skip to Main Content
Menu

Delizia al Limone

Delizia al limone is one of those desserts I can’t resist when I see it on a menu. Occasionally, I’ll spot it at the pastry counter of D’Angelo’s — an Italian specialty food store here in Princeton, N.J. But otherwise, it’s not easy to find, even at Italian restaurants in New York City. It’s such a regional dessert that even in Italy, you’re not likely to see it unless you’re in Naples or other towns in the Campania region of Italy, where lemon trees are as commonplace as a handsome ragazzo on a Vespa. I’ve been wanting to try for years to make it home but never got around to it until recently. Once you try it, you’ll see why it’s such a beloved dessert in Southern Italy — a sponge cake soaked with a limoncello syrup, stuffed with a lemon cream, then covered with a thinned-out drizzle of lemon cream. It’s so lemony and irresistible, but to be frank, it’s very laborious to make.

I followed a recipe on Manu’s Menu. You need to have these semi-spherical molds to achieve the proper look of the Delizie. This recipe made only enough for eight little “cakelets” — not nearly enough for all the work required, in my opinion. If I make it again (a big “if”), I would double the recipe for the sponge cakes.

I would also take a few shortcuts – like buying lemon curd rather than making it from scratch. Same goes for the lemon crema pasticcera. So much can go wrong as you’re making either of these two ingredients, including curdling (which didn’t happen to me, since I stood over the pot stirring constantly, but easily could have.) Instead, I would use a package of instant vanilla pudding, flavored with lemon juice and lemon peel, and add some homemade whipped cream to the pudding to create the lemon crema pasticcera.

There were so many steps to follow, so many bowls and pots to wash, that this recipe became a half-day project. Have I discouraged you completely? Well, I hope not, especially if you take the short cuts I suggested.

My friends in the weekly Italian chit-chat group loved these little lemon delights. If you’re like me and love lemon desserts, maybe you’ll give it a try. You’ll feel like you’re back in Capri – before the Coronavirus hit. Wash your hands and stay safe everyone.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Delizia al Limone
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • SPONGE (CAKE)
  • 150 gms – 3 large eggs divided
  • 90 gms – ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. all-purpose flour
  • 25 gms – 8 tsp cornstarch
  • 25 gms – ¼ cup almond meal
  • ½ lemon peel grated
  • ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch salt
  • LEMON CREAM
  • 40 gms – 2 egg yolks
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. butter
  • LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  • 180 gms – ¾ cup milk
  • 80 gms + 30 gms – 3 oz. + 1 oz. cream
  • 80 gms – 4 egg yolks
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 15 gms – 5 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 lemon
  • ⅓ vanilla pod
  • LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  • 30 gms – 1 oz.water
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. granulated sugar
  • 50 gms – 1 ¾ oz. Limoncello
  • ½ lemon
  • GLAZE
  • Remaining Lemon Cream
  • Remaining Lemon Crema Pasticcera
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup milk
  • 125 gms– ½ cup cream whipped and lightly sweetned
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. Limoncello
Instructions
  1. SPONGE (cake)
  2. Beat the egg yolks with 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the sugar, grated lemon peel and scraped vanilla until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the almond meal and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt.
  5. Mix together the cornstarch and flour and then sift it into the egg yolk mixture, alternating with additions of the beaten egg whites.
  6. Make sure to fold these in gently, so as not to deflate them.
  7. Grease and coat with flour some semisphere tins and fill them till ¾ with the batter.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170°C – 340°F for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  9. When ready, unmould them and keep them on a wire rack to cool down.
  10. LEMON CREAM
  11. Grate the peel of the lemon and then juice it.
  12. Put the grated peel in a bowl with the lemon juice and keep it to infuse for 20 minutes.
  13. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and then add 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the lemon juice and grated peel.
  14. Keep mixing.
  15. Put this mixture on a slow flame and cook it, while continuously stirring, until it reaches 80°C – 176°F.
  16. Then remove from the fire and put the pot in a double boiler filled with cold water. Blend it with a stick mixer until smooth.
  17. Let it cool down to 50°C – 122°F, then add the chopped butter and keep blending until smooth.
  18. Cover it with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  19. LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  20. In a pot put the milk, cream, lemon peel, and scraped vanilla bean and bring to a boil.
  21. Then put the fire off, let it infuse for 1 hour and then filter it.
  22. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstach and salt until pale.
  23. Then slowly add the filtered milk.
  24. Cook this mixture until it reaches 82°C – 180°F, then cover the cream with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  25. LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  26. Dissolve the sugar in the water and add the lemon peel.
  27. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Put the fire off and let it get back to room temperature. Then filter it and add the Limoncello.
  28. ASSEMBLING
  29. Mix together the Lemon Cream and the Lemon Crema Pasticcera (make sure they are both cold). Add 30 gms – 1 oz. of Limoncello and 30 gms – 1 oz. of sweetened whipped cream and mix well.
  30. Put this cream in a piping bag and fill the sponge cakes by making a little hole at the bottom (you can use a knife to make the hole and then pipe in the cream).
  31. Try and fill them as much as possible. Reserve the remaining cream.
  32. Using a toothpick, prick the sponges on all sides and brush them with the Limoncello syrup.
  33. To the remaining cream, add 125 gms – ½ cup of sweetend whipped cream and 60 gms – ⅓ cup of milk to make the thick glaze.
  34. Cover the delizie with the glaze and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  35. When ready to serve, decorate with some whipped cream and lemon zests.
 

