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Halloween pumpkin cake

The old Irish custom of making vegetable lanterns to ward off evil spirits has long been associated with Halloween. Irish immigrants in America found pumpkins much easier to carve than the turnips and swedes of their homeland, and so the pumpkin lantern has become an enduring symbol of modern-day Halloween. The carved-out pumpkin flesh is often used to make soup or sweet pies. This cake is another alternative: sweetly perfumed, light and crispy in texture, it's a wicked way to make sure nothing goes to waste.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter to a cream, using a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric whisk.

Add the sugar and continue to beat until well creamed. (It won't be as light and fluffy as a classic sponge mix.)

Add the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp of the flour with each, and beating well before adding the next. Sift in half the remaining flour, then use a large metal spoon to carefully fold it in.

Repeat with the other half. Fold in the grated pumpkin, crushed amaretti or macaroons, and the milk - to give a soft dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the cake is lightly golden, springs back to shape when pressed with a finger and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin.

Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before carefully turning out and placing on a wire rack to cool.

For children, trickle the cake with orange glacé icing and scatter with sweets.

For adults, serve it plain with hot mulled cider punch. It will keep in a tin for 5 days.


Add 50g mini marshmallows along with the amaretti for a gooey Hallowe'en cake.

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  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 340g self-raising flour
  • 225g finely grated raw pumpkin flesh
  • 150g amaretti or dry macaroons, lightly crushed
  • 50ml whole or semi-skimmed milk

To finish (optional):

  • Orange Glacé icing
  • Halloween sweets


  • 23cm garland or ring mould, well greased, or a 20cm round tin lightly greased and base-lined with baking parchment

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Cakes Handbook