Ciao'd while catching up on Big Little Lies.

Buccellato is a Tuscan cake that accompanies the ritual of a child's confirmation. Confirmation is the sacrament that completes the process of initiation into the Catholic community. Marcella Hazan's recipe comes from Lunigiana, an area nestled between the mountainous districts of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria. She calls it "a good, simple cake." And it is. I like to serve the buccellato in the spring as an alternative to shortcake, with the first, sweet strawberries and poofs of whipped cream.  Marcella's recipe calls for mixing in a food processor. I used a mixer. 


Makes one 9-inch round cake (serves 8 to 10)

3 cups flour, plus flour for dusting the baking pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for greasing the pan
The grated peel of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup whole milk

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.

Smear the inside of a round 9- by 2-inch cake pan liberally with butter, sprinkle all over with flour, then turn over the pan, tapping it against a work surface to shake off excess flour. 

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Do not let it simmer. 

Combine in a mixing bowl, the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. 

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until the pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in the melted butter, grated lemon zest, and the lemon juice, and continue beating. Beat in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan; give the pan a shake to level off the batter; and bake in the upper middle level of the oven until the top of the cake has become colored a deep gold and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes. 

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely. Adapted from Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan, HarperCollins, 1997.


Ciao'd with a beer and chili. It's the Super Bowl, y'all.



Marcella Hazan said, "This is so modest and elementary a cake it could almost be called naive." She's right that it's a simple, rustic dessert. It is also soooooo #dolcevitadelish. When I made the recipe, I was skeptical as the ratio of fruit to batter tipped to fruit. Would the cake be sticky and/or soggy? I should not have questioned Marcella's genius. The baked cake delivers layers of sweet pears with a custardy filling in between. It is honest and light. Serve the cake with a dollop of whipped cream and raspberries, if you wish, but it is truly perfection on its own. 

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1/4 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs
2 pounds fresh pears, such as Bosc or Comice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on it. Turn the pan upside down, and tap it or shake it lightly to get rid of the loose crumbs. 

Peel the pears. Cut them in half, and scoop out the seeds and core. Cut them into thin slices, no more than 1-inch thick.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract to combine. Add the sugar and salt, and continue beating to mix. Add the flour, mixing it thoroughly with the other ingredients. Add the pears to the bowl, and gently stir to coat with the batter. 

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon or spatula. Dot the surface with the two tablespoons of butter. 

Bake the cake in the upper level of the oven until it is set in the middle and the top is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan as soon as it is cool and firm. Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan, More Classic Italian Cooking, Knopf, 1978. 


The flickering images of my parents and their friends leaning into each other talking, arms around each other walking, heads thrown back laughing came into focus. The 50-year history of camaraderie they share schooled me on a lesson I should have learned long ago. While circumstances, obligations, and “stuff” loom loudly, it’s the quiet spaces where life resonates. And this cake has seen it all...

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