A Sicilian cocktail party, a lost recipe, the triumph of gluttony

gluttony-01 This week, Liz and I are gatecrashing a Sicilian cocktail party! What is a Sicilian party without drinks and food? Liz brings Clam Casino (below left) and a gorgeous coloured negroni (below right); I went for sweets from Sicilian convents with the Triumph of Gluttony. liz-clams-casinoliz-negroni

To read about our partying hijinks and get the clam and cocktail recipes, please head over to Liz’s blog (where you will also find the Dr Who cocktail (squee), bread on a stick, N2O gas-leavened cakes, and more fun than you can poke a pogo stick at).

{Interlude … }

{ I’ll be here sipping a negroni when you come back }

gluttony-06gluttony-07gluttony-08 A triumphal idea As for the Triumph of Gluttony, this is not so much a recipe as a tumble of ideas, an attempt to turn words on a page into something real, sans star trek replicator. The moment I read about the Triumph of Gluttony in Mary Simeti Taylor’s book, Sicilian Food, a love affair was born. It was an unrequited love affair, because Ms Simeti Taylor said each convent had its secret recipes that were, or are likely to become, forgotten with the last generation of nuns. So, I did what any mildly obsessive home cook would do, and made my own. For anyone who’s had the real Triumph of Gluttony from Palermo convents, this ain’t it. But if you didn’t make it before the convent stopped selling them to the public, this is for you.

PS, it’s also for everyone at Angie’s Fiesta Friday bash, you should also visit my co-gatecrasher Liz’s blog for the full story!!

gluttony-03   Cake: The Triumph of Gluttony is a layered creation. The layers can be made of sponge cake (pan di spagna), or short pastry (pasta frolla, pate brisee), or even marzipan (pasta reale). I used sponge cake, recipe below (with annotations on that baking powder question). Ricotta or biancomangiare filling: The filling can be made of ricotta cream, or blancmange / biancomangiare. They can be scented with jasmine flowers – which sounds just magical; see here, don’t you want to make that, right now? I wanted alternate layers of ricotta and biancomangiare. But the biancomangiare was … temperamental. Maybe because of clumsy stirring, I got a bland, gloopy cornflour-y mess that mocked my Gluttonous ambitious. To save the cake, I only used ricotta cream, recipe below. I couldn’t find fresh culinary jasmine flowers to flavour the ricotta, only dried jasmine flowers (used for herbal tea) and artificial jasmine essence. I tried a couple of ways of adding jasmine scent using dried flowers, but nothing came close to the drunken sweetness of fresh jasmine in my imagination. As a backup, I added rose water and orange blossom water to two separate batches of ricotta cream, to approximate the floral notes. gluttony-04 “like so many tesserae from the mosaic wall…” Mixed in with the ricotta cream were chunks of pistachios and candied citron, with “an affirmation of cinnamon” sprinkled over each layer of ricotta cream. Some version of Triumph uses candied zuccata (I think also known as cucuzza), a long, fantastically shaped squash/gourd which is mostly grown in Sicily; see here, here, here, here, plus more on the interwebs. Since I couldn’t find it (Ms Simeti Taylor does provide a recipe, but it also needs fresh jasmine flowers – dangit), I substituted candied citron. Citron has a similar semi translucent, green-gold colour, and has a delicate flavour that set off the flower-scented ricotta. gluttony-05 Pistachio glaze and decorations: Traditionally, a Triumph of Gluttony is covered in marzipan or similar pistachio paste. For reasons of laziness and technical ineptitude, I made a more liquid version of pistachio glaze with the consistency of a thin ganache. The cake was partially ‘glazed’, and otherwise remained ‘naked’. The real pistachio conserve recipe is given below. And decorations! Triumphs are described as being exuberantly decorated with candied fruit, marzipan, with a “touchingly naive” outward appearance that belies the delicacy of flavours and colours within. A tad exhausted by this point, I went with a tumble of dried jasmine and rose buds, dried rose petals, slivers of candied citron, and chopped pistachios. Marzipan pearls around the base of the cake was a (ironic?) nod to tradition. gluttony-10

