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Savory Pumpkin Cake (Torta Salgada de Abóbora)

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Fall is here, and cooking with pumpkin is in full effect at my house! With that wonderful squash, I make everyday kind of dishes as well as more special dishes or “party” food.

Perfect for any occasion, this moist and fluffy savory cake can be sliced and served as an appetizer, or as a meal itself with a side salad - arugula would be great.

Last week, I made this recipe for a party. It was served sliced, at room temperature, as an appetizer. As per usual, I made a very traditional Brazilian version, using typical ingredients from Brazil - simply because I love to display (and introduce) those flavors to my American friends. People really enjoyed!

I used carne-seca (traditional Brazilian Jerk beef) for the filling, but do not think that you must do the same. This is a very versatile cake, and the filling can be any of your choice. I think that Bolognese, shredded chicken with tomatoes, or a mix of sautéed vegetables would taste wonderful!

The cake method could not be any easier: all ingredients are blended together, then the mashed pumpkin is folded in. That’s it!

With traditional Brazilian filling, or with your choice of filling, I can guarantee that this delicious savory cake will satisfy your fall cravings! Take a look…

Savory Pumpkin Cake (Torta Salgada de Abóbora)

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 ¼ cups milk
  • ¼ grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cups vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cups mashed pumpkin (preferably from scratch) *See Cook’s Notes 1
  • 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds, sesame seeds, or roasted pumpkin seeds for garnishing (optional)

Filling Ingredients (Optional):

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 small chili pepper, jalapeño, or any hot pepper of your choice finely chopped
  • 2 ½ cups (about 1 pound) of soaked, cooked, trimmed, shredded carne-seca (high quality beef jerky) *See Cook’s Notes 2
  • 2 ripe tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup requeijão, or mascarpone *See Cook’s Notes 3
  • ¼ cup cilantro, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely sliced
  • Salt *See Cook’s Notes 4

Directions:

Step 1 – Make the filling of your choice. Here is the method for the filling that I used this time:

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili pepper and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add carne-seca (beef jerky) and stir to combine. Add tomatoes and cook until they are incorporated into sauce; 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in requeijão (or mascarpone), cilantro and scallions. Sample and add a bit of salt, if needed. Set aside.

Step 2 – Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and lightly sprinkle with flour a rectangular baking pan measuring 9inx13in.

Add eggs, flour, milk, parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt to a blender. Blend until combined; about one minute.

Place mashed pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Add the batter and gently fold with a spatula, until incorporated.

Tilt half of the batter into prepared baking pan. Add the filling of your choice, and gently mix with a spatula to lightly combine. Tilt over the remaining batter. Top with the garnish of your choice (optional).

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:

1) Making mashed pumpkin from scratch is simple. It also tastes better and it is better for you. So here is how: place a pie pumpkin on a cutting board. Cut off stem and scrape the insides and discard. Cut the pumpkin in half crosswise and lay cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about an hour. Remove from oven and allow cooling. Scoop out the pulp and smash it with a fork or in a food processor.

2) The definition for carne-seca on Wikipedia is “Carne-seca ('dried meat' in Portuguese) is a kind of dried, salted meat, usually beef, in Brazilian cuisine.”

Carne-seca would be the Brazilian version of the American Beef Jerky, but not that cheap, overly seasoned kind that we can buy in those small packages pretty much anywhere. It is a gourmet kind. I heard that high quality beef jerky is available at specialty meat markets. I went to a couple of places in Tampa, but I had no luck. So, my guess is that if you want to make this dish with this specific filling, either make a trip to a Latin or Brazilian grocery store or buy it online.

Also, carne-seca is typically very salty. Make sure to soak it overnight before cooking. Then cook it in a crock pot filled with 4 cups of water for at least 10 hours; or use a pressure cooker. Remove the pieces of meat and discard the water. Allow the carne-seca to come to a room temperature before shredding. SUPER IMPORTANT: shred very finely and remove all visible fat.

3) The definition for requeijão on Wikipedia is “The Brazilian product is a type of cream cheese white in color (but not similar to the American notion of cream cheese, and may be better understood as "creamy cheese"). It has a mild taste and its consistency can vary from creamy solid, like the catupiry, to liquid. Requeijão can be found in Latin or Brazilian grocery stores. When I don’t have requeijão available, I like to use the Italian mascarpone in my recipes. Mascarpone serves as a very good substitute for requeijão and it can be found at any regular grocery store.

4) Make sure to taste the sauce before adding more salt. As I mentioned above, carne-seca can still be fairly salty even after soaked.

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