This delicious cake prepared with amaretti cookies is surprisingly irresistible. It is a perfect coffee or tea cake. The main ingredient is the amaretti, cookies made with a pastry of almond paste, sugar and egg whites. Amaretti can be either dry or soft. The ones I used for this cake are the dry cookies. The soft ones are my favorite con a cup of espresso or cappuccino.
The romantic version of how ‘Amaretti’ originated, involved two lovers in Saronno who owned a baker’s shop’. In 1719 a cardinal from Milan came to visit the local church and the bakers wanted to make a special biscuit to commemorate the occasion, but had only ground apricot kernels, sugar and egg whites available. After baking at a certain temperature (to remove the poisonous cyanide in the Apricot kernels – yes, cyanide!), the little cookies were ‘gift wrapped’ in thin, beautifully decorated paper.
However, early records indicate they originated in Venice during the late Renaissance period (mid 17th century) and was the creation of Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef at the court of Savoy. Whichever you chose to believe, there is no doubting that Amaretti cookies have been a part of Italian patisserie for hundreds of years. The Lazzaroni family have been making amaretti cookies since 1719, and are custodians of an amaretti archive, housed in the cloisters of a 14th-century Franciscan church in Saronno, Lombardy, which contains biscuit tins dating from the 1870s.
TORTA DI AMARETTI (AMARETTI CAKE)
200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
130 g (4.5 oz) butter at room temperature
170 g (6 oz) dry amaretti cookies, finely crushed
125 g (4.5 oz) potato starch
125 g (4.5 oz) Italian flour type 0 or all-purpose flour
12 g (1 scarce tablespoon) baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and set baking rack in the middle. Place a dish of baking paper in a spring-form pan (24 cm-10 inch). Butter and flour the sides
2. In a large bowl cream the butter with the sugar using an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at the time
3. Add the amaretti cookies
4. Sift the potato starch, flour and baking powder together, then add to the batter
5. Poor in the spring-form pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool on a baking rack. Remove from the pan and sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. You can decorate with some amaretti cookies on top. – Paola