Sponge cake or pan di spagna

Baking powder: there are many, many recipes for sponge cake that suggest using baking powder is cheating. But other recipes use a small amount of baking powder to ensure the sponge cake rises; and Ms Simeti Taylor’s book has a recipe for pan di spagna which uses baking powder. As a home cook who is notoriously cow-handed at whipping eggwhites, I added baking powder in the batter, but all you egg-whipping-pros out there can leave it out. From here, here, here, here, and elsewhere Ingredients 4/5 cup (120 g) plain/AP flour (note, a number of recipes use a small amount of wheat starch or cornflour, for a ‘softer’ crumb) 2/3 cup (120 g) castor/granulated sugar 4 eggs, at room temperature (it is important that eggwhites are at room temperature for whipping) A pinch of salt A teaspoon vanilla extract Optional: 1/4 teaspoon baking powder A 10-inch (24 cm) round pan, buttered and floured; for a thinner cake, I used a rectangular pan. Method 1. Preheat your oven to 380 F (190 C). Sift the flour (and cornflour/wheat starch, if using). 2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with sugar until very fluffy, almost white. Beat in the vanilla extract. 3. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, add a pinch of salt during beating, and gently fold them into the beaten egg yolks. 4. Fold the flour into the batter and pour it into the pan. Put the cake pan in the oven (the oven rack was one below middle of the oven), reduce the temperature to 350 F (175 C), and bake the cake for about 25-40 minutes (if you used a rectangular pan, the baking time will be closer to 25-30 minutes; if you used a round pan, the baking time should be closer to 40 minutes). A toothpick inserted will come out dry, and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Mine browned slightly. 5. Let the cake cool upside down, then remove it from the pan. Alternately I had lined the cake pan with baking paper, and lifted it onto a cooling rack after 5 minutes.

~~

Ricotta cream

Ingredients 250 grams fresh ricotta, well drained 125 grams icing sugar A pinch of salt 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon rosewater 1 teaspoon orange blossom water 10-20 grams each of chopped pistachios and candied citron Method 1. Pass the ricotta through a sieve so it becomes fine and creamy. Using a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer, lightly beat in the icing sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla. 2. Divide ricotta mixture into two bowls. To one bowl, add the rosewater, and half of the pistachios and citrons. To another bowl, add the orange blossom water and the remaining pistachios and citrons. Mix to distribute the flavours and mix-ins.

~~

Pistachio Preserves or Paste

Ingredients 50 grams shelled pistachios (unsalted) 50 grams castor / granulated sugar About 1.5 tablespoons water (I added more water to make a liquid glaze rather than paste) Method 1. Finely chop the pistachios in a food processor or a spice grinder. If you have the patience, remove the purple inner skin before grinding the pistachios. 2. In the smallest pan you have, dissolve the water and sugar, place over a moderate heat. Add the ground pistachios and stir until it forms a thick paste. Since I am making a small amount, I added more water to prevent burning, so ended up with a more liquid paste/glaze.

~~

Assembly

These are my notes, not firm instructions. I used some short, wide drinking glasses as mould, and cut out circles of sponge cake to fit in the glass. Before layering, I lightly greased the inside of the glasses with flavourless vegetable oil, and lined the glasses with some cling wrap. This made the finished cake relatively easy to remove from its mould (though the cling wrap did leave its creases and patterns on the ricotta, not sure how to fix that…) Next time, I would like to cut the sponge layers in half horizontally. This would give me thinner cake layers and more room to play with the filling – especially if I succeeded in making the biancomangiare. To layer the cake: Start with one layer of sponge cake, then one layer of ricotta cream (rose water flavoured), then a sprinkling of powdered cinnamon (as fresh as you can get it), and some crushed chocolate crumbs. Then, another layer of sponge cake, another layer of ricotta cream (orange blossom water flavoured) with cinnamon and chocolate crumbs, and finish with one final layer of sponge cake. A note on chocolate crumbs: I added crushed chocolate crumbs, made using a Christina Tosi recipe, on a whim. This isn’t a traditional addition, but it made the layers more visible, and who has ever said no to chocolate? You could sprinkle over some finely grated chocolate if you don’t have chocolate crumbs at hand. I was lucky in my layering. The layered cake just over-filled the height of the drinking glasses, so that I could put a chopping board over the glasses, put a couple of cans on top, and leave them in the fridge to chill and set. To finish, drizzle over some pistachio glaze. Or, traditionally, you would roll out the marzipan or pistachio conserve and wrap it around the cake. Top with decorations: candied fruit, marzipan, rosebuds, rose petals, jasmine flowers – maybe even edible glitter for a touch of luxe? Admire your handiwork briefly, then dig in!

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88 thoughts on “A Sicilian cocktail party, a lost recipe, the triumph of gluttony

  1. Liz 3 April 2014 at 12:22 pm Reply

    thank you for the multiple links, Saucy! Love that you made a negroni on your end, too :-) What pretty glassware. And I’m still reeling over your AMAZING cake. You’re an excellent gate-crashing partner in crime ;-) Until next time…

  2. Kouzounas Kitchen 3 April 2014 at 12:58 pm Reply

    This looks amazingggg!