 

Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration

I confess. I went off my diet to enjoy two — no, make that three —  slices of this cake. And there’s still a quarter of the cake left. I’ve made it twice now — once for Christmas, when we had a big crowd that consumed all of it. And I made it again last week, when it was just the two of us. But don’t judge – I sliced off a quarter of this cake and took it to my 90+ year-old neighbors to help them celebrate Valentine’s Day. Studded with cherries and hugged by a white chocolate birch bark, this cake would also be perfect to celebrate the upcoming birthday of George Washington – the first president of the U.S.A. who legend says chopped down a cherry tree as a young boy.  You don’t have to embellish it with the chocolate birch bark if you want to make it easy on yourself. Just serve it with the whipped cream frosting and everyone will love it just the same. The cake recipe is from “Alice’s Tea Cup” cookbook, but it’s practically the same as the Hershey’s recipe I’ve been using for decades. Alice’s Tea Cup recipe calls for 1/4 cup sour cream, and I didn’t have it on hand, so substituted plain Greek yogurt instead. The cake is very forgiving and even without the sour cream or yogurt, it’s a delicious cake with a beautiful crumb.

Just a word of caution before baking however. The first time I made this, I put all three cake pans in the oven at once — not a good idea since they came out lopsided. The next time, I baked each cake layer one at a time and it was much more even. When you’re assembling the cake, you could eliminate the liqueur soaking each layer if you’re serving it to young children. But in my opinion, the liqueur adds so much flavor and it’s dispersed enough even for children to handle. I used about 1/2 cup of Cherry Marnier for the three layers, but next time, I’ll increase it to 3/4 cup. If you don’t have Cherry Marnier (I finally finished the bottle I’ve had for more than 40 years), substitute with kirsch or brandy.

The first time I made this, I used amarena cherries from Italy (my favorite), but they are a bit expensive to use in such quantity. This time I bought some jarred pitted cherries that were just fine. After you’ve soaked the layer in liqueur, spread the whipped cream in abundance and dot it with the cherries. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer.

Smear whipped cream all over the sides and top. If you plan to decorate with the white chocolate birch bark, (and I do encourage you to do so. It makes quite a statement.) the perimeter doesn’t have to be perfect since it will be completely covered. Just make sure you have enough whipped cream to help the chocolate pieces adhere.

Making the birch bark is simple. First use a paint brush to “paint” melted dark chocolate marks across a piece of parchment paper. The area you cover in chocolate should be as tall as the finished cake with all the layers and frosting, and slightly wider than the circumference of the cake. After you’ve made the dark chocolate marks, let the chocolate harden. Then melt the white chocolate and let it cool before spreading over the dark chocolate with an offset spatula (I dripped some over the dark chocolate first before spreading with the spatula). This part can be tricky if the temperature isn’t just right. If you spread the white chocolate while it’s warm, or worse yet, while it’s hot, it will melt the dark chocolate and smear it. A little smearing is fine, but you don’t want to lose the characteristic look of the birch bark. If you wait until it’s too cold, the white chocolate will harden and you’ll have a hard time spreading it. I got the idea from “The Cake Girls” – and you might want to check out these directions before trying.

