Sacripantina Cake

The sacripantina cake is a dessert originating from Genova, Italy and is said to be named after Sacripante, one of the characters of the poet Ariosto. North Beach inhabitants and tourists in California have embraced the dish since the early 1930’s, and at one point, there were five restaurants that carried it. Stella’s Pastry even uses the title, Home of the Sacripantina, to describe this prize-winning dessert. A couple in my writer’s group took a trip to San Francisco especially for this cake, just to see if it was as good as they remembered it years before. What makes it so special? It works the flavors of zabaglione (a custard made with egg yolks, whipping cream and cream sherry) into an airy, almost soufflé-like texture. The cream topping has a delicate hint of Amaretto. The cake is a light sponge that melts in your mouth. On top (or sometimes on the sides) there is a layer of crushed Amaretti cookies and chewy/crispy meringues dusted in cocoa complete the texture experience. This is one very special cake!

Sacripantina Cake

  • Servings: 12
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Imperial Sponge Cake
Set out one hour ahead:
7 egg whites (from large eggs)
7 egg yolks (from large eggs)

1-1/3 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups sifted granulated sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In large mixer bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  At high speed, beat egg whites until soft mounds begin to form.  Then beat in remaining 1 /2 cup of sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time.  Beat until very stiff peaks are formed.  DO NOT UNDERBEAT.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and one cup of sugar.

Combine yolks, water, extracts in a small bowl.  With a spoon, stir into sifted flour mixture; mix just to blend. 

Fold egg whites into batter gently.  (40 folding strokes). Turn into ungreased tube pan; cut gently through batter to remove large air bubbles. 

Bake for 35 minutes at 375.  When it comes out, turn tube pan over and let cake cool overnight in the pan. (You’ll notice the photo of the cake on this post is not from a tube pan. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a very special cake recipe from my grandmother’s kitchen because her sponge cake is the lightest and most delicious I’ve ever tasted. I’m looking forward to other opportunities to bake another Sacripantina using her recipe!)

Zabaglione Filling
8 large egg yolks
1/3 cup cream sherry
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of one orange
1 sheet gelatin (9 x 2-1/2 inches) or 1 tsp. powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to medium-soft peaks

Make a water bath by filling a large deep pot half full with water. Combine the yolks, cream sherry, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl (preferably copper to get more volume). Place the bowl over the water and while whisking the eggs vigorously, bring the water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Continue whisking for about five minutes or until the mixture thickens and is light and fluffy. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool (Leave the water bath over low heat).

Place the gelatin sheet, if using, in cold water to soften. When soft, squeeze out the excess water, then whisk into the egg mixture. Or, for powdered gelatin, put 2 T cold water in a small dish and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand for one minute to soften, then whisk into the egg mixture. Return the bowl of egg mixture to the simmering water bath and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the gelatin is fully dissolved, about two minutes. Be careful not to overcook the eggs, as they may curdle, and make sure when whisking to bring all of the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Refrigerate until cold, whisking occasionally, then fold in the whipped cream.

Cream Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
2 T granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T Amaretto

In a medium bowl, whip the cream with the sugar, vanilla and Amaretto to stiff peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Meringues (optional)
6 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. Amaretto
2 tsp. white vinegar

The first time I made this dish, I made large, oval meringues which were incredibly awkward to shape. They did, however, enhance the dish. To make it easier, I’d suggest using a piping bag. The finished meringues can be laid out in whatever way you choose on the finished cake.

Preheat oven to 225 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Lower the speed and gradually beat in the sugar. Add the Amaretto and vinegar and beat at medium speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about eight minutes longer. Fill either a piping bag or a gallon-size plastic bag with the meringue mixture. Using either a tip or by cutting a hole at the end of the bag, pipe some meringues the size of large Hershey kisses onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place on the lowest rack in the oven and bake from between 45 minutes to an hour until lightly golden brown. Cool on baking sheet until they are set a little, then transfer to wire racks. When they are completely cool, store in a tightly closed plastic container at room temperature.

1 cup amaretti cookie crumbs
Cocoa powder for dusting meringues

Place the cake on a cake stand. With a long sharp knife, trim off the very top (about 1/8”) of the cake. To slice the cake into three equal rounds, score two evenly spaced lines all around the sides of the cake. Cut into the score lines about one inch deep all the way around the cake, then make a clean cut all the way through the cake to separate it into three layers.

Return the bottom layer of cake to the tube pan. Spread half of the zabaglione on top. Add the next layer of cake and then the other half of the zabaglione. Top with the remaining cake and refrigerate overnight to set.

Carefully remove the cake from the tube pan by lifting the center out. Center it on a cake plate. Frost the whole cake with the cream frosting, spreading it very evenly and smoothly. (Use a cake comb if you have one). Sprinkle the amaretti crumbs on top (or sides if you prefer). Dust the tops of the meringues with cocoa, then press them into the sides or bottom of the cake, spacing them evenly. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve, or overnight. Delicioso!

Adapted from the Rose Pistola Cookbook
Cake recipe handed down from Didi Branchflower

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