I know Easter has come and gone but I wanted to share an Easter weekend tradition in my husband, Peter’s family. On Saturday, the day before Easter, the whole family gets together and goes shopping in San Francisco’s North Beach to buy food for dinner that night. This custom started over 50 years ago and they haven’t missed one. In the beginning there were just 5 of them- Peter, his parents and three of his brothers. His younger brother and two sisters hadn’t even been born yet. Fast forward all these years later and add younger siblings, spouses, children, and a few good friends for good measure and the group is up to 24. This year the oldest, Peter’s dad, is 87 and the youngest, Isa, is almost a year old. Four generations shopping together.
We have the same route very year. We start at Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square where Peter’s great grandparents were married. There we sit on the steps and get a family history lesson. (People walking by stop and listen as they think we are part of an organized tour group.) The first food stop is Liguria Bakery. It has the best focaccia in North Beach, if not the country. You have to get there early as they always run out. They have many different kinds but the pizza is the best. For a nickel more you can get it cut up to go. Otherwise they wrap it up in white paper like your shirts at the cleaners. (When you go make sure you peak into the back and see the huge oven where they do the baking.) The next two stops are at bakeries where we pick up bread and breadsticks. Then it is off to the site of Figone hardware on Grant Street. Mel Figone was a duck hunting buddy of Peter’s grandfather. When he owned the store the Luchetti clan would stop by and give him a bag of cookies from one of the Italian bakeries. Now the shop is an art gallery but we still stop by and reminisce about their duck hunting excursions. Mel’s picture is in the window of the gallery.
After stopping for lunch for some nourishment to keep shopping we stop at Stella Bakery on Columbus Avenue. Here we get a walk around treat. Everyone gets something different- (tiramisu, cannoli, cookies, biscotti, éclairs, cream puffs, panna cotta) plus we pick up a Sacripantina Cake which is their specialty. It’s sponge cake layered with Marsala-Sherry sabayon and covered with whipped cream. From there we go to Molinari Delicatessen. Jeff, my brother in law, orders all the cold meats (prosciutto (20 sheets!), galantina, mortadella, Toscana and Genoa salami, sopressata, head cheese, hot and mild coppa) while I select the cheeses (teleme, aged asiago, fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, pecorino, and taleggio). Here we also get calamari salad, bean salad, olives, marinated mushrooms, artichokes, and tomatoes as well as house made cheese ravioli, red sauce and wines. At Victoria Pastry we pick up a Saint Honore cake and boxes of cookies. A big box is for us and smaller boxes are for gifts family members take to friends and in-laws on Easter Sunday. The final stop of the day is at Graffeo coffee where we all get coffee ground for our specific machines at home.
We load the cars with our goodies and go over to Peter’s and my house, open the wine and visit while we spread all the food out in a huge buffet. (We always end up with a few more people for dinner that couldn’t make the shopping part of the day.)The ravioli is the only thing we cook that evening so it is a holiday where no one gets stuck doing a lot of cooking when everyone else hangs out.
Years ago I came up with my version of Sacripantina cake. While I make it at other times of the year I wouldn’t think of making it at Easter. Part of the tradition is going to Stella and buying it. It’s fun to have a holiday where I don’t feel obligated to make dessert. I had it on the menu at Stars Restaurant but changed the name to Tuscan Cream Cake. People had a hard time pronouncing Sacripantina so they wouldn’t order it. As soon as I changed the name it sold like crazy.
Tuscan Cream Cake
Serves at least 12
2 recipes Sponge Cake (see recipe below)
1 recipe Zabaglione (see recipe below)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate shavings or ground chocolate
3/4 cup crushed amaretti or biscotti
Against a short end of the cake, cut a 9-inch circle out of the sponge cake. With the remaining sponge cake, cut a half of a 9-inch circle. Repeat with the second sheet of sponge cake. Cut each circle and each half circle in half horizontally, so you will have a total of 4 circles and 4 half circles. (You will need all the circles and 2 of the half circles, so freeze the extra half circles and any scrap pieces for making trifles.)
Put a cake layer in the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Top with a generous 3/4 cup of the zabaglione. Top with a second cake layer, and then with another generous 3/4 cup of the zabaglione. For the third cake layer, fit two half circles side by side on the zabaglione. Repeat with more zabaglione and end with the fourth full cake circle. You will have 5 cake layers and 4 zabaglione layers. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
In a bowl, combine the cream and sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and then remove the pan sides and set the cake on a platter. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the whipped cream. Decorate the top with the chocolate shavings and the sides with the crushed amaretti. Cut into wedges to serve.
The cake may be made a day in advance, but frost the cake and decorate with the chocolate shavings and cookie crumbs the day you serve it. Keep refrigerated until serving.
You can double this recipe and make both cakes at once if your mixer is big enough.
Makes one 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
5 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch baking sheet with 1-inch sides, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour and baking powder onto a piece of parchment paper or into a bowl. Add the salt and set aside.
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, add the boiling water and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, about 2 minutes. The mixture should be thick enough so that when you lift a bit of it with the whip, it falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that slowly dissolves on the surface. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated.
Wash and dry the whip attachment. Put the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl, fit the mixer with the clean whip, and beat on medium speed until frothy. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form. They should be smooth and not clumpy. Using a spatula, fold half of the whipped whites into the yolk mixture. Then fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan to room temperature.
To remove the cake from the pan, run a small knife around the inside edge of the pan. Invert the pan onto a work surface, lift off the pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper.
The sauce may be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated.
Makes about 3 cups
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup Marsala
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Prepare an ice bath. In a stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until blended. Whisk in the Marsala.
Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick and there are no air bubbles, 3 to 4 minutes. The mixture should mound slightly when dropped from the whisk.
Remove the bowl from the pan and place over the ice bath. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally.
Put the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the cream into the cooled Marsala mixture just until combined.
Cover and refrigerate until assembling the cake.