Let the white chocolate bark cool completely. Put it in the refrigerator if your room is too hot. Then slice or break off pieces to use for the decoration. Don’t worry if some of them break in two or three pieces. You can always patch some together on the cake.

I finished it off by piping some whipped cream rosettes on the top. But even that is not necessary if you don’t have the right equipment. Everyone will love it just the same.

Including my husband, who by now has shown remarkable (and uncharacteristic) self-restraint by eating only one slice a day of this cake. As for me, don’t ask. Because unlike George Washington, I may have to tell a lie.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspooon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup hot brewed coffee
  • FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  • 2½ cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • a jar of sour cherries in liquid (drained), or amarena cherries in syrup (use as many as you like. I didn't measure but I think I used about 1 cup total)
  • ¾ cup liqueur (Kirsch, or cherry marnier, or brandy)
  • FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • a couple of ounces of dark or milk chocolate
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs (one at a time), sour cream, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly drizzle in hot coffee, mixing until the batter is blended. Batter will be thin.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before removing from pan and frosting.
  8. FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  9. Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar, adding a little at a time, until peaks form.
  10. Be careful not to whip too much or you'll end up with butter!
  11. Take one layer of the cakes and sprinkle generously with the syrup.
  12. Spread some of the whipped cream on top, and dot throughout with the cherries.
  13. Repeat with the second layer.
  14. Add the top layer and spread the remaining whipped cream on the top and sides.
  15. FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  16. Melt the dark chocolate, either at low heat in a double boiler or in the microwave.
  17. Using a paint brush, brush marks on a long piece of parchment paper, using a measurement that's slightly taller than the three cakes would be with the frosting, and a bit wider than the circumference of the cakes.
  18. Let the dark chocolate cool, then melt the white chocolate, being careful not to overheat, or will "seize" on you. If this happens, try adding more white chocolate, off the heat, and stir vigorously.
  19. Alternately, add a small amount of boiling water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring into the white chocolate.
  20. Let the white chocolate cool, then spread over the dark chocolate.
  21. This can be tricky because if you spread it while it's still warm, it will melt the dark chocolate and you'll lose the characteristic marks of the birch tree. But if you let it cool too much, it will harden and be difficult to spread.
  22. Let the white chocolate cool completely (I put mine in the refrigerator), then cut large chunks of it, and press them against the sides of the cake.
  23. If some of the pieces break off, just patch them by pressing into the sides of the cake.
 

Cherry Almond Skillet Cake

Quick, before cherries are still in season (not much longer here in the northeastern U.S.), run out and buy some to make this cake. It’s easy to put together, assuming you don’t mind spending 10 minutes pitting cherries.

Maybe you already own a cherry pitter, and in that case, go ahead and use it. But you don’t need one. I owned one many moons ago, given to me by my son after he spent a week helping a friend’s grandmother harvest and pit cherries from her orchard in upstate New York. But I didn’t use it often, so I gave it away. Now when I pit cherries, I just use the “smush-them-under-a-can” method. Just make sure you have a flat surface you don’t mind getting soiled, and place a cherry on the surface. Press down with a can (I used a can of baked beans) but don’t bang on it, or you’ll get juice splattered all over you too. Lift the can and remove the stem and the pit with your hands. The cherry will come apart in two pieces with a little tug. You’ll want it to come apart in two pieces for this recipe, because if left whole, they’re heavier and more likely to sink to the bottom of the cake.

This recipe comes to you via fellow blogger and friend, Stacey, who made it with pistachios instead of almonds. I love pistachios but had more almonds in the house, so decided to use them both times I made it this week (yes, I made it both Monday and Tuesday!). I ramped up the almond flavor a little with more almond extract, but you can use vanilla extract if you prefer. After you’ve spread the batter in the skillet, lightly press the cherry halves into the batter, and sprinkle with the almonds.

Let it cool slightly, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

It’s got a delicious almond flavor and a very tender crumb, punctuated with those delicious cherries.

