Like my Smudge, my nephew doesn’t care for birthday cake. Like her, he’d rather have pie with candles than a three tier, frosting laden, light and crumby old cake.
If you have one of those kind in your home, you need to check out my hybrid Yellow Cake Pie with Chocolate Mousse that was a rip-roaring success for Smudge’s birthday celebration. In fact it was so successful I’ve been commissioned by three of her 8-year old friends to make it for their 9-year-old birthdays.
My nephew’s thirteenth birthday inspired me to get into the birthday pie biz once again once the shock that my husband’s youngest brother has a teenager in the house and the realization that in just a few short years I will too. Oh great, hormones. Just what this house needs more of.
Usually my mother-in-law makes him a special pumpkin pie for his big day but she wasn’t able to make the trip for the party this year. Knowing I could never substitute my mom-in-law’s perfect pie, I plotted to give him a surprise with a pumpkin cake. But then I started watching the Cooking Channel. And when I start watching the Cooking Channel I usually get sidetracked from craving a Pad Thai recipe to homemade Pot Roast.
This time was no exception. As I started watching an episode of Extra Virgin Debi Mazar—who makes me miss Entourage so desperately that I just might be sleeping out to be in line for the movie—and her cute husband Gabriele, I made a quick left turn from my aspirations of creating my initial plan of pumpkin cake to instead adapting their recipe for mascarpone cups.
With all of the pumpkin recipes floating about, my craving for pumpkin recipes has been in overdrive. The amaretti cookies give a yummy crunch to the smooth pumpkin and mascarpone cheese creaminess. I’ve used amaretti cookies for a sweet almond flavoring in Butternut Squash Lasagna so I knew it was a great add-in for squash.
So what did my nephew think of the Pumpkin Cups? He never did have a taste. For the first time ever he bypassed pumpkin pie and shocked us all by choosing red velvet cake as his celebratory sweet of choice. Whaddya do? He’s a teenager now.
Here are a couple of tips to customizing your own version of Mascarpone Pumpkin Cups:
1. The original recipe called for adding a shot of brandy to the cookies for a little more oomph. I didn’t have any on hand so went without, but I think it would be a great addition, or a shot of marsala would be tasty too.
2. Debi and her husband didn’t cook the egg yolks, but I felt the need to. It’s not that big of an extra step but just gives my head a little rest from worrying what my mom will say if I give Smudge salmonella.
3. And if you’re averse to using raw egg whites, substitute with 2-3 cups whipped cream to add a light and fluffy consistency.
4. I created this recipe in individual cups, but you could certainly adapt it into a tiramisu-style dessert and prepare it in a 9″ X 9″ baking dish. Amaretti cookies are sturdy enough to withstand being soaked in coffee and layered with the mousse and whip cream as well.
5. I added sprigs of basil for color, but you could choose any leafy herb as a garnish. A dusting of cinnamon, nutmeg, shaved chocolate or a caramel or toffee topper would be tasty too. Just think warming ingredients that pair well with the savory but sweetened pumpkin flavor.
- 3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- ½ cup sugar, divided
- 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (about 7 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 pint whip cream
- 7 ounce bag of Amaretti cookies
- cocoa powder for dusting
- Divide egg whites from egg yolks and put whites in a medium bowl and yolks in a large heatproof bowl. Add ¼ cup sugar to whites and ¼ cup to yolks.
- Place bowl of egg yolks over a double boiler or saucepan filled with boiling water. Cook over boiling water for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly so eggs don't turn into scrambled eggs. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Blend pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and mascarpone cheese until combined well. Add to bowl of yolks and mix well.
- Beat whites until stiff peaks form. Add to pumpkin and egg yolk mixture ¼ cup at a time, folding whites in gently until combined. Repeat until whites are completely incorporated.
- Whip cream until light and fluffy. Add whip cream to a pastry bag or gallon size ziploc bag with ¼ inch of corner snipped off. Add pumpkin mascarpone mixture to another ziploc bag and snip corner.
- Crumble amaretti cookies into chunks, reserving 6 cookies for garnish. Add ¼ cup cookies to bottom of 6 glasses or serving bowls. Pipe a layer of whip cream over cookies, then about ⅓ cup pumpkin mixture, then another layer of cookies, then another layer of whip cream. Garnish with extra cookie crumbles or whole cookies, a dusting of cocoa powder and fresh herbs for garnish.