I love pumpkin in sweet and savoury recipes, and I was delighted to discover that it is often baked into cakes in Italy. The grated flesh gives an earthy depth, sweetness and moistness to the cake as well as being undeniably autumnal. This Torta di Zucca is the cavallo di battaglia (battle horse, or secret weapon) of one of my friend’s aunts, who serves it unfrosted, though I love this rich, creamy icing so much I am loathe to part with it, however good the cake may be on its own. You can use any sweet eating pumpkin or squash for this, such as butternut, crown prince or onion squash.
Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Orange & Mascarpone Icing
- 120 g (4 oz) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 200 g (7 oz) pumpkin, peeled and finely grated
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 70 ml (2 1⁄2 fl oz/5 tbsp) light olive or seed oil
- 230 g (8 oz) light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 250 g (9 oz/2 cups) 00 or all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- zest of 1 orange plus 1 tbsp juice
- 250 g (9 oz) mascarpone
- 180 g (6 1/4 oz) full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese
- 100 g (3 1⁄2 oz/3⁄4 cup) icing (confectioner’s) sugar
- orange zest, sprinkles, or candied orange slices,
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Butter 2 × 22 cm (8 1⁄2 in) sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Put the grated pumpkin in a bowl and add the orange zest and juice.
- In a large mixing bowl and using an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter, oil and sugar until pale, smooth and fluffy, with a light caffe latté colour. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until they are fully incorporated.
- Add the salt, cinnamon, flour, baking powder and, finally, the grated pumpkin and orange mix, and stir to combine.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tins, dividing it equally and smoothing the tops. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until risen and golden. Insert a skewer or spaghetti strand to check it’s done (see p 252).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out of the tins and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Beat the ingredients for the icing together in a mixing bowl. Spread half of the icing over the base of the cake, sandwiching it with the top half, then spread the remainder of the icing on top.
- Decorate with orange zest or sprinkles, as you see fit. Some slivers of candied orange would also be nice.
Excerpted with permission from La Vita e Dolce by Letitia Clark, published by Hardie Grant Books, June 2021