Pumpkin Mascarpone Bourbon Cake – Soft, Light, and Fluffy

pumpkin cheesecake
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.

pumpkin cheesecake
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)
Printable Version

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.

31 Responses to Pumpkin Mascarpone Bourbon Cake – Soft, Light, and Fluffy

  1. Tangled Noodle October 5, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    This cake will most definitely go into my repertoire. I love that it looks like a cheesecake on the outside, but has the lovely crumb of cake on the inside. Just lovely!

  2. Swathi October 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    This cake looks delicious. I need to try .

  3. Chef Fresco October 6, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    Woahhh! That thing looks freakin amazing!

  4. ♥peachkins♥ October 6, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    nice color!

  5. The Southern Cookbook October 6, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    This cake looks wonderful. I just love anything with pumpkin in it. Was it fairly moist?

  6. Anja October 6, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    Oh my God, this looks absolutely delicious. It looks like the German cheesekake (made with Fromage Frais) that my mom always has to make for me when I go home.
    Will go and check the house bar for bourbon now 🙂 (as i think I have all the other ingredients at home)

  7. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets October 6, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Wow the texture looks amazing. Thanks for sharing such a unique cake.

  8. pigpigscorner October 6, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Japanese pumpkin cheesecake? Sounds lovely!

  9. TabGeneve October 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    Already planning this for Thanksgiving. You think a cream cheese & icing sugar frosting would be too much- actually maybe add a pinch of that pumpkin pie spice to a frosting!!!! HEAVEN!!!!! New to the blog & LOVE IT!!!

  10. Leela October 6, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    TabGeneve – A sweet frosting won’t be too much for this cake at all flavor-wise, since it’s mild (to moderately, depending on where you set the bar) sweet. However, cream cheese and icing sugar *may* be a bit too heavy for the texture of this cake. I’m making this for Thanksgiving too, and I’m planning on making a batch of lightly sweetened whipped cream to serve on the side. Sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top of the whipped cream, and you’re all set! 🙂

  11. Leela October 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    TabGeneve – Actually, now that I think about it, adding a bit of bourbon to the heavy cream before you whip it may be a good idea — just to reinforce the bourbon that’s already in the cake.

  12. LanR October 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    That looks so delicious!

  13. Erika Beth, the Messy Chef October 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I’m not a big fan of cheesecake because it always seems so dense. I’m excited to try this! 🙂

  14. Brilynn October 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    This cake is so intriguing! I’m definitely going to try making it!

  15. Anonymous October 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to try this recipe, so I made this cake this afternoon. I took out of the oven about 30 minutes ago and I can’t wait to dig in. The top is golden and looking SOOOOO delicious. You can see the inside through the cracks on the top. Yellow. Creamy. Fluffy. Spongy. I’m drooling.


  16. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    It’s delicious, Leela. The texture is so unusual in a very very good way. Now I know what you mean you say it’s a cross between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.

    Next time, I’ll try it with pumpkin. I like darker colour.

    My only complaint is that this cake isn’t sweet enough for my sweet tooth, but I’m afraid to add more sugar as that may change the texture. I think I’ll do what you’ve recommended to another commenter to serve it with sweetened whipped cream.

    But overall I loooooooove this. It’s a keeper.


  17. Leela October 7, 2010 at 1:16 am #

    Bree – Yes, the cake is somewhat mildly sweet. By adding more sugar, you would only be adding more moisture to the batter and the end result would be “fudgier” and more dense texture. So I wouldn’t recommend it. Serving it with sweetened whipped cream is a great idea. You can also dust it with powdered sugar.

  18. Zach October 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Leela, this is easy to make than I thought. I’m still basking in the glory of being to make this cake. I’m definitely making this for Thanksgiving to show off my new baking prowess to my in-laws.

    By the way, I totally thought I’d be the first one to give you feedback on this cake. I see someone else beat me to it. Oh well.


  19. Leela October 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Zach – Go Zach!

  20. Cindy October 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    How important is it to use cake flour? Will the cake not succeed with regular all purpose flour?

  21. Leela October 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Cindy – From my and my testers’ experiences, cake flour is best in achieving the texture that can only be described as half custardy and half spongy. We think all-purpose flour tips the scale a bit too much to the custardy side for our liking.

  22. Anonymous October 8, 2010 at 2:42 am #

    Oh God, is this cake good. It’s not like anything we’ve ever had before. I didn’t do a good enough job of folding the whites into the yolk mixture, so there were some white gooey streaks. But it was still really, really good. Sam’s sitting here telling me to tell you it tastes even better cold!

    I think it’s sweet enough. What I think is missing is the bourbon flavor. Maybe my nose is broken but I can’t detect the bourbon smell. I guess adding more bourbon would only ruin the texture, right? You think we can put a few tiny holes in the cake after it’s baked and spray or brush bourbon on top of the cake and let it sit overnight, kinda like what we do to Jesse’s Kentucky Ginger Cake?

    Also, you know what else we’ll try next time we make this cake? (Oh, yes, there’ll be many more next times!) We want to top it with Sam’s mom’s candied pumpkin seeds. Wowie.

    Annie and Sam

  23. Leela October 8, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    Hey Annie – Sam’s right! I like this cake cold too. I think your idea of brushing bourbon into the cake after it’s baked is awesome. That’d add more booziness to it for sure. Don’t go overboard, though, because you don’t want the cake to be soggy or gummy.

    Sam’s mother’s candied pumpkin seeds on top of this cake would be just lovely. Great idea! <3 <3

  24. lisaiscooking October 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I’ve been going on and on about how much I’m craving pumpkin right now, and then I see this! Looks just amazing. Love the mascarpone and bourbon in it too.

  25. Anonymous October 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Leela, we made this cake yesterday for a dinner party and everyone was raving about it. It’s so moist and light. The flavor or the pumpkin really comes through. I’m emailing this link to everyone I know. Thanks!!

    Beth J.

  26. SavvyCook October 23, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi, a really fabulous cake (texture, flavour, ease of baking) and a lovely twist on the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie! I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to reduce its fat content and used ricotta – without any ill effect. Details can be found in SavvyCook’s blog
    Happy baking!

  27. Anonymous November 10, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    do you use fresh pumpkin / squash or canned?

  28. Leela November 10, 2010 at 5:19 am #

    Anon – You can use any of what you’ve mentioned. For this particular batch, I used fresh sweet dumpling squash. To achieve the same texture and color, you can used canned pumpkin.

  29. TheSunQuadrent November 29, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    this looks absolutely divine!
    I personally am not a boozy kind of person, would it mess up the recipe if i was to take out the bourbon?? or it the something I could sub it with that is not boozy? 😛

  30. Leela November 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    TheSunQuadrent – No, it won’t mess up the recipe. The bourbon is there just to provide a faint boozy fragrance anyway. To restore the loss of moisture, you can add orange or apple juice, or milk to it. 🙂


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