Growing up with an Italian aunt was one very bright spot of my childhood. I loved spending time with her, and would stay with her for the longest possible time that I could manage. She taught me to cook, she taught me religion, she taught me to speak Italian (something I'm working on getting better at now), and she taught me passion...for people, for food....and for life. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I loved everything about her. When she died, far too soon, I was devastated. Italian cuisine became my "comfort food" and the smell of fine basil, good oregano, and beautiful mozzeralla or parmesan (or "parmigiano" as she called it) bring her back to me. Mexican cuisine reminds me of "home" in California...but Italian food reminds me of family....of "famiglia" and my "Zia Caterine") Ti voglio bene, zia. E mi manchi ogni giorno!
This cake is one that I learned how to make NOT from my aunt...but it is Italian....fully Italian. I got the recipe from someone from Fiesole, which is a small town near Florence; in the heart of Tuscany. It is SUPER easy to make, VERY versatile and utilizes a lot of ingredients that I have close at hand; living here in a citrus grove. Citrus fruits figure very prominently into Italian cuisine. Give this cake a try, you won't be sorry.
Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina
Butter, for pan (I cannot stress enough the importance of buttering your pan. It makes removal of the cake...in one piece....possible. You can also dust the pan (after buttering) with a small amount of flour, but don't use too much)
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. (yes...tablespoons) baking powder
Zest and juice of one orange
3 large eggs
1/2 c warm WHOLE milk (I've heard you can make it with skim...and I imagine you can make it with other types of milk as well...it's just that the richer the milk....the richer the flavor)
4 T. vegetable oil
Powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) for topping.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan
Add together the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, orange juice, eggs, milk and oil. Beat at medium/medium low speed until thoroughly mixed together....about 3-4 minutes
Add the batter to the buttered pan and bake for about 25 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter; then flip the cake out of the baking pan onto a platter.
You can sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar or you can slice it and sprinkle it over each individual piece. This cake is simple and rustic, but it is DIVINE served with fresh fruit and freshly made whipping cream. It reminds me of a pound cake, but the citrus makes it SO much better. I've even eaten it for breakfast, spread with some orange marmalade...while drinking my coffee. :)
Tip: I have, on occasion, removed some of the orange juice and replaced it with 2 T. of Grand Marnier or Amaretto diSaronno. Just make sure you don't ADD the liqueur TO the orange juice or you might end up with too much liquid. If you're going to use one of the liqueurs (and they REALLY enhance the flavor!!) take out 2 T. of the orange juice and replace it with the liqueur.
Food quote: "Hell....a place where no one is waiting, and nothing is cooking" Old Tuscan Saying.