As one of my grandsons said as I was serving the cake earlier this week – “I want a grandpop-size slice.” After trying this cake, I think you will too.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Cherry Almond Skillet Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of almond flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (I USED ½ TSP.)
  • 1 cup sugar (I USED ¾ CUP)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice)
  • ½ tsp almond extract (I USED 1 TEASPOON)
  • 1 pound cherries, pitted (I USED ABOUT 2 DOZEN CHERRIES, PITTED AND CUT IN HALF)
  • slivered almonds to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10" cast iron skillet (You could use a cake pan too.)
  2. Cream together the butter, extract, lemon zest, sugar and egg until nice and light.
  3. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and almond flour.
  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and dot with the cherries, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter.
  6. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream, or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.
 

 

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

When you want a cake that’s not fussy and sure to be a crowdpleaser with adults and kids (alright so some of you who are from another planet may not like chocolate), this is the cake to turn to. Made with mini chocolate chips, that are less likely to fall to the bottom the way regular-sized chips do, this cake has a nice crumb and a delicious flavor, even without the chocolate glaze. So if you’re inclined to serve it without the glaze, at least give it a dusting of powdered sugar to elevate its plain Jane looks.

BUT, I highly recommend the chocolate glaze. I mean, come on, don’t you just want to stick your fingers onto that plate and lick those drizzles cascading down the cake? By the way, for baking, I almost always use Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars. You can buy them at the supermarket at a fraction of the cost of the more expensive brands, and years ago on a blind taste testing at America’s Test Kitchen tv show, Hershey’s Special Dark came out as the number one favorite. It’s delicious just for snacking straight from the wrapper too.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used sour cream)
  • 1¼ cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • four ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer of a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about two minutes.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
  6. Add the Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and beat to combine.
  7. Add the remaining half of dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Do not overmix.
  10. Spray a small, 10 cup bundt pan with a baking spray with flour or use a light spray of baking spray and dust the inside of the pan with flour. (I smeared butter inside, then sprayed with a cooking spray, then dusted with flour.)
  11. Spoon the batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top of the batter. It will be thick.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven for about 55-60 minutes or until the top of the cake is set, with no jiggling.
  13. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack or serving platter until completely cool.
  14. When ready to ice, add the chocolate to a small bowl and heat the cream until almost bubbling.
  15. Add the warmed cream to the chocolate, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap, and allow to sit undisturbed for five minutes.
  16. Stir to combine and add in the corn syrup, if desired.
  17. Pour over the cake.
 

Caribbean Rum Cake

If you were baking in the 1970s, no doubt you came across the rum cake recipe from Bacardi’, the well-known rum company from Puerto Rico. I made plenty of them back in the day, and they were always a big hit and easy to make, using a box mix. On a trip to the Cayman Islands a couple of weeks ago, where Tortuga rum cakes are as ubiquitous as fish tacos, I naturally had to try their version. For a packaged cake, it was remarkably good, but I knew there had to be a made-from-scratch recipe to duplicate the cake, reminiscent of those Bacardi’ cakes I enjoyed decades ago.

A short search online turned up a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, a company whose products and whose recipes are always reliably good. While the King Arthur cake doesn’t include walnuts, the classic Tortuga cake is dotted with them inside the cake. I prefer the walnuts crowning the cake, as the old Bacardi recipe calls for, so that’s how I made it, and I’m glad I did.

The cake, which also contains a full cup of rum, has a moist, tender crumb and a delicious buttery flavor, almost like eating a rummy butterscotch lifesaver – only better. I’ve never tasted hot buttered rum, but I imagine this must be the cake version of that drink. It’s definitely not for tea-totalers.

The rum cake isn’t the only reason to recommend a visit to the Cayman Islands. Just to give you an idea of what the beautiful island of Grand Cayman is like, (there are three islands in the Cayman Islands, and Grand Cayman is the largest) here are a few pictures from our recent vacation there. The main attraction is the beautiful Caribbean sea, in various shades of blue. This is the famous “seven mile beach” with soft, pale sands and shade in many places. You’ll find world class hotels along the beach, as well as condos for rent. It’s easy to rent a sailboat, paddle board or other water vehicles right from the beach.

