When I started this blog, I knew very little about baking. Obviously there had been a muffin disaster here and there and even an occasional somewhat ok cake. Yet in general me and flours didn’t really mingle on a very regular basis. Hence the very moderate baking skills.
One thing that I knew even less about than baking was Italian baking. Obviously I am still far from an expert (or even at a point when my success rate would clearly be above 50%) but I have seen an almost exponential increase in my experience due to my little blogging adventures. Based on those, I have learned that the fantastic Italian way of utilising little tricks to add to the flavour also applies to baking. At the outset many recipes seem fairly similar to their Finnish counterparts but there is usually always a little twist (or two) that takes the outcome to the next culinary level!
In today’s recipe the twist lies in yogurt that – combined with the lemon zest – gives the cake a lovely fresh yet rich flavour. My own little additional twist to the recipe was to add some blueberries on top of the cake which worked fabulously.
For the cake:
200 g sugar
1 small package of plain yogurt (~150 – 200 g)
210 g flour
zest of one (preferably organic) lemon
70 ml corn oil (or rapeseed oil)
1.5 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
For the filling:
200 g cream cheese
2 tbsp plain yogurt
200 ml (double) cream
40 g sugar
20 g powdered sugar
Start by preparing the cake. In a bowl, mix the eggs with the sugar (with an electric mixer) until you have obtained a light-coloured mixture (with some small bubbles on top). Stir in the oil, lemon zest and yogurt. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Start adding the flour mixture into the rest of the cake dough in moderate quantities whilst mixing until the dough has a nice, smooth, non-lumpy texture. Pour the dough into a cake tin (buttered and floured) with a diameter of about 26 cm. Bake in the oven at 160C for about 30 minutes.
When waiting for the cake to bake, you can prepare the filling. Whip the cream with the sugar (by using an electric mixer) in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese with the yogurt and powdered sugar. Add the whipped cream into the mixture and continue to mixing (carefully) to achieve a smooth filling. Place the bowl in a fridge.
Let the cake cool down. Cut it into two halves (lengthways). Spread the filling onto one of the halves and place the other half on top of it. Decorate with powdered sugar (and e.g. fresh berries if you like) and serve.
There is one pastry that I remember having at almost every family gathering of my father’s side throughout my childhood: a banana cake. Apparently the recipe originated from a Canadian exchange student who visited my Dad’s family in the 1960s, and my relatives were hooked from the very first bite (or something like that – I wasn’t born yet)! It certainly is a nice cake although it is a bit hard to objectively rate a dessert that epitomizes your family coffee breaks of several decades, isn’t it?
I have never dared to try that recipe myself yet which – considering my very varying degrees of success when it comes to baking – may be a good idea. However, instead I found a neat, easy and baking-foolproof recipe with a nice Italian twist (i.e. ricotta) from Benedetta Parodi’s book Mettiamoci a cucinare. In this recipe, the softness and sweetness of the bananas is very nicely balanced with the freshness of the accompanying ricotta sauce and crunchiness of the walnuts. I have made this cake a few times now and even if it is yet to become a true family classic, it has also already won over fans of several generations!
For the cake:
250 g flour
150 g sugar
100 g walnuts
80 g butter
75 g ricotta
1 small cup of coffee
½ tsp bicarbonate (of soda)
½ tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
For the sauce:
250 g ricotta
50 ml maple leaf syrup
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl: The flour, sugar, bicarbonate, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, squash the bananas and add and mix in the ricotta, eggs, butter and coffee. Combine the ingredients of the two bowls and stir moderately (the dough should be lumpy). Pour the dough into a narrow rectangular cake tin (buttered or lined with a parchment paper), and bake it in the oven at 180C for about half an hour. Prepare the accompanying sauce by mixing together the ricotta and maple leaf syrup. Serve the cake with the sauce.
Some days are perfect for cooking. Whereas some certainly not.
Today is one of the latter. I have a terrible cold and a congested nose and feel like just sitting on my couch and being grumpy. Hence I decided to skip cooking this evening and go for a Chinese take-away instead. I had never tried my local Chinese restaurant earlier and I think it is somewhat unlikely that I will do that again in the near future. The place was completely empty and almost as soon as I had placed my order, I could hear the sound of a microwave oven humming in the background. And I’m quite certain that the food I got would be considered some kind of a criminal offense at least in Italy.
So today is definitely not about culinary experiences. However, I can browse my new Italian cookbook (by an Italian celebrity chef called Bruno Barbieri), and reminisce about earlier successful baking projects (yes, I think I can use plural by now) in my kitchen.
One of them is this fantastically easy yet delizioso chocolate cake that I made a few weeks ago. I got its recipe from “Le Ricette della Prova del Cuoco“. I served the cake with some vanilla ice cream although it is quite fab also on its own. Hmmm, in fact, this cake is so nice that I am sure that it is bound to have medicinal qualities. Maybe I should consider baking today after all..?
125 g dark chocolate
100 g butter
100 g sugar
40 g flour
Melt the chocolate together with the butter, 70 g sugar and a pinch of salt in a bain marie (i.e. a water bath/ double-boiler).
Combine three egg whites with the remaining sugar and whisk them until stiff.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat, add three egg yolks and one entire egg and stir for a few minutes. Add the flour (sieved) and the beaten egg whites. Mix with a spoon gently until you have a uniform batter. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (greased and floured or lined with a parchment paper) and bake in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes (when there are cracks on the surface, the cake is ready).