The cuisine of Italy is famous throughout the world. Apart from pasta and pizza, Italy is the bedrock of classic cakes and desserts. The cakes have their individual cultural significance and history, or holidays associated with them.
Italian cakes offer a wide range of tastes and flavours to suit any kind of sweet tooth. You are bound to find at least one favourite cake from the wide variety that Italy has to offer. Below are 10 mouth-watering traditional Italian cakes you might want to indulge in:
1. Tiramisu cakes
Possibly the most famous traditional Italian cake, Tiramisù is a strong layering of savoiardi, which is soaked in coffee. It has a rich cream that uses eggs, sugar, and mascarpone, occasionally blended with hints of liqueur. Tiramisù literally translates into ‘pick me up’ courtesy of the mood-lifting mixture of cocoa, sweet mascapone, and coffee.
Today, tiramisu is found on all Italian menus in varyious forms. Some serve it from a large tray in a cake-style, while others prepare it in individual glasses or cups. Other variation use fruits such as Nutella and strawberries.
2. Babà al rum cakes
Babà means ‘old woman’ or ‘grandmother’. This cake is highly popular in Naples. Its distinct mushroom shape is visible in most pastry shops. The fact that it’s rum-soaked and has a spongy texture makes it an excellent choice for after dinner dessert or breakfast. It is so popular that the phrase, “si nu babbà,” which translates into “you are delicious,” has been coined to refer to it. It is usually served with freshly whipped cream, fresh fruit or jam.
3. Cassata Alla Siciliana
This is a Sicilian cake, one of the first cheesecakes in the world. ‘Cassata’ is derived from a Latin word, caseus, which also means ‘cheese’. But some also say it’s from the Arabic word qas’ah, indicating the terracotta bowl in which it is shaped. It’s prepared using fresh sheep’s milk ricotta, but cow’s milk ricotta can be used as well. It’s found in all areas of Sicily. The cake is an extraordinarily rich delight that also manages to be light and easy to digest.
Panettone means big loaf. It’s a tall traditional Italian cake that relies on yeast to raise the dough. It is a traditional Christmas-time cake. It isn’t easy to make as it takes a long process with multiple risings of the dough. It is a classic for the area around Milan in northern Italy.
5. Millefoglie or Mille-Feuille Napolean
The name of this layered pastry translates into “a thousand leaves”. The traditional puff pastry used is folded and can yield hundreds of layers as it separates after baking. It is also known as the Napolean. Millefoglie became popular during the reign of Emperor Napolean I of France. No matter how you slice it, it’s an airy dessert that makes a great birthday cake.
6. Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina
The name Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina means “white flatbread cake,” which sounds rather dull for a cake traditionally eaten during Carnival time before Easter. It’s an amazingly tasty cake that can be made at home. While this is not an extremely sweet cake, it is perfect for dessert, morning or afternoon tea, and perhaps even a heart breakfast.
7. Il Pandoro Veronese
Pandoro stems from pan d ‘oro, meaning golden bread. It was a bread reserved for the wealthy, made with eggs, butter, and sugar or honey. Pandoro symbolizes Christmas in a very literal sense. The cake is shaped like a craggy mountain topped with snow-white confectioners’ sugar. It’s difficult to make, and therefore most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced Pandoro from their local bakery or supermarket. They are made in a tapered high-sided mould, so it produces a star-shaped cross-section usually with eight points.
8. Pastiera Napoletana
Originally from Naples, the pastiera Napoletana has become a favourite restaurant dish in Italy during the Easter period. Like all good recipes, the origins are legendary. According to some accounts, it came from a convent in Naples. Others claim it has pagan Greek roots, just like the city of Naples. The truth is, the ingredients – candied peel, orange flower water, ricotta cheese – remind one of the spring scents and flavours in the bay of Naples.
9. Torta Barozzi
This traditional Italian cake originates from Vignola, which is located barely outside Modena in Emilia-Romagna. This chocolate cake is named after Jacopo Barozzi, who is a popular renaissance architect and one of Vignola’s renown sons. The Torta Barozzi recipe was initially invented in 1907 by Eugenio Gollini. For several years, the original ingredients of this dessert, were a well-guarded secret.
10. Sbrisolona (Lombardy)
The interestingly named cake translates into ‘crumbly’, perhaps in reference to its extreme flakiness. It originally came from Mantua town, which, in the seventeenth century, was once under the leadership of the Gonzaga family. The cake was made from humble recipe that included popular local ingredients such as hazelnuts that have been coarsely chopped, lard, and corn flour. Today, this cake is a mix of white flour, corn, a generous amount of butter, and almonds. To enrich it, add eggs, lemon zest, and sugar. This will yield an uneven, iconic texture. Eat Sbrisolona by slicing it by hand into pieces and then pair it with either the lovely sweet wine called Vin Santo, or grappa.