Flourless Pumpkin Cake

As you might have grasped from the latest updates, I am no longer in Veneto. A few things have changed since the last post, mostly regarding the fact that I put a few miles between me and the homeland. Long story short, I am now in sunny Sydney.

The plan is to be here for a few months (more on that another time). Meanwhile, I am just enjoying the fact that I’m escaping winter and getting a double dose of summer instead. The seasonality change might twist things around a bit on these pages, mostly because this is meant to be a seasonal recipe journal, and what’s in season here now are lovely green peas and crisp asparagus. It feels a bit confusing, admittedly, so I’m trying to take things easy. For now, just to get into the groove of the holiday season and tune in with what’s happening in our respective home countries, Jesse and I have been baking quite a few autumnal delights. That, despite the fact that it’s very warm and sunny outside my window.

As temperatures soar well into the 40°C, we agreed that we could skip Christmas lunch this year. Our wedding anniversary being right before Christmas, we thought we would celebrate that instead. Thanksgiving, though…He won’t let it be missed. No matter where, how, no matter whether traditional or haphazard, the meal shan’t be skipped. We celebrated one in Piedmont and a couple in London, and now, we’ll do one in Sydney. If everything goes according to plans, dinner will be quite untraditional and on the lighter side. Maybe a potato and green bean salad to go with a roasted bird of some sort. Maybe a starter of spritz with bruschette or crostini to throw some Venetian flair in there, too. As for cake, that’s sorted – it’ll be this one I’m telling you about now.

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; I stumbled upon it when Emiko shared it on Food52 about a year ago, and thought about making it ever since. 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 pumkin 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, rather than flour, is only a bit of almond meal, which helps keeping the texture on the soft, moist side. To make it less wet, then – as I like mine a tad less custardy/more cakey – 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, Emiko suggest using butternut squash (zucca gialla); yet a dry-fleshed orange pumpkin such as delica works, too.

 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.


  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

  3. rossella November 25, 2015

    mamma mia sono incantata dalle foto… scrollo 'sto mouse su e giù che paro scema… 🙂

    • Valeria November 27, 2015

      Grazie Ross! <3 Nuova cucina, nuova luce, nuovi bianchi…serve farci un po' l'abitudine ma già mi sto divertendo a giocarci! x

  4. Anonymous November 27, 2015

    Hi Valentine,
    Are we supposed to throw the egg whites out or should they go into the cake?

    • Valeria November 29, 2015

      Hello! So sorry about this, my bad – you use whole eggs in the cake. I just amended the instructions. Hope you'll give the cake a try – I'd love to hear how you liked it! x

  5. Rosemarie November 27, 2015

    I've been looking forward to your first post from Sydney. Yes, I can imagine things will change a bit given that you're now in the southern hemisphere and your blog is a seasonal one. It's hard to believe but I haven't had a summer Christmas since 2008. You'll enjoy the novelty of the change of season definitely. I remember being very excited when I had my first winter Christmas in Europe. Artusi's 'Scienza nella cucina' is one of my go to recipe books whenever I need inspiration or am researching the history of an Italian dish. It's never on my bookshelf but always close by on my kitchen counter or my bedside table. Would love to give this pumpkin pie a go and Christmas here in Turin may be the perfect occasion for it. 🙂

    • Valeria November 29, 2015

      I am enjoying it so much. Hot Christmas is a bit strange, admittedly, but if I don't think about it, it just feel like summer and I'm just loving it because of that – I haven't had a proper summer in London since when I moved there four years ago. And the mangoes and seafood are just to die for! So not too bad 🙂 As for the seasonality…I'll figure it out. Always lovely to hear from you Rosemarie. Christmas in Turin is magical – I love le luci d'artista. I have great memories of strolling along via Lagrange during the holidays – it's just so nice. Have a bicerin for me! x


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