Need a respite from the sand and sea? You could easily spend a couple of hours visiting the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Garden, with its beautiful flowering plants and historic exhibits.

The grounds of the botanical gardens also contain a preserve for the blue iguana lizard, found only on the Cayman Islands. They nearly became extinct, with only 12 of the animals recorded in 2004, but through conservation efforts, about 700 have been bred and released in the sanctuary since then.

If you drive to the northern part of the island, you’ll come to a place called “starfish point,” where the beautiful sea creatures are omnipresent.

Speaking of sea creatures, Grand Cayman is a great place for snorkeling, as you can see in the photo below. They were swirling all around me and I felt like I was in the midst of an aquarium!

You can even swim with sting rays if you’re so inclined. They come right up to you in the clear turquoise waters off a certain part of the island.

The food there is really delicious too, which is why the island is sometimes referred to as “The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.” The cuisine runs the gamut – from a food truck’s barbecued chicken and ribs to break-the-bank refined elegance at Eric Ripert’s “Blue” restaurant in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

There’s so much more to see and do in the Cayman Islands, including fishing, shopping, and visiting museums. We hope to go back next year and I hope you get a chance to visit sometime too. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of those beautiful beaches and content myself with another piece of Caribbean rum cake.

Click here to find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more).

Caribbean Rum Cake
 
A rum-soaked cake with a tender, moist crumb.
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free)* (I used a smaller box of 1.5 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup rum, plain or spiced (I used Bacardi gold rum)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon butter rum flavor (I omitted this)
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • FOR THE SYRUP:
  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup rum, plain or spiced
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, salt, butter, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and mix at medium speed until everything is thoroughly combined and the mixture is sandy looking.
  3. Beat in the milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Scrape the bowl thoroughly, and beat briefly to recombine any sticky residue.
  5. Stir in the rum, vanilla, and butter-rum flavor, if using.
  6. Generously butter a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, then spritz with cooking spray.
  7. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the chopped walnuts.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread level with a spatula.
  9. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes.
  10. When done, a cake tester, long toothpick, or strand of uncooked spaghetti will come out clean when inserted into the center.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven.
  12. Leave the cake in the pan to cool slightly while you make the syrup.
  13. In a medium-sized saucepan combine the syrup ingredients, except vanilla.
  14. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer and cook (without stirring) for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly.
  15. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  16. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the cake.
  17. Pour about ¼ cup of the syrup over the cake (still in the pan). Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used.
  18. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit overnight at room temperature to cool completely and soak in the syrup.
  19. When ready to serve, loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto your serving plate.
  20. If the cake won’t release, don't force it.
  21. Place it in the oven, turn the oven to 350°F, and warm for about 10 minutes, to soften the sticky syrup.
  22. (If your oven is one that preheats by making its upper element red-hot, place the cake on a lower rack and tent it with aluminum foil to protect it.)
  23. Remove the cake from the oven, and tip it onto the serving plate.
  24. Serve with hot coffee or tea.
  25. The cake is very moist, fragrant and potent.
  26. Wrap securely (or place under a cake cover) and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage, up to 1 month.
 

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

 

I’ve made dozens and dozens of gingerbread cookies, and baked and decorated many gingerbread houses when my kids were little, but a gingerbread cake? Well, I’d never made one, and if truth be told, had never eaten a slice of one until a few years ago. It wasn’t a flavor that I’d grown up with or ever had the yen to seek out on my own. But I have to say, I was a convert after tasting that first slice of gingerbread cake a few years ago at the house of friends.

Those same friends who served the gingerbread cake – Jan and Dave – also send us a box of Harry & David pears each Christmas. Last year, I made an upside down pear walnut cake with some of them last year here. We loved the nuttiness of this cake, but I wanted to try something different this year.

Eureka! I found a cake recipe combining gingerbread with pears in an upside down cake crowned with a luscious caramel-y top. It turns out pears and gingerbread were made to party together!

Although I’ve made many upside down cakes, with fruits of all kinds, most of them (not the walnut cake) have a basic white or yellow cake batter as the base. Like the walnut cake though, this gingerbread cake recipe is a welcome change from the standard upside down cake batter.  Lay the pear slices in a cast iron skillet (or a 9″ cake pan) and pour the brown sugar/butter mixture on top.

