Sarah and I refer to this as ‘The Sicilian Cake’, but now that I’m to write about it, I can’t think why we named it this. It’s just that the flavours seemed Sicilian to us. Please forgive us if they don’t say Sicily to you. We’ve been talking and talking for years now, about visiting our friend Samantha’s family in Sicily, they have a beautiful villa, but the closest we’ve come to the Mediterranean is eating this cake. But a piece of this cake is almost as good as a holiday, really it is.
The recipe comes from The Sunday Age and I ripped it out maybe a year or so ago, and took forever to finally make it. Actually Sarah finally made it and now it’s very firmly stuck in her repertoire, and I wish we’d made it sooner. Please also forgive us for not knowing the chef’s name, when I tore it out of the paper I somehow managed to tear their name off. Please let us know if you know who it belongs to. In the paper it’s called Chocolate, Apricot and Pistachio Spice Cake.
When cooked to perfection, the texture of the cake is chewy on the inside with a delicious crunchy top. This is the egg whites at work. There is the hint of cardamom and each bite has the bitter dark chocolate and sweet apricot. The pistachios are the flour substitute, and need to be ground into a powder, but leave a third of them roughly chopped so they can provide that green fleck and nut crunch.
We think this cake would be beautiful as part of a Christmas feast. Or simply serve it in the afternoon with coffee and daydream of faraway places.
The Sicilian Cake
100g slivered almonds
100g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
100g dried apricots, finely chopped
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon (for best results roast the seeds quickly in a dry pan and grind them yourself)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon icing sugar, for dusting
thick cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 190C and grease and line a 25cm round cake tin with baking paper.
In a food processor, whiz two-thirds of the nuts until finely ground, you can also do this in a mortar and pestle, but it takes a little while. Roughly chop remaining nuts by hand. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Add egg yolks one at a time, then stir in ground nuts, apricots, chocolate, cardamon and vanilla seeds. Whisk egg whites with salt in a stainless-steel bowl until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold one-third of the egg whites into cake mixture, then fold in remaining egg whites. Pour into cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow cake to cool, dust with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of cream.