This is a short one – a stocking filler.
When I first heard of this, I thought ‘refrigerator cake’. Which is exactly what it is. But with Italian style.
It’s as easy as falling off a (yule) log – there is no cooking involved, and the simpler you keep the ingredients, the better. It’s a visual joke, a thing for kids’ parties and Christmas, that will still impress and delight the grown ups. Have it in the afternoon with a cup of strong coffee, or after dinner with a coffee killer to slice through its richness.
As you can see, this ‘cake’ looks suspiciously like a salami – it even has the white mould on the outside, and has been tied up with string. But then you cut a slice of your salame, and wonder of wonders – it’s made of chocolate and nuts and biscuits and the ‘mould’ is icing sugar. The ultimate vegetarian salame!
I like this cake. When we make a refrigerator cake in the UK, it’s a blocky, in the tray kind of thing. It is symptomatic of Italy, that the ordinary is made extraordinary, that you can be funny and classy at the same time, and that you don’t compromise on flavour.
Here’s the Sicilian’s recipe – there are plenty of other versions, some with figs, some with almonds, some with amaretto. But this is his.
2 egg yolks
100 g caster sugar
200g cocoa powder (unsweetened)
200g digestive or rich tea biscuits
A slug of rum (although not if your making it for a kids’ party)
Toast your hazelnuts in the oven for ten minutes, then put them into a clean tea towel. Fold this over and rub the nuts vigorously. This will get most of the skins off the nuts, which makes them sweeter. Leave to cool.
Mix the yolks and butter (leave it out of the fridge to soften) and then add the sugar, mixing until you have a smooth cream. If you skimp on this timing here, the sugar won’t dissolve properly and your salami will end up gritty.
Add in the cocoa powder and mix very slowly (if you’re using an electric mixer, put it on the slowest speed, otherwise you’ll end up with a brown cloud that’ll coat everything nearby with chocolate.
Break up the biscuits into small pieces and add them and the nuts to the chocolate mixture. Fold them in gently (best with a wooden spoon or your hands, as you don’t want to break the biscuits up any more).
Then, place the mixture on a rectangle of greaseproof paper, and form into a rough cylinder about 5cm in diameter.
Wrap the paper around the cylinder and roll it to get a smooth sausage. Don’t let it get much thinner though – a real salami is a thick and hefty thing.
Finally twist the paper tightly at both ends (like a boiled sweet) and refrigerate your sausage for 24 hours.
To serve, work quickly, and roll the chilled sausage in sieved icing sugar, and then tie it up with string, you can watch charcuterie videos on YouTube and do it like a professional butcher, or just wing it, as I did.
Then, with the sharpest of knives, cut your sausage into slices and enjoy the joke. The nuts and biscuits look like the globules of fat in a real sausage, with the chocolate/butter cream acting as the meat.
It’s very rich, so you’ll not want much, unless you’re a seven year old, and then you’ll want a whole one to yourself. It freezes well.