It might be a bit cliched, but one thing that comes instantly to mind when I think of Italian food, is a long table situated somewhere in the sunny outdoors, covered rustically with a white tablecloth, and groaning with an amazing array of food : sliced cold meats, fresh salads, bowls of pasta, juicy figs, perfectly ripe peaches and chilled watermelon slices. Seated around this, a group of people (family? friends?) talking to, over, around, and amongst each other; laughing, singing, clinking wine glasses. I hope my cake, made with one of my favourite liqueurs, Amaretto, would not be out of place in such a setting.
Amaretto is an Italian almond liqueur, sweet and slightly bitter in flavour, that I use quite often when baking. It is great in biscotti for that extra nutty flavour, or to enhance the flavour of a pannacotta. It is also great in this cake, adapted by Janni Kyritsis from an Alice Waters recipe. He serves it with hot caramelised figs but I’ve opted for poached rhubarb instead.
Amaretto Cake :
(serves 8, from Wild Weed Pie by Janni Kyritsis)
5 x 65g eggs, separated
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 egg whites (from 65g eggs)
pinch cream of tartar
150g plain flour
100g clarified butter
1/2 cup sugar syrup (made from equal amounts of castor sugar and water, and brought just to the boil to dissolve the sugar, then cooled)
1/2 cup Amaretto, extra
Preheat oven to 150’C. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line the sides and bottom with baking paper, making sure the paper rises half as high again above the cake tin. Butter and flour the baking paper.
Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until mixture falling from the beaters forms a ribbon-like pattern on top of the mixture for a few seconds. Gradually whisk in the 100ml amaretto and lemon zest. Whisk all the egg whites with cream of tartar until the mixture forms soft peaks. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until the mixture forms firm peaks. Fold a third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Sift flour and salt together. Mix a generous tablespoonful of the egg mixture into the clarified butter, then fold the butter mixture back into the egg mixture. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 130’C and bake for a further 30 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cake to cool in the oven.
Combine sugar syrup and extra amaretto and pour over the cooled cake.