all the articles tagged as:

cake

When I first walked into the kitchen of Fabrizia Lanza at Anna Tasca Lanza, you could smell the chocolate from outside. She was baking a flourless chocolate cake for dinner — a dinner which was like a warm embrace after all these months of not being able to meet or travel or get together, one of the most welcoming dinners that began with a comforting, steaming bowl of minestra di tenerumi (a minestrone made with the leaves and tendrils of the long cucuzza squash) and ended with this cake, a melt in the mouth flourless chocolate cake, served with simply whipped cream.
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This is a slightly untraditional variation on the most traditional recipe I know for panforte — a sweet, dense, spicy medieval cake from Siena. The recipe comes from the bible of Tuscan cooking, Paolo Petroni’s Il Grande Libro della Vera Cucina Toscana and every time I make panforte (since I first posted about it back in 2011) I make some kind of variation on his recipe.
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Back home from a whirlwind trip to Venice with a new set of Covid-19 regulations that means it’s time for a lot of baking (and staying at home). This is a savory bread pudding cake, which as far as I can tell isn’t really a thing but it is the best way I can describe it. Basically it is an excellent way to use up leftovers — stale bread, milk and eggs make the body of the cake, then add whatever you have in the fridge, leftover bits of cheese, some pancetta, that sort of thing.
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I am quite aware that this title sounds a bit ridiculous — because there is no such thing as Tuscan spice pumpkin bread and it sounds like one of those recipes that I see online and abhor, that has nothing at all to do with Tuscany, like “Tuscan salad dressing” (no such thing exists in Tuscany, we just use olive oil and a wine vinegar of choice).
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Between making yolk-rich pasta, the odd carbonara, or whipping up some crema, I always seem to have a few egg whites lying around — I honestly can’t bear to throw them away. I usually freeze the egg whites, hoping to find something useful for them but inevitably they sit there in the freezer, multiplying. My girls love meringues but I’ve found that defrosted egg whites don’t make the best meringues (or pavlova!).
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There is something incredibly soothing about baking. If you love cooking and read this blog of mine, I’m sure that you probably feel the same. When times get tough, or you’re simply feeling down or uninspired or, maybe just because it’s raining or you can’t leave the house because you’re in a national lockdown, baking a cake (or perhaps bread) can be the perfect remedy.
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I have been dreaming about Mimi Thorisson’s black locust (robinia, acacia or false acacia) flower cake since I first came across it a couple of years ago, while searching for recipes using these bunches of white flowers with a strong, heady perfume similar to jasmine or orange blossom. I’ve been too busy frying them — dipping them in a runny batter, swirling them through a pot of bubbling oil, then eating them crunchy and piping hot, either sprinkled in sea salt or with a scant drizzle of acacia honey (of course), so sweet and clear it’s like syrup.
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The Italian Baker is one of the few cookbooks that I own two copies of, so that I have one in Italy and one in Australia and I don’t have to worry about packing it in my suitcase with me when I travel back and forth. It’s one of the few cookbooks that I have sitting on my desk, in the kitchen, ready to be flicked through or cooked from at any moment.
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It seems like a long way to go about getting some fresh saffron to frost a birthday cake with, but it was worth it. I’ve been plotting for months with my friend, Sarah Fioroni, to let me get involved with the saffron harvest at her family’s farm in San Gimignano. It’s not the first time I’ve celebrated my birthday with a saffron theme on the farm at Fattoria Poggio Alloro — there was this pumpkin and saffron risotto too.
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There are a lot of claims out there for ‘best’ chocolate cake recipes, which is not only a wild claim to make, but also a tricky one as, when you consider what makes a chocolate cake ‘the best’, we are talking about preferences that are extremely personal. Chocolate cake can be many things, and serve many purposes. There are ones that are fluffy and moist, a good specimen for a birthday or even a layered wedding cake (like this chocolate olive oil cake that I made for my brother’s wedding).
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It’s been two months since the book has “been out there” — Two exhilarating, nerve-wracking and unbelievable months and sold out book launch dinners and workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and London! To say thank you for all the wonderful support and enthusiasm for Florentine, I’m sharing one of my favourite recipes from the book — a humble but delightful apple cake — and I’m giving away a limited edition print from the book to one lucky reader!
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Amidst my Australian book launch frenzy and the heat wave of late summer crashing its way through the beginning of autumn, there have been berries. First blueberries, which are quickly heading out of season, then raspberries, which my daughter will gobble before anyone else even has a chance to look at them. And finally blackberries, which she won’t touch, so I get to have them.