Then make the batter, which is very dark since it contains molasses and many spices.

It comes out of the oven looking like this. Run a butterknife around the edge, then using two pot holders, place a large platter (a wider diameter than the pan) over the cake and flip it over. Careful, don’t burn yourself on the pan or the hot syrup.

Top it with whipped cream or ice cream. Of course, the topping is not strictly necessary, but the coolness of the cream with the spiciness of the cake is divine. Besides, what are a few more calories when bathing suit weather is still months away?

This cake is best eaten warm from the oven, but it tastes delicious the next day too. Unlike most white or yellow upside down cakes, whose texture get denser the next day, this gingerbread cake maintains its tender crumb and moist texture even a few days after baking. The pears and the brown sugar topping do soften somewhat if you don’t eat it all the day it’s baked, however. It serves at least eight people, so plan on taking some to a neighbor as I did, or invite some friends in for coffee and cake.

 

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
moist and flavorful upside down pear gingerbread cake
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 9-12 servings
Ingredients
  • TOPPING:
  • 4 firm medium pears
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • GINGERBREAD CAKE:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsps. ground ginger
  • 1⅓ tsps. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup unsulphured or dark molasses
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • whipped cream, to serve (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare the topping: Lightly grease a 9" square or round baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet).
  2. Peel, core and slice pears into thick slices.
  3. Tightly layer the pears in the prepared pan. Set aside.
  4. Whisking constantly, heat the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Once butter has melted, vigorously whisk to ensure the butter is not separating from the brown sugar.
  6. Once it comes together, pour evenly over pears.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. MAKE THE CAKE:
  9. Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and slat together.
  10. Set aside.
  11. Whisk the molasses and hot water together. Set aside.
  12. Beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
  13. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  14. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 1 minute.
  15. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  16. Turn the mixer off and add the dry ingredients and molasses/water.
  17. Turn the mixer on low and mix just until combined.
  18. The batter will be a little thick.
  19. Carefully pour/spread batter on top of pears.
  20. Bake for around 35-45 minutes or until the cake is baked through (I put a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil on the rack below the cake to catch any butter/brown sugar that might spill out).
  21. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake.
  22. If it comes out clean, it's done.
  23. If you notice the edges or top browning too quickly, tent the cake with aluminum foil.
  24. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate
  25. Best served warm.
 

Easy and Delicious Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve posted a recipe for a Pandoro Christmas tree dessert in the past, filled with either a chocolate mousse filling, or a lemon curd/mascarpone filling. You can view it here. They’re as easy as can be, since the cake itself –  a traditional rich, buttery Italian Christmas treat – is purchased. All you have to do is slice it, drizzle it with some liqueur (or a simple syrup), make the fillings, and assemble the cake.

Making the filling is the hardest part. But this year, I’m making it really easy on myself with a filling made from whipped cream and a boxed vanilla pudding mix. That’s right, I’m taking a shortcut, and I have to confess, I think it’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve made in the past. After all the work that’s required for the Lucullan fish feast we enjoy on Christmas Eve, this easily prepared dessert is a much needed way to present a delicious showstopper without too much fuss.

And while we’re talking about Christmas Eve, I was recently contacted by a local newspaper, whose reporter interviewed me for a feature on holiday food traditions. As a former journalist, I’m used to being the one doing the interviewing, but this time the tables were turned and the reporter asked me lots of questions. He wrote a really nice article about my family, that includes my recipe for stuffed squid, and a photo of my dad and husband, that you can read here. But little did I know that my photo would be plastered on the front page – bad hair day, wrinkles and all! Where’s Photoshop when you need it?

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming – and the easy Pandoro Christmas tree. Slice the cake into about seven even layers. If you’re serving it right away, dust the cake first with powdered sugar. It’s easiest to sprinkle on the sugar before you layer it and add the filling, so you can roll it on its side and get better coverage. But if you’re holding it to serve it a day or two later, it won’t matter because the sugar will dissolve into the cake.

Make the simple syrup and add the liqueur. I divided the simple syrup solution and in one I added rum. In the other I added Sambuca. I alternated flavors with different layers. If you don’t want to add liqueur, you can just the simple syrup without alcohol. The cake isn’t particularly dry, but I think it really benefits from some moistening, so don’t skip this step.