  3. ladyredspecs 3 April 2014 at 1:00 pm Reply

    Fab cake !! I see multiple possibilities for this idea….Thanks

  4. tinywhitecottage 3 April 2014 at 1:41 pm Reply

    I’m smitten right now. I can’t quite put my finger on how I feel about this cake. It’s so whimsical, enchanting and debauchery comes to mind too. It’s wonderful. Lovely photographs….love LOVE the herringbone woolen fabric. I’ll just sit here and stare at your photographs. :)

  5. Chaya 3 April 2014 at 1:57 pm Reply

    this is really beautiful!

  6. lapetitepaniere 3 April 2014 at 2:42 pm Reply

    This is amazing with all these layers of colors! A feast.

  7. tableofcolors 3 April 2014 at 2:53 pm Reply

    What a beautiful cake…artwork indeed! The photography was great! Thanks for the links.

  8. lapetitecasserole 3 April 2014 at 3:09 pm Reply

    Wow Saucy! this is outstanding… anytime someone asks me what is my preferred food in Italy I reply without any hesitation “Sicilian!”, and here you did a great job, photos included!
    I’ll be in Sicily into 2 months…. you make me even more impatient!

  9. Experienced Tutors 3 April 2014 at 5:55 pm Reply

    Oh. . . Wicked – and that’s just the photos!

  10. janina 3 April 2014 at 7:13 pm Reply

    Wow…that is a real challenge! Sounds and looks most delicious!~ Your photography is fantastic! :heart:

  11. lemongrovecakediaries 3 April 2014 at 9:57 pm Reply

    OMG did I just say OMG…what am I 12?? Seriously though that is one magnificent dessert. SG you have outdone yourself this time :)

  12. theseasonedtraveler 3 April 2014 at 10:06 pm Reply

    Candied citron, floral notes, affirmations of cinnamon? And pistachio glaze? Ricotta cream? I want to live in that triumphant tower you built. I’ll sip my negronis up there, thanks.

  13. Coffee and Crumpets 3 April 2014 at 11:14 pm Reply

    Wow! Just wow at the time spent on this cake! But what wonderful results! It is quite magnificent!

  14. Nancy 4 April 2014 at 12:05 am Reply

    I see this cake wears its name proudly…Triumph of Gluttony indeed! Looks devilishly delicious!

  15. Aneela Mirchandani 4 April 2014 at 2:34 am Reply

    Looks very very gluttonous!

  16. Amanda 4 April 2014 at 5:41 am Reply

    Wow. This is absolutely amazing. It’s a work of art. Well done. It seems like it has all my favorite flavors in one!

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:18 am Reply

      Thanks Amanda! The description of the cake from Mary Simeti Taylor’s book was so absolutely amazing, it has been one of those ‘things I must try, somehow’ for more than a year. So, one way to taste the cake was to make it myself! :-)

  17. Ada ~ More Food, Please 4 April 2014 at 6:21 am Reply

    What a unique and extraordinary cake! So appropriate to call it the Triump of Gluttony. Thanks for sharing!

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:16 am Reply

      Thank you Ada, the description of the cake (more in Liz’s post) was extraordinary. It has been bugging me ever since I read it, probably more than a year ago. This was one way to try get it out of my mind! :-)

  18. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 4 April 2014 at 9:08 am Reply

    Wow what a cake! It looks intriguing and such a production too. But absolutely well worth it! :D

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:14 am Reply

      Yep, definitely worth it. Thanks for visiting!

  19. Michelle 4 April 2014 at 11:46 am Reply

    Oh my goodness. That may be the most crazy/decadent/fabulous dessert I’ve ever seen!

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:10 am Reply

      Haha, it was crazy, but crazy-fun. That description of the triumpy of gluttony has been in my head for, oh, the longest time, and I needed to get it out of my system somehow!

  20. Patty Nguyen 4 April 2014 at 2:38 pm Reply

    This is a work of art! Wowsers!

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:13 am Reply

      Thanks Patty, so glad you liked it, I’m also cheating a little and bringing it to Angie’s fiesta this week. If I eat all that cake I’ll become so, so round and need so many hours at the gym!! :-)

      • Patty Nguyen 5 April 2014 at 8:41 am

        Haha, I’ve been feeling so, so round myself lately!

