Butternut squash and spice cheesecake

94c71853-fa10-4042-8fe4-d07bd3071a51-795x1020.jpegWe can’t think of a better seasonal celebration cake than this. We used to make huge ones at the restaurant, and the whole kitchen would fight over the offcuts, but for home a cake of this size should suffice. Or maybe not. Makes one 23cm cake.

For the cake base
100g whole hazelnuts
25g unsalted butter
25g light brown soft sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g biscuit (or sweet pastry) crumbs

For the filling
1 butternut squash, to yield 360g when cooked (or 360g tinned pumpkin puree)
375g full-fat cream cheese
265g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cardamom
3 eggs
2 tbsp plain flour
150ml soured cream

For the topping
300ml soured cream
50g caster sugar
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod

Heat the oven to 240C/465F/gas mark 9, and line a loose-based 23cm cake tin with baking paper. Cut the squash in half (leave the skin on) and scoop out the seeds. Wrap loosely in foil and roast cut side up for 40-50 minutes, until the flesh is soft. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash (for a super-smooth finish, pass through a potato ricer). You can do this up to a day in advance; keep the mash, covered, in the fridge.

Turn down the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 5. Roast the hazelnuts on a tray for eight minutes, then rub with a clean tea towel to get rid of some of the papery skins. Crush the nuts to a rough crumb (by hand or in a food processor). Melt the butter in a small pan. Put the nuts and other base ingredients in a bowl, pour in the butter and stir to combine. Tip into the prepared tin and spread to cover the base. Flatten it a little, but don’t compress it too much, then bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a mixer with a paddle attachment (or, if making by hand, in a bowl using a large spoon), and work at medium speed to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next, then add the squash puree, flour and soured cream, and mix well. Pour over the base, bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove and rest for 10 minutes.

For the topping, mix the cream with the sugar and vanilla seeds until you have a smooth paste. Pour over the top of the baked cheesecake, making sure not to pour it all in one spot, otherwise its weight may make it sink in. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread the mix evenly over the cake, then bake for 10 minutes more. Remove, cool and refrigerate for at least six hours (or overnight) before cutting and eating.


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