I can’t stop myself buying Amaretti cookies in their pretty red tin, every Christmas. I usually enjoy one or two cookies with a glass of liqueur but then I must confess they’ll sit on the pantry shelf, forgotten. I needed to bring dessert to a friend’s dinner party last weekend, and thought what better reason to find a good recipe using the cookies I had left from the Holidays. A quick Google search produced this 5-star rated, highly praised recipe from the July 2004 Archives of English food magazine, “BBC Good Food”. This recipe is a gem, for not only does it taste great but is also incredibly easy to make. Everyone loved it and I’ll definitely make this cake again and again. The raspberries can be exchanged for strawberries or blueberries (frozen berries also work well) say the recipe reviewers, and is successful with both Gluten Free or regular All Purpose flour.
I researched the origin of these delicious bittersweet, almond cookies, and it seems they are associated with romantic legend. As the story goes, a cardinal from Milan visited the little Italian town of Saronno in the early 18th century. A young couple, who were deeply in love, baked him some biscuits from sugar, egg whites and crushed almonds or apricot kernels. They wrapped the little cookies in tissue paper in sets of two, representing themselves as a couple, and presented them as a gift. In thanks, the cardinal is said to have blessed them with wishes for a happy marriage and a long life together.
Let us also remember those fun Italian waiters who perform that famous party trick, of taking the empty paper wrappers, setting them alight, as we all sit and watch in childlike wonderment while they float up in the air like magic!
Adapted from Good Food magazine, July 2004
175g soft butter
175g golden caster sugar
140g self-raising flour (Gluten Free or Regular) *see cook’s note below
85g ground almond
140g Amaretti cookies, roughly broken *see cook’s note below
250g punnet raspberry
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
icing sugar, to dust
250ml/1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (sieved to remove any lumps)
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Optional but really nice: A chilled glass of Amaretto Liqueur or Limoncello
1. Preheat the oven to Convection Bake 300 degrees F, regular 325F, Fan 140C/conventional 160C/gas 3. Butter and base line a loose-bottomed 8″/20cm round cake tin.
2. Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour and ground almonds into a large bowl. Beat using an electric hand whisk until all the ingredients are well blended.
3. Spread half the cake mixture in the lined tin. Scatter over half of the Amaretti cookies then a third of the raspberries. Very lightly press into the cake mixture.
4. Dollop spoonfuls of the remaining cake mixture over the Amaretti and raspberries and spread evenly. Scatter the remaining Amaretti and half the remaining raspberries over the top.
5. Bake for 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake is still not cooked at this stage, increase the oven temperature by 25 degrees and test again regularly (every 5 or 10 minutes depending on close to being cooked it is). Cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Run a knife round the edge and turn out. It will keep in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
6. Make Chantilly Cream: Chill a large mixing bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until very cold. Pour in the whipping cream and using an electric hand whisk, beat until thickened but still floppy. Add the sieved Powdered Sugar and Vanilla Extract and continue to beat until it holds its shape, but is still soft and fluffy. This whole process only takes 2-3 minutes and it’s important not to over whip cream as the texture becomes grainy and not so enjoyable to eat. Cover the bowl tightly and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. For a posher presentation, I like to pipe the cream so once it’s made immediately spoon it into a disposable icing bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Push the cream down the bag and twist the top of it closed and place in a covered container in the fridge.
7. To serve, remove cake from the fridge an hour before serving and lightly dust with icing sugar before bringing to the table. Cut the cake into slices and serve with the remaining raspberries and a generous dollop (or piping) of Chantilly cream.
a) To make Self-Raising Flour: This formula can be increased as necessary – whisk together thoroughly, 1 cup All Purpose Flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder and 1/2 teaspoon Salt. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Best if used fairly quickly so the Baking Powder doesn’t deactivate with age.
b) To prepare the Amaretti cookies – place them in a large food storage bag, squeeze out the air and make sure it’s tightly closed. Using a rolling pin, or something similar, bash away at the biscuits. Don’t crush them too finely as you want larger pieces in this cake to give a nice crunch to the cake. Any fine crumbs leftover can be used to garnish the finished plate.