Surrounded by lemon groves, almond and walnut trees, and with the Arab influence of the middle ages, the Amalfi coast boasts some of the best cakes and tarts in Italy – and that’s not even counting the ice-cream and granita sold on every street corner. Today’s dense, indulgent chocolate tart, for instance, which hails from Capri, is packed with little nuggets of almonds, while the lighter take on the classic tiramisu features a strawberry sauce that’s a wonderfully versatile thing to have in the fridge: it will add a burst of flavour to a bowl of thick yoghurt with sliced banana or to vanilla ice-cream, and also looks fantastic swirled into a glass of prosecco.
Torta caprese (chocolate and almond cake; pictured top)
Whole peeled almonds save a lot of time and effort, but if you can find them only with skins on, blanch them first in boiling water for a few minutes, then rub between two tea towels, and the skins will come off quite easily.
Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr + cooling
Makes 1 x 22cm round cake, to serve 6-8
200g room-temperature salted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
200g skinned whole almonds
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
4 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
Icing sugar, for dusting
Grease a 22cm loose-bottomed round cake tin with butter, and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4). Scatter the almonds on an oven tray, bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned, then finely chop (or whizz in a food processor) to the consistency of demerara sugar.
While the almonds are roasting, melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of barely simmering water (or in a microwave, in which case take care not to burn the chocolate), then leave to cool a little.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
Tip the melted chocolate and butter into the egg yolk mix, combine thoroughly, then stir in the ground almonds. Fold in the egg whites until well combined, then pour everything into the greased tin.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tart forms a crust on the outside (don’t expect a skewer to come out clean, because the centre of this cake will remain moist). Leave to cool in the tin before unmoulding.
To decorate the cake, lay a patterned doily on top, sift over a fine layer of icing sugar, then carefully lift off the doily. Serve at room temperature – we like to eat this with orange ice-cream.
Tiramisù fragole e limone (quick strawberry and lemon tiramisu)
This great quick dessert is one we first tried in Positano at a lovely restaurant called Next 2. Served in individual glasses, it is very impressive to look at.
Prep 10 min
Cook 50 min
For the strawberry sauce
500g strawberries (or raspberries, or a combination of the two)
25-50g caster sugar, to taste and depending on the sweetness of the fruit
For the tiramisu
500g strawberries, hulled
300ml whipping cream
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
75g caster sugar
2 tbsp maraschino liqueur, or white wine or elderflower cordial
Strawberry sauce (see above and method), to taste – you’ll need between half and all of it; keep any excess in the fridge for up to a week
12 sponge fingers
Icing sugar, for dusting
First make the sauce. Hull the strawberries, and cut any large ones in half. Put the fruit in a medium saucepan and add the sugar to taste. Bring up to a gentle boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the strawberries give easily when squished against the sides of the pan. Strain into a jug or container, leave to cool, then cover and store in the fridge.
Now for the tiramisu. Set aside six medium strawberries and cut the rest into slices. In a bowl, whip the cream, then whisk in the mascarpone. Gently and briefly fold in the lemon zest and sugar, followed by the lemon juice.
In a flat dish, mix the liqueur with a tablespoon and a half of the strawberry sauce, then dip the sponge fingers into the sauce mix until they are just soft but not soggy.
Lay a few sliced strawberries in the bottom of six martini glasses or tumblers, so the cut sides face outwards, then top in turn with half the cream, the remaining sauce and the soaked sponge fingers. Finish with the remaining cream.
Cut the reserved strawberries into fans and use to decorate each glass, then dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.
- Recipes extracted from The Amalfi Coast, by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, published by Hardie Grant at £16.99. To order a copy for £14.78, go to guardianbookshop.com