Monday, January 28, 2013

Layer Cake with Pastry Cream (Torta Margherita con Creama Pasticcera)

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At last, the end has come... It's time for the Dolce... The Italian dessert.  If you have been following along for the last few days, you know that I am posting recipes from a classic Italian 5 course dinner party I hosted.  5 Courses, 7 separate dishes served in the Italian style.  Meaning relaxed.

So recapping, I have already covered the Antipasto course (2 "party" Trays (Cured meats and Cheeses) and a plate of Bruschetta) ...Italian antipasto - Antipasto all'italiana. Then yesterday I posted the first of two Primo courses (the first course, appetizer, starter course), a wonderfully unique Fennel and Blood Orange Salad. All of that was especially easy as there was no cooking involved, The Antipasto was set up before the guests arrived. The salad was simply brought out of the marinade and put into a serving platter to pass. I did start to cook a bit when I made pasta, cooked it, made a sauce and mixed the pasta in the sauce (not as hard or time consuming as it sounds, as it took less than 10 minutes to make the Pepper Pasta With Brown Butter Sage Sauce! Remember, Mise en Place and prep work is your friend as you want everything to run like clock work. I planned to make 2 different Contorni (Side dishes or the vegetable course). Once again, as with the Primo (pasta and salad course) I chose the dishes for a variety of reasons, but center stage was the ease of cooking. I had made a , Potatoes in a Pouch (Patate al forno in un sacchetto). This simple potato dish has several advantages for a party platter. First, they are very tasty. Simply baked in a pouch with sage and olive oil. The extra kick is the raw bacon that cooks and seeps bacon fat into the potatoes as they cook. But the big advantage is that they are another no mess no fuss dish. All you have to do is open the foil, pour them in a serving platter and enjoy. The second Contorni side was a beautiful colorful Swiss Chard with Tomatoes , Pine Nuts and Olives (Bietole con Pomodori, Pinoli e Olive)! It does sound like a lot, and it was. but again, proper planning got everything organized, dishes served timely with a gap of only about 10 minutes between courses.  And finally, the Secondo or Meat course of Roast Pork in Milk (Arista in Latte)!  A wonderfully fork tender pork loin served up with a mustard gravy.

I have to be honest, by the time dessert course rolled around, I was thrilled.  All of my work was done.  Food had been cooked, served and enjoyed.  Also, all the thought processes of getting the timing right had worked flawlessly.  I had made this cake the day before, and I felt my work was finished.  Whew, great feeling.

BTW, not that you ever need a reason to have a dinner party, this one had a reason, my good buddy, fellow geek - Shawn (Superman, geek movies, model collector (you remember those horror movie models back in the 60's... this guy still has his, Oh and he is also my minister, after spending decades as a Federal Prosecutor for the US Department of Justice, a few years ago he retired and went back to school.  At an age when many folks were slowing down, Shawn decided what he wanted to be when he grew up was an Episcopal minister..  Interesting guy).  Anyway, this was a celebration of the 31st anniversary of his 29th birthday (do the math... he is 60).

This was his birthday cake (complete with vintage Superman cake decorations.

OK, let's talk cake... This was a very interesting cake.  Very little flour, very little sugar but plenty of eggs.  It cooked up very light.  In fact, not only was I tired, but there were more than one slight moan as I announced dessert.  We had all had about 2 and a half hours of non stop food.  And good food at that.  We were full.  But we put on our big boy stretch pants and dug in, planning to eat only a couple forks worth just to be polite.

When all was finished, only 1 of the 8 had not licked their plate clean.  We were all pleasantly surprised at how light and easy this cake was to eat on top of a heavy meal.

In other words... perfect for the night.

As to the "icing", in fact it was some pastry cream.  Sort of like a filling for a Boston Cream Pie.  Again, whipped up so it had volume but was in fact much lighter than a sugar icing would have been.  Like I said... a fine Dolce for the evening...

Here's what I did...

Layer Cake with
 Pastry Cream 
(Torta Margherita con Creama Pasticcera)

  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 4 Room Temperature Large Eggs
  • 2 Room Temperature Large Egg Yolks only
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Prepare a 9 inch springform cake pan with nonstick spray
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together for 1 minute
  4. Sift the flour into the bowl and gently fold into the egg mix. Do not over mix, but incorporate as best you can with minimal beating.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan
  6. Bake until a knife can be inserted and comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out on a wire rack and let cool completely (at least 2 hours).
  8. Slice the cake horizontally, fill with pastry cream and top with same cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve
  9. Serve chilled and PARTY LIKE YOU ARE 29 AGAIN!
And here's the recipe for the Italian Pastry Cream I used...

Pastry Cream
 (Crema Pasticcera)

  • 2 Cups Whole Milk
  • Grated Zest of 1 Medium Lemon
  • 3 Large Egg Yolks only
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
Cooking Directions
  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring the milk and lemon zest to a slow simmer, stir constantly but DO NOT LET THIS BOIL.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and egg togetehr, add the sugar and vanilla and whisk some more, add the flour and whisk for 1 more minute.
  3. Temper the raw eggs by adding 1/4 cup of the HOT milk to the eggs mixture, whisking CONSTANTLY until incorporated. If you do not whisk, the eggs will curdle (bad).
  4. Add another 1/2 cup of the hot milk and whisk again
  5. Now add all of the egg mix back into the sauce pan and whisk over heat until the mixture simmers and thickens, 5 minutes
  6. Transfer the thick pastry cream (now a pudding consistency) to a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap. put the wrap directly on the cream to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours or more.
  7. And use for a dozen purposes (like CAKE "frosting") and ENJOY!
It sounds like a lot of work, but not nearly as much as making a scratch cake.  The look is a bit rustic, meaning no fancy frosting style, but where it counts...

The taste was WONDERFUL

Light and airy, lemony, creamy delicious.

As a dessert for a dinner party, it was everything I was after.  Not filling, light enough to enjoy after a big meal, tasty enough that everyone wanted to eat even after a meal of this size.

One bite and they sucked it in and forks were flying. The sign of a wonderful dessert!

A new favorite I will make again...


This simple recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Cakes and Pies at Home"!

These are the desserts you make for your family.  No fancy amazing wedding cakes, just the rustic beauty of the classics.  From pumpkin pie to cheesecakes to layer cakes, these are what your family craves for dessert.  You may even see a few unusual crusts and frosting ideas to try.

You get the idea. These recipes are simple, delicious and will have your family wanting dessert first...

And of course, I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!


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