My passion for the history and traditions of the Italian Jewish community is continually reflected in the dishes I am drawn to. Some time ago La Mamma gifted me Cucina Ebraica – Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, by the one and only Joyce Goldstein. The book is a compilation of well researched history, traditions and recipes of the Jewish community in Italy; a treasure trove of information. Over the years I had referred to Cucina Ebraica often when planning holiday meals, a favorite recipe has been her pumpkin cake from the Veneto which I have adapted and call Treviso Pumpkin Cake.
Cucina Ebraica identifies the specific squash used in naming this torta: Torta di Zucca Barucca. Zucca barucca, a pumpkin of sorts is squatty and green with the appearance of warts on its outer skin. The flesh is bright orange in color and sweet in flavor. The etymology of the word barucca is said to possibly be a play on the Italian word veruca which means wart or perhaps from the Hebrew word baruch meaning holy. Readily available in the Fall market stands in the Veneto region, Zucca barucca is commonly used for pasta fillings and desserts and has been a staple in the diets of the Italian Jewish community in the area. As barruca squash is not available here, a reasonable substitute is butternut squash.
The preparation of the squash is a bit atypical in that it is first cooked in butter until completely softened. Although the recipe calls for ground almonds, I decided to add a few amaretti cookies to the mix. Once the cooked squash has cooled a bit, candied citron, grappa soaked raisins, ground almond & amaretti and a generous amount of freshly grated lemon peel are added. You can only imagine the perfume that full the kitchen.
The process is simple, requiring only a few large mixing bowls – that is unless you really need to use an electric mixer to whip three eggs whites.
The finished cake is rich and moist with flecks of the citron and raisins along with a lemony scent and hints of cinnamon. Treviso Pumpkin Cake would proudly grace any Thanksgiving table, so why not try something a bit different this year.
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- 1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
- 1½ stick of high quality unsalted butter, European if available
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
- ½ cup almonds
- 2 packages of Italian amaretti cookies, 4 cookies in all
- ½ cup candied citron, minced
- ⅓ cup golden raisins plumped in 3 tablespoons of grappa
- Finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 3 large eggs at room temperature and separated
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- Lemon strips for decorating the top
- Peel and half the butternut squash, removing the seeds & fiber. Dice into ½" pieces- you should have about 4 cups.
- Melt the butter in a large heavy duty saute pan over low heat, add the butternut squash and cover. Cook until the squash is tender and falling apart, anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. Stir occasionally mashing the squash with the back of a wooden spoon as you go along. The squash should be lump free when you are finished. Remove the cooked squash from the heat, turn it into a bowl and allow to cool until room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 325 º.
- Butter a 9 inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
- Grind the almonds and amaretti cookies together in a food processor. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
- Once the butternut squash has cooled, whisk in the granulated sugar and ground almonds/amaretti. Stir the citron, raisins and lemon zest into this mixture. Stir in the flour mixture to the squash mixture, mixing well. Add the egg yolks and beat in with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
- Using a clean bowl and whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks have formed. Carefully fold the egg whites into the squash mixture until no traces of white remain. Turn into the prepared springform pan and place into the oven.
- Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick emerges clean from the center of the cake. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cake is cooled, invert onto the wire rack, remove the bottom and parchment and invert again onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and decorate with a few strips of lemon peel
This is a beautiful simple cake and perfect for the upcoming holidays! I believe I’ve seen a similar looking squash to the zucca barucca in our grocery stores which carry European and Middle Eastern products. I love that you’ve transformed the not so pretty squash to a lovely dessert and Grappa soaked raisins are such a welcome addition! Just heavenly Paula!
I would be interested in you experimenting with that particular squash and some feedback of course. Grappa soaked raisins are a staple at our house; great for adding to baked goods, topping ice cream or yogurt, or any number of things. Thank you for you kind comment Marisa.
You have the best recipes! I like the addition of the amaretti cookies.
Ciao Chow Linda says
What a perfect cake for the fall season. I wonder if what we call”cheese pumpkin” here is similar to the barucca pumpkin?
That’s a good question Linda. From what I have been told, the barucca pumpkin itself is not available in the states. That being said, why not give the cheese pumpkin a try?