A little history of this iconic Italian cake
The Caprese cake, a beloved dessert hailing from Italy, carries a fascinating history that is as rich and layered as the cake itself.
The story of the Caprese cake dates back to the 1920s, and like many great culinary inventions, it was born out of a mistake. The tale goes that a pastry chef named Carmine di Fiore, in his haste to serve an almond cake to three American gangsters visiting Capri, forgot to add flour to the mix. To his surprise, the cake turned out to be a unique and delicious delicacy, and it quickly became a source of pride for the island and the entire Amalfi Coast
Another version of the story suggests that the cake was created when a baker, fulfilling a tourist’s order for an almond cake, mistakenly left out the flour.
Yet another account attributes the recipe to two Austrian women who inherited a guest house in Capri.
There is another one, more royal, that intertwines the Caprese cake with the court of the Bourbons and involves a whim of Maria Carolina of Habsburg, wife of Ferdinand IV, also known as King Nasone (Big Nose).
The princess, merely 16 at the time of her arranged marriage, found her initial meeting with Ferdinand to be quite distressing. “My husband is repugnant,” she confided in letters to Vienna, her dismay not solely based on his looks but also their contrasting personalities. A princess from the high echelons of European nobility, Maria Carolina was noted for her beauty, elegance, and culture. Ferdinand, in contrast, was an unconventional king, familiar with the city’s streets and its urchins. Some historians suggest that Ferdinand of Bourbon struggled to grasp his wife’s refined Italian.
Maria Carolina’s youth and her marital dynamics often led her to whimsical behavior. Overwhelmed by nostalgia for Austria, she is said to have requested a Sacher cake in the palace kitchens one day.
The kingdom’s chefs, trained in the French culinary tradition, were unfamiliar with the recipe, as was Maria Carolina. To appease the queen, they asked her to describe the cake’s flavor and appearance. Their attempt to replicate the Sacher, based on her recollections, resulted in a preparation error. However, this error gave rise to a delectable cake that delighted Maria Carolina’s discerning palate.
Regardless of its origins, the Caprese cake has become a celebrated part of Italian cuisine. Its rich, dense texture and the surprising absence of flour make it a favorite among locals and tourists. The cake is traditionally made with almonds, chocolate, and a hint of something missing, creating a unique, satisfying, and intriguing flavor profile.
As we delve into the recipe for this iconic dessert, let’s celebrate the beautiful mistake that gave us the Caprese cake, a true gem of Italian cuisine.
150 gr peeled almonds
125 gr of good quality dark chocolate
125 gr of butter
3 eggs (about 180gr)
100 gr of fine caster sugar
salt to taste
Lightly toast the almonds in the oven at 180°, let them cool, and then blend them with a mixer. Break up the dark chocolate and melt it in a bain-marie, together with the butter, until smooth. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. By hand, cream the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl and then beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric whisk. Add the chopped almonds to the dark chocolate. Mix well and add this mixture to the yolks with the sugar. Amalgamate again and then gently add the stiffly beaten egg whites two times, helping yourself with a spatula. Line a cake pan 20 cm in diameter with baking paper and then pour the mixture inside Bake the cake in a preheated oven at 180° in static mode for about 30/35 minutes. After the necessary time has elapsed, remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its mold. Then transfer it to a cake rack and let it cool completely.