Stefano of Italian Home Cooking, an Italian chef who lives in the UK, always has great authentic regional Italian recipes. When I saw this very unusual cake from Monferrato in Piemonte on his blog, I decided at once that I wanted to make it. But since I have been preparing (and eating) fewer desserts for some years now, it is more than two years after I saw the recipe that I actually got around to preparing it. As I was serving it on Valentine’s Day, I decided to serve it in heart shapes.
As Stefano rightly points out in his blog post, “apple and pumpkin” doesn’t do it justice, as it also contains chocolate, raisins, figs, amaretti, brandy and rum. This cake is so delicious that I now regret not making it sooner. The flavor is perfectly balanced and very complex. And although it is a bit of work, it is very easy and the recipe is very forgiving. The cake is so moist that the risk of dried out cake is very low. The cake isn’t actually baked but more “dried out” in the oven, which is actually not a bad description for a lot that goes on in ovens. The time needed depends on the thickness. As I had more stuff that needed to go into the oven the afternoon I was making this, I decided to use an entire 37 x 32 cm (15 x 13 inch) rimmed baking sheet. This reduced the baking time from the 3 hours indicated by Stefano to only 90 minutes. And it allowed me to cut those heart shapes.
For a 37 x 32 cm (15 x 13 inch) baking sheet, 16 servings
1 butternut squash, net weight after peeling and seeding 1 kilo (2.2 lbs), diced
1.5 kilos (3.3 lbs) apples, net weight after peeling and coring 1 kilo (2.2 lbs), diced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
240 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange
200 grams (7 oz) amaretti biscuits, crushed with a rolling pin
pinch of salt
12 dried figs, chopped
50 grams (1 big handful) raisins
60 ml (1/4 cup) brandy or cognac
60 ml (1/4 cup) dark rum
200 grams (7 oz) dark chocolate, I used 85% cocoa content, finely chopped
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the diced pumpkin or squash with 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp of the sugar.
Bake the pumpkin or squash for 45 minutes at 200C/400F, turning every 15 minutes.
In the meantime, peel and core the apples and toss them with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Bake them at 200C/400F for 30 minutes. (If you use the fan forced setting of your oven, you can bake the apples and pumpkin at the same time.)
Crush the amaretti with a rolling pin. This is less messy if you put the amaretti in a ziploc bag first.
Beat the eggs with the remaining sugar…
…until pale and creamy.
Soak the chopped figs in the brandy or cognac and the raisins in the rum.
Add the finely chopped chocolate, crushed amaretti, cocoa powder, and salt to the beaten eggs.
Add the grated orange zest.
Stir to mix.
Mash the pumpkin when it is cooked and allow to cool (to less than 50C/120F).
Mash the apples when they are cooked and allow to cool (to less than 50C/120F).
Lower the oven temperature to 150C/300F.
Add the pumpkin, apple, raisins, and figs (including all the booze) to the mixture.
Stir to mix.
Line a 37 x 32 cm (15 x 13 inch) baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread out the batter onto the paper, flattening the top with a spatula.
Bake at 150C/300F until it looks dry and cracks appear, about 90 minutes.
Allow to cool to serve, as it will firm up as it cools. The cake will be very moist. It keeps well in the refrigerator.
This is outstanding with a hefty complex dessert wine, like a muscat or moscatel that was aged in glass bottles, or an aged Sauternes.
This unbaked lasagna with a mutton ragù is unusual but delicious. The idea is quite simple: alternating layers of fresh pasta and ragù are served without the usual step of baking the lasagna in the oven.