Monday, July 31, 2017

Torta Paradiso al limone

Before National Blueberry month is over (yikes, that's today!) and before all those sweet/tart local berries disappear from farmer's markets, I thought I'd post this cake that I made a least a month ago. 

Blueberries not only taste delicious, but the plump berries are packed with healthy nutrients for you. They're a good source of fiber and manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy. They're also high in levels of vitamin C. and they're low cal - only 80 calories per cup and no fat -- making them the perfect summertime snack.

I used them as part of the filling on this cake called "torta paradiso al limone" -- a recipe that popped up in my Facebook feed a long time ago from an Italian site called "Strabuono - Solo Cose Buone" (translates to "Extra special - Only Good Things.")

The recipe was written with metric measurements, and I've included those for you -- actually measuring by weight is always more accurate than using the standard American method of 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup and so on. Be aware that the original recipe didn't include the whipped cream in the filling, nor the blueberries, but I'll take any excuse I find to include seasonal berries (and cream) in a recipe.

The cake includes plain Greek yogurt, but I had some lemon Greek yogurt in the fridge, so used that instead (hey, does that yogurt counter the calories from the whipped cream? - Don't answer that.).

It's a little firmer than a sponge cake, but not as dense as a pound cake.

The filling recipe calls for making your own lemon curd, which I did. But you can always buy a jar of it if you don't want to go through the trouble.

Homemade lemon curd however, is infinitely better than what you can buy. Make sure you strain it to get out any solids. (As you can see, I almost curdled the curd -- not good, but straining it saved the day.)

You can use the curd just as is, which is the original recipe, but warning - it's really, really tangy and lemony. Instead, I thought the strong lemon flavor needed to be tamed a bit, so I combined the curd with some whipped cream (also because I lost a bit of the curd from overcooking and nearly curdling it.)  Spread the filling over half the cake, then place blueberries all over the filling. Top with the other half of the cake and refrigerate. 

Warning - the filling may be too soft and start oozing out the sides, making for a messy looking cake. But once you refrigerate it for an hour or so, the filling will start to firm up. Smooth out the sides with a spatula to tidy things up.

Decorate the top with more berries (I added some fresh currants in addition to the blueberries).

A little sprig of mint completes the decoration.

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Ingredients for the cake:

3 eggs

1 cup sugar (180 grams)

pinch of salt

zest of one lemon

3/4 cup plain or lemon flavored Greek yogurt (125 grams)

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (60 grams)

1 3/4 cup flour (200 grams)

1 tablespoon baking powder (1 bustina lievito per i dolci) 

1 tsp. vanilla

for the filling:

juice and peel of two lemons - (this makes a very lemony filling. If you like it less tart, use one lemon only)

1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (20 grams)

1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)

2 eggs

1/2 cup whipping cream

blueberries - enough to cover the middle

confectioner's sugar - to dust over the top


Beat the eggs, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the lemon peel, yogurt, oil, flour, baking powder and vanilla and beat until combined, a couple of minutes.

Pour into a 8 or 9" prepared cake pan (buttered and a dusting of flour.)

Bake at 320 degree Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius) for 35-40 minutes.

For the filling, place the juice and lemon peel, plus the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Add the two whole eggs and cook for a couple of minutes over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. (Be careful, it's easy to overcook and for the eggs to curdle.) Strain through a sieve and let cool, covering with a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd, to avoid a "skin." Whip the cream until the point just after soft peaks start to form (but not too much or you'll have butter!) Fold the cream into the lemon curd.

Cut the cake into two sections. Spread the lemon cream over the bottom half, then fill with a layer of blueberries. Cover with the top layer of cake, and dust everything with powdered sugar.

Decorate with more berries and a sprig of mint.

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