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
Adapted from Emiko’s take on Artusi’s recipe (on Food 52)
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.