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I’m always looking for interesting recipes in old cookbooks, things that are perhaps a bit forgotten and old fashioned or even a bit quirky. Even the classic things that haven’t changed for decades or centuries interest me for the fact that they don’t change. It’s something of a passion of mine and I’ve managed to make it the theme of my new column for Cucina Corriere, the food blog of Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera.
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When I say that this cake only needs four ingredients I mean the frosting too. And what’s more, it’s completely gluten free and dairy free. It’s easy to make and light as a feather. In short, it’s a pretty magical cake that makes you realise you can do so much with just eggs, sugar and corn starch (the fourth ingredient is a 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, which you could even leave out if you were very, very confident about your egg whites and then this would be a three ingredient birthday cake!).
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There’s nothing more disappointing than finding out that a recipe you’ve posted hasn’t worked out for someone. Worse if multiple people have had the same problem. Luckily in this case, it’s not my recipe, but it is a recipe that I’ve written about for my Food52 column, Regional Italian Food. It’s for a torta di noci, a traditional walnut cake from Calabria in southern Italy.
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It’s done. The manuscript is in. It’s been a whirlwind three or more months, where every spare minute of my day (when not devoting it to a toddler), every day and every evening, was consumed in the pages of my notebook, either scribbling recipes, testing, recording or researching them. It’s been quite an eyeopening experience and one that was made even more challenging with a little one around.
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This time tomorrow I will be skipping seasons, leaving this glorious Australian spring for Tuscan autumn – my favourite time of year in my favourite place, I must admit. It’s only for a couple of weeks but I’ll relish this time and make the most of cool mornings, fresh mushrooms, grapes, new olive oil. But just before I go, is this cake.
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There’s a lot of baking going on around here these days, you may have noticed it if you’ve been following on instagram. Biscotti, breads, pastries and the like. Ever since talking about our family going wheat-free, I’ve had people ask if any of it is gluten-free and unfortunately the answer is not much, as I’m doing some rather specific recipe testing for a project that will be revealed all too soon!
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I was quite amused the first time I heard Italians talk about, “plum cake”, even more so when I realised that the cake in question was not made with plums at all but was actually a pound cake (as romantic as it sounds, actually, little, mass-produced, packaged “plum cakes” are commonly found in the supermarket as a breakfast item). To me, it always seemed as though this erroneous translation was a matter of someone mishearing “pound cake”.
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A neighbour’s plum tree hangs over into our courtyard. By a lot. Dark plums, with a matte grey-blue coating a sometimes dark blue, sometimes pinkish-purple skin. Inside they’re sweet yellow, but when picked a little early, like I did to beat the birds (they wait until that crucial moment when the plums are just ripe – somehow they know – then they strip the tree at the blink of an eye before you’ve even had a chance to get out of bed), the flesh is lime green.
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What are the recipes that you have at your fingertips, those ones that aren’t even recipes, strictly speaking, but a familiar orchestration of ingredients coming together in that way that you like best? I pondered this when I was asked recently about which recipe I could make in my sleep. A recipe that I don’t need to measure, or if I do, one that I don’t need to refer to a book or notes for.
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I’m not sure I really thought things through when I offered to make my brother’s wedding cake. I’ve never made a wedding cake before, or even anything that required more than one cake pan, and I was also pregnant at the time so was quite oblivious to what making a wedding cake would be like with a ten month old baby in tow.
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There are times when I’m struck by the urge for a piece of cake. Nothing fancy, or too rich or indulgent, just a simple cake that can turn a lonely cup of tea into the perfect morning or afternoon treat, a pick me up and a good excuse to invite a friend over to share it with. This is just that cake.
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I have a confession to make. I rarely cook the recipes out of food magazines, even though I’ve been collecting and reading them (devouring is probably a good word here too) since I was about sixteen.  I have always just like looking at the pretty pictures and getting inspiration to make my own things. This is true even more so now, I tend to buy mainstream magazines less and less and turn to historical cookbooks for real recipes.
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There are times when something sweet, comforting, even old fashioned, is exactly what the doctor ordered. For me, it could be a sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries, an apple and rhubarb crumble or a short, crumbly crostata with homemade jam. But some Italians might find that a torta di semolino, semolina cake, brings a smile of nostalgia as they recall their grandmothers making this delectable yet simple, humble cake.
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Persimmons for me have that special nostalgic power that certain foods or smells or tastes imprint onto children’s brains. For me, it takes me back to Japan, to my grandparent’s house just outside Tokyo. I can see these plump, orange fruits lined up along the wide windowsill, ripening, with the heater burning away underneath. They were taken off the tree before the crows got to them and would be eaten only once they had become jammy and you could slurp it up with a spoon.
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