Ciaramicola : Italy’s Easter Lemon-Spice Cake for Lovers
Ciaramicola, a lemon spice cake, covered with merengue and topped with sprinkles, is a classic Easter cake from the Perugia province of Umbria. It is customary for a woman to give one to her lover or fiancé on Easter morning as a symbol of her affection.
The cake, with its red and white hues matching the city’s colors, was created as an omage to Perugia, and is an unofficial symbol of the city. It’s said that the cake’s colors represents features of Perugia—- Red for the Porta S. Angelo district, which is where firewood traditionally entered the city. White for the Porta Sole district because of its many marble and travertine facades. Blue for the district of Porta Susanna which leads to the lovely blue Lake Trasimena. Green for the district of Porta Eburnea that lead towards the pastoral mountains and vineyards of the area. Yellow for Porta S. Pietro, the gateway to Perugia’s lush wheat fields.
The cake dough is seasoned with lemon and spicy Alchermes liquer, which gives it a lovely red tinge, and shaped like a large ring, crossed in the center with two ropes of dough.
The etymology of the cake’s name comes from the word clear –“ciara”—because of the clear egg whites that are used to create the topping merengue and from “ciarapica”– Perugia dialectal for cinciallegra birds, the small multicolored creatures whose song announces the arrival of Spring in Umbria.
6 ounces, 3/4 cup, 1 1/2 sticks, unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
all purpose flour
3 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more as needed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup Alchermes liqueur* or see note below for a quick substitute
3 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Multi-colored sprinkles or nonpareils
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Put the eggs, yolks and
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Put the eggs, yolks and granulated sugar, into a bowl and beat, with an electric handheld mixer, until smooth and creamy. Add the butter and beat until creamy. Beat in the baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and lemon juice, liqueur and salt and beat until combined. Sift in the flour, a little at a time, combining with a wooden spoon or your fingers, until a thick batter forms. The batter will be dense and sticky.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and let rest for 30 minutes so it can rise and settle into the pan. Bake 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center section of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven. Slide a knife around the edges of the cake and carefully turn it out onto a baking sheet. Turn the heat off in the oven, but keep the oven door closed.
Just a few minutes before the cake is ready to come out of the oven, make the meringue topping. In a bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites and confectioners sugar until you get a very glossy thick, dense meringue. Top the fully baked cake with the meringue, sprinkle with the sugar balls, and return to the warm oven until the glaze dries and sets, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve.
* If you cannot find Alchermes substitute the following mixture:1/4 cup white rum, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon orange blossom or rose water, a few drops of red food coloring plus a pinch of each of the following spices: ground cinnamon, ground coriander, grated nutmeg or ground mace, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground star anise.
Scafata – Fava Bean Stew
Piatto Unico Primo Contorno
Scafata is a typical recipe from the region of Umbria made with a variety of spring vegetables. The word scafata derives from the name scafo which is dialect for the fava pod. This dish is considered to be part of la cucina contadina or “the farmer’s cuisine”, because this simple recipe uses everything that can be easily procured from the land. Pancetta is included in the traditional recipe, but for a vegetarian version like this, it can simply be left out.
Fava beans, or broad beans, are the oldest known beans in the world and are the star of this recipe and used as well in a variety of other Mediterranean dishes. They grow in a soft fuzzy pod, and are much larger than peas. Although in some countries it is custom to peel the transparent skin off the bean, here in Italy, the fava beans are often just shucked from the pod and cooked.
raw fava beans 3 cups (400g) shelled fava beans coarse
salt ½ tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons
Tropea onion 1 (finally chopped)
garlic cloves 1, finally chopped
peas 2 cups (285g) shelled peas (or frozen)
cherry tomatoes 13.5 oz (400g)
cherry or datterini tomatoes, without the skins*
swiss chard 12.5 oz (350g)
basil 1 handful basil or mint,
chopped black pepper
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, as needed
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Salt the water then add the fava beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain them and reserve the hot water.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet then add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
Now add the fava beans, tomatoes, swiss chard and half of a ladle of the hot water. Cover the skillet and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.
Now that the scafata is ready, boil the peas for 1-2 minutes in the reserved water, drain and add to the fava mixture. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm o cold. This dish is best made a day or two in advance and eaten cold or reheated.
*To easily remove the tomato skins, stick the tomatoes in the freezer over night then run them under warm water to easily remove the skin. Alternatively, you can blanch them for 1 minute and then run them under cold water and the skins will easily come off quite easily.