Paradise Cake


Preparation info

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This is adapted from a recipe by Italian food writer Valentina Harris. It makes a great dessert for Thanksgiving for those who find the traditional pumpkin pie too sweet. I have spiced the cake with grains of paradise (melagueta pepper) which give it a beautifully warm and gingery flavour – just enough to make the tongue tingle, and perfect with the sweetness of the squash.


  • sultanas 50 g/ oz
  • Galliano liqueur or grappa 100 ml/ fl oz
  • squash (see cook’s notes) 600 g/1 lb 5 oz, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • unsalted butter 150 g/ oz
  • salt a pinch
  • sugar 150 g/ oz
  • whole almonds 50 g/ oz, finely chopped
  • candied orange or citron peel 50 g/ oz, finely chopped
  • lemon grated zest of 1
  • grains of paradise (see cook’s notes) 1 tbsp, coarsely ground
  • plain flour 85 g/3 oz
  • baking powder 1 heaped tsp
  • eggs 2, yolks and whites separated
  • icing sugar for dusting


Put the sultanas and Galliano in a bowl and soak for at least 20 minutes until the sultanas are plump.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 22–23 cm/8½–9 in shallow cake tin.

Put the cubed squash in a saucepan with the butter. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until soft. Add a pinch of salt, then tip the mixture into a bowl and beat until smooth.

Stir in the sugar, almonds, candied peel, lemon zest and grains of paradise. Add the sultanas and any remaining Galliano, mixing thoroughly.

Sift the flour and baking powder together, then gradually add to the squash mixture, beating well with each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale and thick, then fold into the squash mixture. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold carefully into the squash mixture using a large metal spoon.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1–1¼ hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the cake is browning too much, cover the top with a piece of foil. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving.

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