This is not your regular pumpkin cheesecake. Everyone who has tried it loves the mildly sweet, yet deeply autumnal, flavor and the moist, yet light and soft, texture of this cake. But neither they nor I could decide whether this moist and cheesy sponge cake qualifies as a cheesecake. Perhaps not. It’s more like a cross between the soft, cottony Japanese-style cheesecake and sponge cake, albeit with more substance. But if you would like another fall-ish dessert that:
1. Is easy to make.
2. Has a fairly narrow margin of error.
3. Has proven to be a hit at pretty much every party it has been taken to.
4. Features the creaminess and tang of cultured cheese without the heavy, dense texture.
Then this is a perfect cake to add to your repertoire.
The measurements are given in metrics for best and most consistent results. It’s very important that you use cake flour as instructed as even the best quality all-purpose flour doesn’t seem to produce the light, fluffy texture we look for. The other very important thing is to make sure that the pumpkin or squash purée is completely cooled before you add it to the recipe. Failure to do so has resulted in a cake that’s dense and gummy. The color of this cake varies depending on what type of pumpkin or squash you use. For example, canned pumpkin (which is okay to use) will give it a darker and more orange color, but a squash with bright yellow pulp (e.g. delicata, kabocha, acorn) will give the cake brighter and more yellow color. The batch you see here was made with golden nugget squash.
I like this cake without any usual pumpkin pie spices as this not only allows me to appreciate the subtle flavor of the mascarpone and the sweetness of the squash better but also makes for a cake with more vibrant yellow color. But this is up to you.
Pumpkin Mascarpone Bourbon Cake
(Make a 9-inch round cake)
6 large eggs, separated
240g pumpkin or squash purée (Sweet dumpling, acorn, delicata, golden nugget, and butternut are ideal.)
140g granulated sugar
114g mascarpone (or cream cheese)*
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g butter, melted
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mix (optional, not recommended)
65g cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice)
1. Line a 9-inch round (and tall) cake pan (or a springform pan) with parchment. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
3. Place the cheese and milk in a heat-proof glass mixing bowl and heat it up in the microwave on medium heat for a minute just to soften the cheese.
4. Whisk in the melted butter, bourbon, and vanilla; make sure the cheese mixture is lump-free.
5. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.
6. Whisk in the squash purée.
7. Gently whisk in cake flour and salt. If you’d like to add the pumpkin pie spice, do so at this point.
8. In a grease-free bowl and with a grease-free beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar (or lime/lemon juice) on medium-high speed. Add the sugar to the egg whites about 1/4 cup at a time. Continue to beat until the whites form soft peaks.
9. Scoop about 2 cups of the beaten egg whites and mix it into the squash mixture just to lighten it up. Then mix the two mixtures together, mix lightly but thoroughly with a spatula; make sure no egg white streaks remain.
10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, on the rack placed in the middle of the oven, for 60 minutes.
11. Check for doneness. The top of the cake should be golden brown and when you lightly press your finger on the top, the cake should spring back when you remove your finger.
12. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.
*UK-based Savvy Cook has made this cake using ricotta cheese (which has much lower fat than mascarpone) and butternut squash.