I’m back home in Australia for a couple of months, a blissfully extended holiday with the family before a busy and exciting book tour! It’s been a long time since I’ve spent Christmas and New Year’s here, let alone my mother’s January birthday, so I wanted to create a very special birthday cake for her. Around this time, the raspberry bush — taking over a large corner of the garden — flourishes and every day there is ripe, juicy fruit for the taking.
Also around this time, pandoro and panettone, left over from Christmas and stacked high in pyramids in stores and delis, are heavily discounted (this one I picked up for A$4.00. About 2,50 euro. And it wasn’t even the cheapest one). So I decided to combine the two and the obvious thing missing was something lovely and creamy — what I ended up dreaming of was a sort of tiramisu, but instead of coffee, raspberries and instead of savoiardi, fragrant pandoro. It reminded me of the delicious, floppy, tart raspberry tiramisu I have had often at a tiny eatery in Florence called Vini e Vecchi Sapori, on the edge of Piazza Signoria.
And here’s the other bit, I wanted to make homemade mascarpone for the tiramisu. Not to be fancy or make things too complicated, but for much more mundane reasons, mainly — it is cheaper and it much more delicious. In Italy, I never make mascarpone as it’s available everywhere and it’s always good. But here in Australia I’ve never really had a good mascarpone, too often it tastes like it’s past its prime. I’d much prefer to have it fresh, made myself. And despite what you may think, homemade mascarpone is actually ridiculously easy. It’s simply cream, heated almost to a boil. Lemon juice is added and the mixture gets strained. That’s really all there is to making traditional mascarpone.
I’ve had many people say, oh so it’s like ricotta but with cream! But no, it’s not at all like ricotta. Ricotta, which means “re-cooked”, is made from whey, leftover from the cheese making process, which is reheated and has acid added to it. The liquid whey begins to form, as if by magic, fluffy white flecks of curds. It’s quite amazing to experience — you can read my very long and researched post about the making of it at home here (and this is not the old milk and lemon juice, which is a curd, but not ricotta). The result is a milky, soft, lumpy and sweet product.
Mascarpone on the other hand, a centuries old tradition from Lombardy in Italy’s north, once just a seasonal, winter product, is made with cream. Once the lemon juice goes in, you don’t see any dramatic changes like you do with ricotta. In fact, you’ll pull it out in the morning and see it looks identical to when you put it in there! But when you touch it, you’ll see it has become denser, more solid, overnight. It’s sweet and very rich as you’d expect cream to be, but with a slight tang to it. The process and the end products are very, very different. If you ever find yourself with a surplus of mascarpone, it’s not just for tiramisu, you can do all sorts of things with it, like have it on pizza (which is incidentally the first time I wrote about homemade mascarpone) or turn it into a chocolate tart or stir it through pasta for an amazingly creamy sauce.
But back to this cake (or is it a tiramisu?). This dessert — you’ll want to start it the day before so you can make the mascarpone and leave it to set in the fridge. Then, ideally, you’ll want to start building the tiramisu at least a few hours before you will serve it so that it has time to soak and set. You can of course use savoidari (which you can also make yourself — here’s the recipe) and make a more traditional tiramisu but with raspberries — if so, you can take a look at this post for a more classic layering.
Mascarpone fatto in casa
You’ll need a fine-meshed sieve and muslin, cheesecloth or similar. Don’t throw away the liquid left behind in the bowl — you can use this in pancakes instead of milk or add to scrambled eggs. Try it in a creamy mushroom soup instead of cream or in baked cakes instead of buttermilk or yogurt (this blackberry and mascarpone cake is a favourite of mine). The list is endless.
Makes about 500 grams mascarpone
1 litre cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Place the cream in a saucepan and bring to 90 degrees Celsius, or just before boiling. If you don’t have a candy thermometer just watch it like a hawk, before it boils you’ll see some tell tale signs that it’s getting close with plenty of steam and little bubbles forming around the edge of the pot. Remove from the heat, stir through the lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes, then pour over a fine-meshed sieve double lined with muslin set over a bowl. Let cool and leave in the refrigerator to set, preferably overnight.
Raspberry Pandoro Tiramisu
Tiramisu di pandoro ai lamponi
Although this is a no-bake dessert, I used a springform cake tin with removable base to help me keep the cake’s shape. In fact, I didn’t even use the base, I just used the cake tin like a belt, holding the cake together directly on the serving plate. If you don’t have pandoro, you can also do this with sponge cake or like a traditional tiramisu with savoiardi (lady finger) biscuits, which is lovely served round like a cake, by the way. On the other hand if you really want a challenge, you can also make your own pandoro! Here’s a recipe I wrote about by legendary baker Carol Field for Corriere della Sera a while back. And if you don’t have the time to make your own mascarpone, you can use store bought. Use frozen raspberries for the filling if you like, but I’d recommend a portion of them being fresh for the top of the cake.
500 grams fresh raspberries
60 ml (1/4 cup) dessert wine (or water)
3 very fresh eggs, separated
120 grams sugar
500 grams mascarpone
zest of 1 organic/unwaxed lemon
1 large pandoro (750 gram cake)
Place just over half of the raspberries in a small saucepan with the dessert wine (or water) and bring to the boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a bowl until firm peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy, then add the mascarpone and zest. Fold the egg whites through the mascarpone mixture. Set aside in the fridge if not using right away.
To create the tiramisu, slice the pandoro into 1cm thick slices across — so you have lovely star shaped slices of cake. A pandoro has a wider base at the bottom and a smaller base at the top, keep this in mind when forming your cake as some pieces will need to be trimmed to fit. Place a 26cm round springform cake tin (minus the base) on a serving plate and slide in the bottom slice of the pandoro to fit (trim where necessary). Cut two slices of the pandoro into four even quarters and place these around the edges of the cake tin as the sides of the cake. Spoon over about a third of the cooled raspberry sauce onto the pandoro base and spread evenly to the edges. Spoon over about a third of the mascarpone cream. Add a layer of pandoro (save any trimmed tips of the ‘star’ to fill in any holes), spoon over another layer of raspberry and spread to the edges, topped with another third of mascarpone cream. Add another layer of pandoro as before, and cover this with the last of the raspberry sauce.
At this point, if not serving the cake right away you can cover the cake and refrigerate it until just before serving — I highly recommend doing this at least to chill the cake and let it rest for a couple of hours or even overnight. Before serving, pour over the last of the mascarpone cream (it may dribble over the jagged edges of pandoro) and top with the remaining fresh raspberries.