  21. thehungrymum 4 April 2014 at 7:08 pm Reply

    how amazingly decadent. #yum

  22. whatjessicabakednext 5 April 2014 at 1:14 am Reply

    This looks like great fun! I love Sicilian food a lot too :)

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:11 am Reply

      Thanks Jessica, it was great fun! We love Sicilian food too, in fact we’re having another Sicilian food dinner party tonight. If the pie / timballo works out, it’ll be coming onto this blog!

  23. […] Saucy […]

  24. Hilda 5 April 2014 at 11:17 am Reply

    I think the world needs more Sicilian food. That cake is beyond description, yet with your step by step instructions, I am thinking maybe I could make it – but mine would probably just topple over. It deserves its own display case next to the rococo statue. And thanks for the links. All of it great party food for FF#10.

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:59 am Reply

      Thanks Hilda, you were a great host for FF #10! And I agree the world needs more Sicilian food, there are a couple more coming into this blog soon. This cake was surprisingly holding itself together after resting in the fridge for a few hours, and we cut into it pretty quickly so any wobbling was overlooked.

  25. Jody and Ken 5 April 2014 at 11:42 am Reply

    This is the kind of pastry that intimidates the hell out of me. My confidence with savory food abandons me. An invitation from someone who has clearly mastered the technique is much more in order. Really lovely, and lovely story–sad to think that the recipes will disappear with convent life. Would you mind telling me the name of cake in Italian? Thanks. Ken

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:55 am Reply

      Next time I make this cake, you are more than welcome to come over! It is, I think, “il trionfo di gola” in Italian, though I think that literally translates to triumph of the throat??

  26. chefjulianna 5 April 2014 at 5:51 pm Reply

    Saucy, your cake is a triumph! I so admire your dedication to reproduce this and you have me completely intrigued to find this book and read about the cake. Doesn’t it just make you wonder about all of the other lost recipes in this planet? Thanks so much for bringing your accomplishment to FF!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:02 am Reply

      Juliana, thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, i sometimes I wonder how many recipes are being lost because people don’t time or grandma (or the nuns!) never wrote down her secret recipe. It would be fascinating to do some research into these “list” dishes!

      • chefjulianna 16 April 2014 at 3:48 pm

        Yes, kind of like culinary anthropology !

  27. deliciouslynell 6 April 2014 at 11:01 pm Reply

    That looks absolutely amazing! :D

  28. The Novice Gardener 7 April 2014 at 12:22 am Reply

    You can not be serious! Who would dare eat that cake? It belongs in a museum!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:12 am Reply

      A cake museum! That could be my next career! :-D Then I can have my cake and eat it too :-P

  29. Alex 7 April 2014 at 2:59 am Reply

    Absolutely gorgeous! I would feel bad sticking a knife and fork into that but it sounds so delicious I don’t think I could resist!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:17 am Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment! We stuck a knife and fork into it pretty quickly! ;-)

  30. apsara 7 April 2014 at 3:01 am Reply

    That is a very creative way of assembling a cake, and I admire your patience, Saucy!

  31. spiceinthecity 7 April 2014 at 4:26 am Reply

    Wow, this looks so amazing!! Lovely!

  32. Aditi 7 April 2014 at 5:30 am Reply

    I have never seen anything like this before. Looks absolutely amazing! So many great things- all in one.

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:19 am Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind words! :-D

  33. Daniel Etherington 7 April 2014 at 7:24 pm Reply

    Wow. And what an incomparable name for a cake!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:21 am Reply

      It’s a good name isn’t it? And from a convent too!

  34. Karen 7 April 2014 at 10:30 pm Reply

    The triumph of gluttony looks decadently good.

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:22 am Reply

      Thank you, it was, we ate it pretty quickly!

  35. Dimple@shivaaydelights 7 April 2014 at 11:27 pm Reply

    Wow..wow..wow

  36. indusinternationalkitchen 8 April 2014 at 2:46 am Reply

    Amazing! When I first read the name ‘Tower of gluttony’ and thought you just totally made it up yourself but was surprised to learn that there indeed is a history behind that! :) Well it certainly looks like a piece of art first …so what if it makes you feel gluttonous? :)

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:25 am Reply

      So true! If there is good gluttony and bad gluttony, I think this would fall into the good gluttony camp! ;-)

  37. simplyvegetarian777 8 April 2014 at 4:21 am Reply

    I can’t take my eyes off your photographs! They have some medieval charm to them. Do you have a magic wand somewhere? Simply wow. When you had posted this originally on Friday, I couldn’t visit your page since my phone kept crashing and thank goodness that I did today. That cake is a marvel! How did you do that? Gosh! Were you tired after creating this beauty? Wonderful flavors and a great drink to accompany:).

