Today I would like to share a recipe not very popular in the US but absolutely typical at Christmas time in the South of Italy, precisely in Sicily (Trapani area). I bet you are pretty familiar with Italian Cannoli and Italian Cassata (both desserts part of the Sicilian food culture), but this exquisite sponge cake wet in Maraschino syrup, filled with apricot Preserve and covered in almond paste is called “Delizia” (literally “Delight”) for a reason: it is absolutely AMAZING! And to remark how worthy this cake is to be tasted, in some area of Sicily it is called “Torta Paradiso” (literally “Paradise Cake”) because when you eat it, you feel like in heaven! I know that from the appearance it could seem intimidating to make but honestly, besides a few phases required to make it and the need of rest overnight before to be completely done, I would say that it is pretty simple to make, the ingredients are quite easily retrievable, and the result is absolutely astonishing!
INGREDIENTS for a 8″ round springform pan
FOR THE SPONGE CAKE
4.2 oz. (120 gr.) sugar
4.2 oz. (120 gr.) all purpose flour
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. orange extract
FOR THE SYRUP
4.4 oz. (125 gr.) sugar syrup
0.8 oz. (25 gr.) maraschino liquor
FOR THE FILLING
apricot preserves as needed (a 1 lb. jar would be more than enough and you will not use the whole thing)
FOR THE ALMOND PASTE
8.8 oz. (250 gr.) almond flour
7 oz. (200 gr.) sugar
0.8 oz (25 gr. about 2 tsp.) honey
5.6 oz. (160 gr.) egg whites (about 4 egg whites)
For the sponge cake: Beat the eggs with the sugar until shiny and stiff. It may take about 20 minutes. Use an electric whip or a kitchen aid for the job (this phase is very delicate because if the eggs don’t incorporate enough air, the sponge won’t rise). Add the sifted flour and the extracts and stir gently from the bottom to the top to avoid losing the volume and get a runny batter.
>Pour the batter on a 8″ springform pan lined with parchment and bake at 355 F. (175 C.) for about 40 minutes or until the top gets golden. Let it cool off before taking out of the springform pan.
For the Sugar Syrup: In a pan boil for about 10 minutes 375 gr. of sugar and 250 ml. of water. Let it cool off.
Store in a mason jar or a sealed glass jar using a small colander. You will not use the entire jar of sugar syrup for one cake, but if well closed and stored in a refrigerator, the sugar syrup could last up to a month, so you could maybe have the chance to make this cake more than one time between now and Christmas ;-).
For the almond paste: mix together the almond flour, honey, sugar and egg whites. The batter should be not too runny nor too stiff but the right consistency to be handled with a SAC (Sach a Posh) with a star tip.
Arrange the cake: it’s important to arrange the cake in a plate that can be put in the oven because once assembled the cake will need to be baked again. Cut the sponge cake in 2 disks. Wet both disk with the Maraschino Syrup.
Coat the bottom disk with a light layer of apricot preserve. Cover with the second disk. Coat the secon disk with another layer of preserve evenly, even on the sides.
Decorate the cake with the almond paste using a SAC with a Star Tip and (optional) few peeled almond.The traditional Sicilian “Delizia” is decorated with a “basket” pattern, which is quite easy to make, just take a look to the following pictures.
LET THE DECORATED CAKE REST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR AT LEAST 10 HOUR to let the almond paste set.
Once the almond paste is set, bake the cake again for about 20 minutes at 360 F (180 C.) until the paste get slightly colored. Let the cake cool off and shine it with some apricot preserved mixed with sugar syrup.
LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!
TIPS: – Seriously, this cake is not difficult to make AT ALL, it just takes patience and discipline in following the directions. I made it right at the first attempt.
– This cake can last even 10 days if refrigerated. It’s totally festive and perfect also as an edible gift.
– Since the Maraschino liquor at the store was too expensive, I substituted it with the syrup of Maraschino cherries, definitely much cheaper! The cake turn out perfect anyway BUT only if you use the Maraschino Liquor the sponge cake won’t get pink on the inside, and the REAL DELIZIA CAKE has a white sponge cake and not a pink polka dot one :-).– Don’t be afraid to wet the sponge too much. It is better to have a well soaked base than a dry one.
It would really make me feel proud knowing you intend to try this DELIGHT cake as your CHRISTMAS SPECIAL DESSERT!
But even if you’ll ever give it a try in another occasion, and enjoyed it, please
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