Pumpkin normally appears in rich pies or hearty cakes. But here, with rice flour and a hint of spice, it produces a moist, fluffy cake with subtle flavors. I’ve tasted it with every imaginable topping from frosting to whipped cream and candied nuts, only to find that a sprinkling of spiced sugar is the best topping of all: Everything else overwhelms the delicate flavor of the cake.
This recipe was inspired by, but does not appear in, Flavor Flours (Artisan, 2014) by Alice Medrich. —Alice Medrich
10 to 12
(200 grams) sugar
large egg yolks, at room temperature
neutral vegetable oil (such rice bran, corn, or safflower)
1 1/4 cups
(285 grams) pumpkin purée
1 1/4 cups
(200 grams) white rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons
freshly grated or ground nutmeg
large egg whites, at room temperature
cream of tartar
Spiced sugar: 2 tablespoon sugar mixed with 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
10-inch (10- to 12-cup) tube pan, with removable bottom, ungreased
Set aside 1/4 cup (50 grams) of the sugar for later (to stiffen the egg whites).
Add the remaining sugar to a large mixing bowl with the egg yolks, oil, pumpkin, rice flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. Whisk to blend thoroughly.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325° F.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat with the whisk on medium-high speed until the mixture is creamy white and holds a soft shape. Slowly sprinkle in the reserved sugar, beating at high speed until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Scrape half of the egg whites onto the batter and fold until partially blended. Add the remaining egg whites and fold just until the batter looks blended. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes dry, with only a few tiny crumbs clinging to it.
Set the pan on a rack to cool.
To unmold, slide a thin knife or skewer around the tube and the sides of the pan to detach them from the cake. Lift the tube and remove the cake from the pan. Slide a thin spatula under the cake all around, pressing against the bottom of the pan to avoid tearing the cake. Sprinkle the top and sides (tilting the cake) with the spicy sugar. Lift the cake off the bottom of the pan using two spatulas (one on either side of the tube) and transfer it to a serving platter. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight, at room temperature for at least 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).