Classic Italian Cooking – Valentina Harris
“A traditional and delicious recipe from the Veneto region where humble pumpkins are widely used.” Serves 6 to 8
- 150g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 600g, good quality, ripe, orange pumpkin or butternut squash – when peeled I found it was about 450g in weight
- A pinch of salt
- 150g granulated sugar
- 50g crushed (ground) almonds
- 50g candied citron peel
- 50g sultanas, soaked in Grappa until swollen – I use a shot glass full of Grappa and leave the sultanas to soak for about 30 minutes minimum, preferably an hour
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 80g plain flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs separated
- Icing sugar for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and carefully line a 30cm loose bottomed cake tin.
- Peel and cube the pumpkin into small chunks, then place in a saucepan with the butter and cook gently until the pumpkin is soft.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the salt and mash thoroughly
- Stir in the granulated sugar, almonds, candied citron, sultanas with the grappa and the grated lemon zest. Beat together very thoroughly.
- Sift the flour and baking powder and stir.
- Beat the egg yolks in a bowl until light and foamy, then fold into the pumpkin mixture.
- Beat the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl until stiff, fold in lightly (with a metal spoon)
- Turn the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about 1 hour, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean
- Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and then dust with icing sugar to serve.
And as the weather is finally promising something that isn’t wet and grey I’m off up to the allotment – a long awaited session calls me. Happy cooking and gardening!