Special equipment: a candy thermometer, an 8-inch ring mold and a kitchen torch
For the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Toss the butternut squash with the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Spread out the squash on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with more foil and secure the edges. Roast until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil from the top and continue to roast until slightly golden, about 10 more minutes. Let cool and then puree in a food processor and set aside.
For the pecan jaconde: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and salt and whip until stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks slowly and continue whipping until combined, about 2 minutes.
Sift in the flour in 3 stages, folding carefully to prevent deflating and making sure there are no lumps. Fold in the melted butter.
Spread on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the pecans. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into two 8-inch circles. Tip: leftovers can be use in a trifle
For the pecan rum cake syrup: Bring the granulated sugar, pecans and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for three minute or so to release the pecan oils. Remove from the heat and add the rum. Use warm to moisten the sponge while assembling the cake
For the butternut squash pudding: In a pot, bring the sugar, cream, condensed milk, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin pie spice and 1 cup of the milk to a boil.. In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch with the egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup milk.
Remove the cinnamon sticks carefully from the milk mixture and temper the cornstarch mixture with it, whisking the hot mixture by the ladleful into the cornstarch mixture. Return the tempered mixture to the pot and add 2 cups of the squash puree (reserve the remaining puree for another use). Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and butter and mix until incorporated.
For the marshmallow meringue: In a small pot, bring the granulated sugar and 6 tablespoons water to a boil. Cook to 240 degrees F or the soft ball stage. Once the syrup has reached 210 degrees F, start whipping the egg whites. As soon as the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, add the syrup to the egg whites while whipping. Add the melted marshmallow and pumpkin pie spice and whip until cooled, 5 to 10 minutes.
To assemble the cake: Use an 8-inch ring mold. Place a layer of pecan joconde sponge on the bottom and drench with half the syrup. Cover with a layer of the warm pudding as thick as the cake. Repeat with another layer of cake and pudding. Allow to cool in the refrigerator until the pudding sets, about 20 minutes. Once cooled, remove from the ring and decorate with the marshmallow meringue all around the cake. Torch the outside of the cake gently to create a brulee look. Decorate with cape gooseberries and chopped pecans, if using.
Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat, open flame and prolonged exposure to sunlight. They should be used only in well-ventilated areas. Follow torch manufacturer's instructions for use.
This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Adalberto Diaz