Make the instant pudding mix by mixing milk with the mix (using less milk than the box calls for, since you’ll be adding whipped cream. You don’t want it so soft that it pours out of the cake layers.) Fold in the whipped cream.

Spread some of the filling on each layer, placing each layer at a different angle from the prior one, so the tips are in different orientations.

Decorate the edges with berries and slice.

You can see, it holds together very well, even after it’s sliced. Naturally, the bottom slices will be larger portions than the top, so you’ll want to split those in half (or maybe not!)

I’m getting hungry for some again. Time to make another one.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Easy and Delicious Pandoro Tree
 
Author:
Serves: at least 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large pandoro cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sambuca or anisette
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 5.1 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • berries to decorate
Instructions
  1. Slice the pandora cake horizontally, in six or seven layers.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Let the syrup cool, then divide in two and put the sambuca in one half, and the rum in the second half.
  4. Make the box of instant, mixing it with only 2 cups of milk instead of the 3 cups per instructions on the box.
  5. Whip the 1 cup of cream until soft peaks, then fold the whipping cream into the instant pudding.
  6. Drizzle some of the simple syrup on each layer of the cake, following by some of the pudding/whipped cream mixture.
  7. Continue with the rest of the layers, pivoting each slice so that the points are arranged in a star-like fashion.
  8. Finish by sprinkling with powdered sugar, and decorating the tips with berries.
  9. Optional, find a nice star at a craft shop for the very top.

Chocolate Coconut Tart

Whenever I’m in Italy and the mood for gelato strikes (ok, let’s get real – when doesn’t the mood for gelato strike?), I’m likely to get a flavor that’s called “Bounty” –  coconut ice cream punctuated with small chocolate bits. It’s named for the eponymous candy bar available there, but here in the states, there is a similar candy bar called “Mounds.”

A few years ago I ate a slice of cake in Bellagio that had the same flavor profile, and I was determined to duplicate it at home.

I finally got around to it recently, and while I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, it’s really, really good, especially if you’re a dark chocolate and coconut lover, as I am.

I made two of the cakes, one half the size of the original one, since I was serving the larger one to my Italian chit-chat group and wanted a second, small one to serve guests after dinner the following night. A bit of gold leaf on top makes a nice decoration, but so would a simple dollop of whipped cream.

If you’re making just one tart according to the recipe below, the coconut layer will be thicker than in the photos above, since I made 1 1/2 times the amount of the chocolate cake part, but I spread the coconut quantity over the two cakes (the larger and the smaller version.) I hope that makes sense to you. If you’re still confused, send me an email and I’ll try to explain it better.

Just a word of caution – the chocolate ganache will not stay this glossy if you refrigerate the cake. So if you want to serve it with that sheen but want to make the cake ahead of time — just make the cake without the ganache and place it in the refrigerator (still in the springform pan), then a few hours before you want to serve it, remove from the refrigerator and top it with the ganache while in the springform pan. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes for the ganache to solidify, then release the side of the springform pan. Don’t refrigerate it again or you’ll lose the sheen.

Enjoy! It’s almost like eating a chocolate covered, coconut-cream Easter egg.

Chocolate Coconut Tart (Bounty Torta)
 
A rich, brownie-like cake, with a coconut layer and a topping of chocolate ganache.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter melted.
  • ¾ cup white sugar.
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten.
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons espresso coffee
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • ½ cup flour.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder.
  • FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  • 12 oz sweetened condensed milk (I think the can was closer to 14 ounces)
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  2. Mix sugar and melted butter, with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
  3. FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  4. Put the coconut in a food processor and shred into small bits.
  5. Add the condensed milk and combine.
  6. When cake is cooled, spread coconut layer on top.
  7. It will be very dense.
  8. FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  9. Heat cream and remove from heat.
  10. Add chocolate.
  11. Let sit for a few minutes then stir to blend.
  12. Pour chocolate over coconut layer a couple of hours before you serve it and leave it out at room temperature in order to keep the chocolate glossy.
  13. You can refrigerate it if you want, but it will lose some of its gloss.
  14. Remove the ring from the springform pan, and serve.
 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Easter Dinner Ideas

Easter is just a few short days away and many of you have your menus all ready. But for those of you still looking for ideas, here are a few from blog posts in the past. Click on the name of the dish below the photo to take you to the recipe.

Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta – This is a dish my son makes as an appetizer for Easter, using broccoli rape. No, that spelling is not a mistake, it is rape in Italian, while most Americans spell it broccoli rabe or raab. Any way you spell it, it’s delicious, and a lighter alternative to the heavier, meat-laden pizza piena.

Braided Easter Bread – This bread, studded with hard boiled eggs, is braided with soppressata, olives and cheese, and would be perfect with drinks before dinner.

Grilled Leg of Lamb – Marinated and cooked on the grill, this lamb recipe from Julia Child, is tender and full of flavor.

Honey Baked Ham with roasted grapes – This recipe will make you forget those prepared hams purchased from franchise ham shops – and it’s so easy to make too.

 Neapolitan Pastiera – This traditional Southern Italian dessert is made with ricotta and wheat berries.

Colomba Pasquale – It wouldn’t be Easter in most Italian households without this Easter dove, which you can make at home too.

Coconut covered lamb cake – A childhood favorite, I continue the tradition with the same cake mold my mother used more than sixty years ago.

chocolate lamb cake – Why not give equal time to the black sheep? This cake, decorated with crushed cookie crumbs, will please the chocolate lovers in your family.

coconut cream Easter eggs – These are a weakness of mine, which is why I can’t make them more than once every few years. Otherwise, I’d end up eating dozens of them.

Perfect hard boiled eggs – And if you don’t make any of the above recipes, you’ll probably make hard-boiled eggs at some point. If you’ve ever struggled with peeling them, here’s a primer that will help you avoid frustration.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake

This recipe, from Jamie Schler’s wonderful new cookbook “Orange Appeal,” is originally made with blood oranges, but I used Cara Cara oranges instead. They’re really my favorite variety of orange, and ok, I admit it, I inadvertently bought two large bags of them, thinking one was a bag of grapefruits. So aside from eating fresh oranges a few times a day, I’ve been experimenting with lots of orange recipes.

Truth be told, the first time I made this recipe, it was a flop. Not that it wasn’t edible. It was. But it had a peculiar shape, due to pilot error. I used a loaf pan that was too small and caused the following chain of events: batter spilling over the sides of the pan, leaving a hollow down the center of the cake; crispy, burned bits on the bottom of the oven; smoke billowing into the kitchen and a loud alarm sounding throughout the house.

Still, that didn’t deter me from trying again. I could tell it was going to be a good cake. And remember I had all those oranges to use up. So this time I followed Jamie’s advice and used the proper size loaf pan – 9″ x 5″ by 2 1/2″. I also followed the recipe exactly, since the first time I added the oil to all the liquid ingredients rather than at the very end. Alright, I did forget to pour the syrup over the cake, but it was wonderful all the same, especially with the glaze over the top.

See for yourself, or rather try it for yourself. But make sure to read the directions thoroughly and follow the recipe and above all, use the right size loaf pan. Otherwise, get your oven cleaner ready.

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups (7 ounces/195 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 blood oranges, zested (I used the zest of 2 large Cara Cara oranges)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • Blood Orange Syrup:
  • ⅓ cup blood orange juice (or any orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 cup (135 g) confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a standard 9 x 5 x 2½ inch or 8 cup loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and flour the pan.
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla until blended and smooth.
  4. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined and smooth.
  5. Fold the oil into the batter, a little at a time, until well-blended and no oil has collected around the edges of the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the center of the cake is moist, but set and a tested inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Prepare the orange syrup by placing the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
  8. Cook until warm and the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. When the cake is done, remove from the oven onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a large foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  10. Carefully loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edges.
  11. Turn the cake out of the pan, discard the parchment paper, and then place the cake upright on the cooling rack.
  12. While the cake is still warm, pour and brush the warm syrup all over the top, allowing it to soak the loaf and run down the sides. Allow to cool completely.
  13. Prepare the glaze by stirring the orange juice into the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the glaze is smooth. The glaze should be thin enough to spoon or drizzle over the cake but just stiff enough that some of the glaze will cling to the sides.