Flourless Pumpkin Cake

Far from being a modern take on pumpkin pie, this is a cake that dates back to the end of the 1800s.

The recipe is included with the name of Torta di Zucca Gialla in Italian food bible “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” by Artusi. The cake, it turns out, has the marvellous, moist texture of pumpkin pie filling. When you eat it, it feels like biting into a creamy, smooth crustless pumpkin pie, except here the flavour and texture of the pumpkin truly takes centre stage, with cinnamon only playing a supporting role. What holds it together is a dash of almond meal, which helps keeping the texture on the soft, moist side.

To make it less wet, I upped the almond meal game a bit, and included the smallest amount of cornstarch to help with excess moisture (the original recipe calls for breadcrumbs). However, if pumpkin pie filling is your thing, leave the cornstarch/breadcrumbs out altogether to enjoy this creamy delight in its purest form.

A note on the pumpkin puree. I highly recommend making the puree from scratch rather than using canned puree here. The flavour of the pumpkin is the dominant one so you want it to be as good and fresh as it can be. If you must use canned, choose brands that use quality pumpkin for best results. I’m not an expert, but I found those coming in glass jars to be better than those in cans – usually. As for the pumpkin variety, butternut squash (zucca gialla) or a dry-fleshed orange pumpkin such as delica both work.

 Flourless Pumpkin Cake

3 medium eggs, at room temperature
100 g / scant 1/2 cup caster sugar or light brown sugar
150 g/ 1 ½ cup almond meal or ground almonds
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
600 g/ 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (see Note)
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
Knob of unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
Sliced almonds, for garnishing
Icing sugar, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 23-cm (9-inch) tart pan with butter and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until this has dissolved. Add the almond meal, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine. Finally, add the pumpkin puree and rum (if using), and stir again to incorporate. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin. Smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the sliced almonds.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until fully set and golden on top. The texture will be fairly soft, so don’t fret if the cake shrinks while cooling – sort of like a soufflé – for it’s normal. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Note: the puree for this recipe was obtained from roasting 1 Kg (seeded) pumpkin on a low oven (165°C/330°F) until very soft – about 2 hours. The pulp is then scraped off the skin and transferred to a sieve over a bowl for 24 hours to lose most of its moisture. At that point, you should have a fairly waterless but still creamy puree.


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  1. Valentine November 24, 2015

    This looks so delicious! I think I might make it for a Friendsgiving celebration on Sunday. How far ahead-of-time can I make it? And…okay, kind of weird question…would it be difficult to remove the whole cake from the pan once it's cooled? I'm studying abroad and have limited kitchen supplies. Need to use the pan for another dish I'm making. Thanks a bunch. xx Valentine

  2. Valeria November 24, 2015

    Hi Valentine! You can make it a couple of days ahead – it'll be fine in the fridge. I found it a bit fiddly to rormove from the pan as a whole, but maybe it'll work if you try with a spring form pan with just the bottom lined with parchment. Or else maybe you can transport it already sliced of cut into bite size portions 🙂 hope it goes well! xo


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