Pumpkin Tiramisu Torte


You know that fall has arrived when you notice an abundance of pumpkins at the supermarket.  My brain goes into cold-weather mode thinking of foods synonymous with fall, like pumpkin and apple pie.  Tiramisu is a popular dessert in cafes and restaurants throughout Italy.  It has also become a popular dessert here in the US.  So, I decided to incorporate pumpkin into my recipe for classic tiramisu and make it into a torte, thinking it would be a great desert for Thanksgiving in lieu of traditional pumpkin pie.

For the best results when making this recipe use only hard Italian style ladyfingers not soft ones or else the torte will be one soggy mess.  The texture of canned pumpkins can vary.  Some brands contain more liquid than others, so it is important to drain before using.  Many recipes for tiramisu use raw eggs.  I do not advocate using raw eggs because it increases the risk of salmonella poisoning.  This recipe calls for cooking the eggs in a double boiler. 

The recipe is easy to make. If you find that lining the pan with ladyfingers is too much trouble, you can eliminate this step and also eliminate the final step of brushing them with brandy. Continue to layer as directed.

Pumpkin Tiramisu Torte

Difficulty Rating:  Easy
Makes: 12 servings

1 tablespoon soft butter
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 cup freshly brewed strong espresso coffee, at room temperature
50 to 55 Italian Savoiardi ladyfingers (approximately 1 (17.6-ounce) bag)
1/2 cup brandy or dark rum, divided
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings or curls (optional)

Equipment needed:  9-inch springform pan, parchment paper, food thermometer, pastry brush


Cut a 3-inch by 30-inch strip of parchment paper.  Grease the sides of the springform pan with the butter and line the inside with the parchment paper overlapping the edges.  Secure the top with a paper clip or a piece of tape on the outside.  Set aside. 

Place the pumpkin in a colander over a bowl to drain and set aside.  In a small shallow bowl, combine the espresso with 1/2 cup cold water and 1/4 cup brandy and set aside.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (homemade double boiler).  The bowl should not touch the water.  Beat the mixture with a whisk continuously until thick and reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F, about 8 minutes.  Don’t worry if the mixture hardens a little along the sides.  Immediately remove from heat and set aside to cool down for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Stir in the pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and set aside.

Cream the mascarpone in a large bowl with a mixer on low speed for 1 minute.  Add the pumpkin mixture a third at a time until completely blended.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until thick and stiff. You can also use a whisk. 

Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine 2 tablespoons of brandy with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.  Trim 1/4-inch off one end of each of 22 ladyfingers. 

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of the brandy mixture along the top of each ladyfinger and lightly moisten the cut end with a damp finger. Arrange vertically, rounded sides up, along the edge of the prepared pan. The moistened sides should be facing inside. 

For each of the 3 layers you will need 8 to 10 ladyfingers (24 to 30 total).  Dip one ladyfinger at a time quickly in the coffee mixture and begin placing them in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, trimming to fit if necessary.  Fill in any spaces. Careful that the ladyfingers don’t absorb too much coffee, or they will become soggy.

Spread approximately 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture evenly on top. 

Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in coffee on top.  Spoon another 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture on top. 

Continue with the final layer of dipped ladyfingers and remaining pumpkin mixture.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Refrigerate 4 hours.

Carefully remove the ring of the springform and the parchment paper from the torte.  At this point the outside ladyfingers will still be hard and crispy.  Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of brandy with 2 tablespoons of water in small bowl.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the outside of the ladyfingers with the brandy mixture.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 4 hours before serving so that the ladyfingers soften to a cake-like consistency. 

Before serving, place the cocoa powder in a small sieve. Tap the edge lightly to dust cocoa evenly on top. Decorate with chocolate shavings if desired. 

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