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:28 am Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Sonal! I was a bit tired after making this came, but it was totally worth it when we had it for dessert. And it was also fun planning the joint blog with Liz. :-D
      Thanks for visiting!

  38. petra08 8 April 2014 at 7:47 am Reply

    This looks beautiful and sounds lovely! That cake!!! Your images makes me want to grab a spoon and have just a tiny bite, not too big as it looks so pretty :)

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:31 am Reply

      Thank you Petra! We dug in with knife and forks, and it was gone pretty quickly!

  39. lovinghomemade 8 April 2014 at 8:08 am Reply

    What an incredible cake! And such lovely photos, as always. I didn’t know jasmine essence or culinary flowers existed but now I want some!!!

  40. Gather and Graze 8 April 2014 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Now that is, seriously, one impressive cake! How completely over the top and indulgent – must have been a triumph to finally sit down and eat a slice (or two…)! Love it!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 3:01 pm Reply

      Thanks! I’d have to say we ate the cake in true “triumph of gluttony” style! :-P

  41. Stephanie 8 April 2014 at 9:24 pm Reply

    What an extraordinary cake! It’s almost too much … almost … I would love to have a slice (or two) of this!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:58 pm Reply

      Thanks Stephanie! It is a bit over the top, in a good way, that made it fun to eat as well! :-)

  42. sherry from sherryspickings 8 April 2014 at 10:52 pm Reply

    such a gorgeous looking cake!

  43. Tea with Erika 8 April 2014 at 11:32 pm Reply

    What a fantastic cake! How impressive!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:56 pm Reply

      Thanks Erika, the cake was fun, there is something about Sicilian pastry and cake, over the top sweetness and deliciousness!

  44. Mary Frances 9 April 2014 at 5:42 am Reply

    That cake is a showstopper!

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:55 pm Reply

      Thank you! It really was less difficult than it looks! :-)

  45. laurasmess 10 April 2014 at 2:02 am Reply

    Oh my golly gosh. Wow. I am completely in awe of that cake… what an impressive creation! Love the name, too! As for the negroni? Ah… one of my fave cocktails EVER. My local bar makes a ‘smoked negroni’ that completely knocked my socks off… but I know I’d feel exactly the same if I was at your Sicilian cocktail party. Actually, can we please just get that tent feast organized?! I think it’s becoming urgent! xxx

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:53 pm Reply

      YES to the tent feast!! It would be so, so much fun, and so much food!
      Maybe Liz can knock up some more negroni, smoked or otherwise.

  46. Johnny / Kitschnflavours 10 April 2014 at 11:03 am Reply

    I’d dare to eat that cake. And I bet it was delicious.
    Love the wood to right of frame. That’s not a window frame, is it?

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 2:48 pm Reply

      That’s actually a decorative wood bit from a Middle Eastern house! We found it in a shop, now it’s on our wall. Might see it in future photos as it takes up most of the wall!
      Yep, we also dared to eat the cake. Would have been wasted otherwise, right? :-)

  47. […] The Triumph of Gluttony cake from Saucy@Saucy Gander. In Hilda’s words, “This cake is a masterpiece. It inspires conversations about history, art, and sin. If we can’t bring ourselves to repeat this production, we [can at least] try to duplicate some of the tasty elements in our baking.” […]

  48. eclecticoddsnsods 12 April 2014 at 3:22 am Reply

    LOL OMG that looks amazing, i could never make that. How do you feel after eating it..hehe x

    • saucygander 12 April 2014 at 8:51 am Reply

      Gluttonous!! :-)
      But oh so worth it. :-D

  49. polianthus 29 July 2014 at 6:07 am Reply

    oh wow what have I been missing, it seems like your blog has been churning out POST after POST and i have missed the most of them – darn

    • saucygander 29 July 2014 at 7:50 am Reply

      Hi Poli! I’ve been away and posting a few pre-scheduled things. Have also missed visiting my favourite people due to dodgy internet connections while en vacances. So things probably seemed all quiet on the SG front.
      Great to see you, I’m coming round to your blog soon… maybe lunch time today…

      • polianthus 29 July 2014 at 8:21 am

        HI SG – sounds like you have been doing some really cool stuff on your holidays and I will come and read more, I did seriously feel deprived when I checked out your posts and saw how much I had missed, tells me I have been working too hard…

      • saucygander 29 July 2014 at 11:20 am

        Ahh work. I also have those weeks, if only travelling is a real job.

      • polianthus 29 July 2014 at 6:16 pm

        oh I have been in jobs where traveling was part of the job but real work was waiting at the other end..

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