Nadia's Morning Coffee Cake

author: steveandsarah

created: 2004-07-18 22:42:16

servings: 8-12


This is from Marcella Hazan. This recipe shamelessly taps into the hope of the urban foodie that by following a recipe, you will imbibe the rewards of a more "rustic" lifestyle; in this case, it is implied that baking a cake might just transport you to the bucolic harmony of a family farm outside Venice. If this isn't enough to seduce you, the recipe itself reads like a poem; I love the idea of a "plainspoken" cake and the according minimalism and specificity of the ingredient list: 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil; 1 crisp, juicy apple. In the days before the KitchenAid I would beat the eggs and sugar together with unusual fervour in hopes that one day they would magically transform into the "yellow ribbons" Marcella demands. It's never happened (not even with the KitchenAid), but the cake is delicious anyway.


"Caffelatte" is what Italians of all ages have for breakfast at home. For small children it is a cupful of warm milk lightly stained with coffee, the ratio of coffee to milk increasing with one's years. It is often accompanied by some store-bought biscuits, but not in my assistant Nadia's family. She lives on her father's farm outside Venice with her husband and small boy, and for her son Tommaso she bakes wholesome cakes with fresh fruit. He has some with his "caffeelatte" and takes another piece to school to eat for "merenda", recess. I was particularly taken with the cake Nadia makes when there is no more summer fruit on the farm. She uses pears and apples and always adds a banana she buys in town. The proportions of one fruit to another may vary, and indeed Nadia says they always do, but nothing much can go wrong or affect the cake's plainspoken, engagingly fresh taste. 3 eggs 1 1/3 cups sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil The grated peel of 2 oranges A large pear, about 1/2 to 3/4 pound, or 2 smaller ones 1 crisp, juicy apple 1 banana 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 3/4 cups flour 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan A 10-inch springform pan 1. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees F. 2. Choose a mixing bowl that can subsequently contain all the ingredients. Put in the eggs and sugar and beat them until they are foamy and form yellow ribbons. 3. Add the salt, olive oil, and grated orange peel - making sure you haven't grated any of the bitter white pith beneath the orange skin - and mix thoroughly. 4. Peel all the fruit. Core the pear and apple and cut them into thin 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the banana very thin. Put the fruit into a separate bowl and toss with the lemon juice. 5. Combine the flour and baking powder and mix them into the beaten eggs, incorporating them thoroughly. [Note: When you mix the dry ingredients into the wet, it will seem horribly stiff and you will think you've done something wrong / left something out, but you haven't; it's just much, much stiffer--more like dough--than regular cake batter. When you add the fruit, the fruit juices slacken it somewhat, but it's still weirdly thick.] 6. Add the fruit to the bowl with the eggs and flour, mixing well to distribute it evenly. 7. Smear the bottom and sides of the springform pan with butter, then pour into it the fruit batter. Level off by shaking the pan from side to side; do not press down on the batter. 8. Bake on the middle level of the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top of the cake becomes colored a light gold. [Also, check on the cake after about 30 minutes in the oven; it tends to cook quickly on the outside and still be damp in the middle; it's easier if you bake the cake in a pyrex dish so you can check if it's burning on the bottom, and I often cover it with foil half way through to prevent in burning on top. It's okay though, if it's still a bit damp--not wet--in the middle at the end, in fact, I think it tastes best like that.] Ahead-of-Time Note: The finished cake will keep fresh for about 5 days, wrapped with foil and refrigerated.