Torta di Zucca from the Veneto
Oh my. This cake is a good one.
Beautiful, fragrant, moist, special.
This cake is perfect for your Thanksgiving table, and believe it or not, it's light.
Torta di Zucca is really a "pumpkin" cake, however, I am not fan of pumpkin pie (ew), and the recipe says use a Barucca squash (what is that?) or a Butternut squash, so the obvious choice was the latter.
This is another beautiful recipe from the book Cucina Ebraica (the Jewish Cooking of Italy). The recipe is of Sephardic origins from Venice, and is much like that gorgeous Venetian Carrot Cake I made from the same book.
Because I didn't have any plum grappa as the recipe called for, (and who really does?), I soaked my raisins in Manischewitz Grape wine.
Yes, I did. Don't judge.
I had no Port in the house, and no Vin Santo, and Bourbon just didn't go with the squash, so I improvised.
It is only 3 tbsp of wine, so sub in whatever sweet wine you may have.
A quick tip: you can buy butternut squash already cut up, and that will save you a lot of time.
Also, I love candied lemon peel (citron), but if you don't, you can certainly leave it out and still have an amazing cake.
I made some minor changes to the recipe: The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of butter, which I misread, so only used 1 stick (1/2 cup).............even with the mishap, the cake was still SUPER moist and dense.
*Confession: The original recipe calls for separating the eggs, beating the whites, however, the lazy baker did NOT separate the eggs and whip the egg whites (my least favorite chore besides polishing silver).
I added the eggs in whole, one at a time, and again, no big deal, the cake was perfect.
Torta di Zucca from the Veneto: (adapted from Cucina Ebraica)
1 Butternut Squash, about 2 lbs., peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2" pieces (I wound up with about 3.5 cups)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup of raisins, plumped up in 3 tbsp of sweet wine or plum grappa
zest of 2 large lemons
1/3 cup of candied citron, chopped fine (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated
Soak the raisins in 3 tablespoons of wine for about 20 minutes to plump.
In a large heavy skillet, melt the stick of butter and add the diced squash.
Cover and cook on low heat until the squash is softened and mushy.
While the squash is cooking, butter a 9" cake pan (I love springform pans for easy release!), and line with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a large bowl, add the sugar, ground almonds, plumped raisins, citron and zest. Whisk together.
Add in the cooked squash w/ all the melted butter to the sugar mixture. Once this mixture has cooled a bit, mix in the 3 eggs, one at a time. (*see my confession above about separating the eggs).
In another bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the squash mixture and mix to make a batter.
Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
If you are planning on freezing this cake for Thanksgiving, don't add the powdered sugar until you are going to serve.