Monday, September 9, 2013

Mint Cake in Sulmona

I don't normally eat mint cake with chocolate frosting for breakfast. But I don't normally eat breakfast sitting on a rooftop patio in Sulmona, Italy surrounded by the Maiella mountains either. Luckily I did both of those things earlier this summer when I stayed at Il Marchese Del Grillo, a wonderful bed and breakfast owned by Marta Carrozza and Alessandro Maceroni.

A bountiful table of treats - from fruits and yogurts - to cheeses, salumi and cakes - was set out each morning. For me - a diehard cake lover - it was hard to limit myself to one cake only. So I did what any self-proclaimed glutton would do - I took a slice from all of them - the mint cake, an orange cake, and an apple cake.

Marta was kind enough to provide me with the recipe for all three cakes - made by her mother and mother-in-law, and I recently made the mint cake, my personal favorite.

 The recipe calls for mint syrup, but in the absence of any, I used crème de menthe, which was already in my pantry. There is barely any alcohol taste in the cake, so if you can find mint syrup, you might as well save yourself some money and use that.

I took it a step farther than Marta's mother-in-law's version, making sugared mint leaves for decoration. Just whisk some egg whites and paint mint leaves with it, then dip the leaves into sugar and place them on some waxed paper to dry out a bit.

Speaking of sugared things, the town of Sulmona is known throughout Italy for its production of confetti, sugar coated almonds that are always offered as favors to guests at weddings. 

They're always presented in groups of five and are meant to symbolize health, happiness, long life, prosperity and fertility.  Sulmona's streets are jam packed with store after store showcasing confetti wrapped in many creative ways, from flowers to peacocks:

Aside from confetti, Sulmona is known as the birthplace of Ovid, the 1st century Roman poet. A statue of him dominates one of the city's main squares:

Also notable is the 13th century aqueduct running through the middle of town (and a great gelato shop just opposite the aqueduct). The majestic mountains provide a spectacular vista from anywhere you walk.

 The Marchese Del Grillo is located within walking distance of everything and has only about four or five rooms. Most of them are on the third or fourth floors, and are traditional with plaster walls and antique furniture. But my room on the ground floor was renovated in elegant simplicity, with stone walls and vaulted ceilings providing a rustic backdrop amid lovely antiques and the classic, translucent, Phillipe Starcke ghost chair. 

 My visit to Sulmona seems like a distant memory, but recreating food from my trip is one way to keep the memory vibrant. I plan to make the other cakes at some point, but this mint cake turned out so well that it's bound to be part of my permanent repertoire of desserts. I took it to a Labor Day picnic and everyone loved it. Even the planter lady on my deck seemed to express approval:

And maybe you will too. Try the recipe and see for yourself:

Mint Cake - recipe from Marta's mother-in-law

Versione Italiana sotto.

Printable recipe here

11 tablespoons of softened butter (1 stick plus 3 T.)

3/4 c. sugar

3 eggs

pinch of salt

2 1/4 cups plus 2 T. flour

1 T. baking powder

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup of mint syrup or crème de menthe

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then add the eggs and beat for a few minutes until smooth. Whisk together the salt, flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternately with the milk and the crème de menthe. Pour into a cake pan (I used a 9 inch springform pan) and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let cool and cover with chocolate glaze. I used a ganache made by melting over a double boiler 4 ounces dark chocolate and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Blend until smooth, then let it cool a couple of minutes to thicken up a bit. Pour over the cake.

Torta di menta

150 gr. burro o un bicchiere di olio di semi (circa 170 ml)

150 gr. zucchero

3 uova

un pizzico di sale

250 gr. farina

una bustina di lievito

175 gr. latte

10 o più sciroppa di menta

Cuocere per 1 ora e 15 minuti a 180 gradi. A cottura ultimata fare raffredare e coprire la torta con glassa al cioccolato.

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  1. Ooooh, chocolate and mint is perfect! What a decadent breakfast!

  2. Fantastica la torta al cioccolato e menta, bellissimo post con foto splendide. buon inizio di settimana Daniela.

  3. Foto magnifiche e.. che dire: questa torta è strepitosa! Un abbraccio stella!

  4. A wonderful cake, decadent breakfast and city!



  5. hello Linda how are you????this cake is gorgeous! brava! :)

  6. More photographs to make us all feel jealous, Linda?

    Or perhaps nostalgic... What a magical place.

  7. The cake looks delicious! Your posts always help to keep Italy alive for me-grazie!

  8. I want this cake for breakfast. Love the chocolate and mint combination. Great pictures as always!

  9. The cake, the views, that room you stayed in, wow, beautiful!
    I have to say I just love the picture with the lady on your deck in the background and your mint cake up front, love the composition!

  10. Thanks for sharing.
    It must be funny.
    Delicious food,beautiful street.

  11. cioccolato e menta assieme sono un matrimonio perfetto ! Ottima scelta il b&b, veramente raffinato !Un abbraccio, buona settimana....

  12. Sadly, my husband can not eat mint as it does not agree with his stomach, but I know I'd love this cake if I had the opportunity to try it, Linda.

    Sulmona looks like a beautiful town to visit. I did not know it was the confetti capital of Italy --what lovely displays of that confection!

    Your bed in the inn looked so luxurious and sumptuous!

  13. It must taste good. Chocolate and mint it is always interesting combination. Looks great

  14. I'm not a cake in the AM person eother, but these would have gotten me to change my ways. I love the Mint Cake! Itis beautiful, and the decoration rocks. I so enjoy these "postcards from Abruzzo." Keep 'em coming!

  15. Sulmona is new to me - now it's on my radar (all that lovely confetti). This lovely offering is proof that sometimes cake is required for breakfast.

  16. Lovely cake, Linda, from perhaps my favorite place in all of Italy. The overrun towns of Tuscany and Umbria have nothing on beautiful Sulmona. I used to beg my parents to take me there as a child and it's now one of my kids' favorite places to visit. We attended the annual Giostra Cavalleresca for the second year this past summer. It was positively amazing.

  17. It's funny how one day you have never heard of a thing and the next day you see it mentioned all over the place. I just read another lovely bit about the Marchese Del Grillo on another site. GREG

  18. Oh wow....beautiful all the way around...the rooftop...the cake...goodness. I'm in heavenly envy :)

  19. Coming back for a second look of your beautiful pictures of Sulmona, with la Maiella in the background. I'm curious about the mint cake. I've never heard of anything quite like it. But green is my favorite color. When I was a kid, my favorite drink to order "al bar" in Silvi Marina was a Tropical ~ milk spiked with orzata and menta. :)