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Sformato

  • m

Stunned as you may be, this is a post not about Korean food..! In consonance with the extremely hot weather here in Korea, I have been making a lot of Mediterranean food...Spanish, Italian, Turkish, etc. In the course of which, I came across a recipe for this cake, called Sformato. It is a flourless cake made from ground almonds, eggs and oranges. I've had about five goes at it, the recipe is wonderful and the cake turns out every time. I love it. I can eat three servings a day.

I was just wondering if anyone out there knew anything more about this cake. How did they invent this? Is there some sort of history behind it? Who had the genius to come up with a flourless cake made of eggs, almond and oranges? Do any restaurants you know serve this? I am just really into this cake.

Michael Yu

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  1. Sounds wonderful..how about sharing the recipe?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Kit

      I am going to do this off the top of my head because I am not at home, and I won't be for a while.

      Take two oranges (650grams total) and boil them in water with skin on. Once the water boils, reduce heat. Boil for 30 minutes, replace water and repeat for another 30 min. Take off heat and let cool. Then, slice off the tops of the oranges and puree the whole thing, taking out any seeds.

      Preheat oven 180 degrees centigrade. Take 6 eggs and beat with 1/2 cup sugar. Add 2-2.25 cups of ground almonds, 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, and orange flower water. Briefly mix orange pulp (cooled) with 1 tsp baking powder and fold into main mixture. Bake for 1 hour.

      For decoration, melt honey with some water, pour over top of cake and sprinkle sliced almonds. Alternately, just dust with powdered sugar.

      Tess Mallos, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, Tuttle 1996.

      Jim, is there a policy on publicizing recipes? What does our lawyer Wonki say? Make sure he is earning his due.

      Michael Yu

      1. re: Michael Yu

        you bum. just off the top of my head, as long as you give credit, i'm sure they won't mind. if it becomes an issue, i'll do some definitive research.

        jim, that'll cost you $66. :-) just kidding.

        wonki

        1. re: wonki

          p.s. - and for the record, in my professional opinion, mike's cake is pretty damn good, especially considering he made it.

          he and i ate the whole thing in about 2 days.

          1. re: wonki

            I'm sorry counselor, but I think as Chowhound counsel you should come up with a more substantive answer, and a higher legal fee!

            In any case, the version I make now is a hundred times better when I made it two years ago. Mucho eggs makes for a mousse-like texture. I am getting interested in the variations...lemon and almonds. Maybe mix lemons and oranges?

            Michael Yu

            1. re: Michael Yu

              Wow, a rare Wonki siting!

              Y'know, I'd consider going back to Jacoby and Meyers if it'd free up time to get the Wonkster posting again!

              ciao

        2. re: Michael Yu

          "Jim, is there a policy on publicizing recipes?"

          We actually do NOT allow reprint of copyright material, credited or not. We're even more conservative on this than our lawyer (anyway, the Wonkster is more our bulgogi lawyer, not our intellectual property lawyer!).

          But that clearly wasn't a reprint...it was your paraphrased recollection. And I'm ok with that.

          ciao

          1. re: Michael Yu

            Thank you for the recipe and comic banter- is there any chance you can inform me of the type of pan in which to bake this treat? Within the body of your recipe you mention orange flower water- any chance you know how much?

        3. I don't know it by that name, but any flourless orange and almond cake is almost definitely a Sephardic Jewish thing, particulary Iberian, but spread throughout both the Mediterranean and the Jewish diaspora. It's often served as a Passover dessert--hence the lack of flour. Jewish communities, apparently, have a lot to do with the spread of citrus around the Mediterranean: orange-flavored desserts--like eggplant dishes and fried fish--usually have Sephardic origins.

          My main source for all this is Claudia Roden's "Book of Jewish Food," which has several recipes like this--orange and almond, lemon and almond, orange and walnut--from Italy, Spain, Turkey and Egypt. There are also several flourless almond and chocolate cakes, which are more familiar to me from childhood seders; according to Roden, they derive from Marrano involvement in cacao trade with Venezuela. I recommend this book highly--great history and (mostly) great recipes.

          Where did you get your cake recipe? "Sformato" sounds Sicilian to me, which, given the history of oranges and Jews there, makes sense.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Steven Stern

            I got it from Tess Mello's Mediterranean Cookbook. I picked it up on a whim...I am a definite amateur when it comes to cookbooks. Could you go into more detail as to what can we done with Almonds and Lemons? My ears are piqued.

            Michael Yu

            1. re: Michael Yu

              In the off-Broadway Pulitzer Prize winning play "Dinner with Friends", an Italian lemon almond polenta cake plays a supporting role.

              1. re: Lisa Z

                Can I hover by the stage door, hoping to ask it out after the show?

                1. re: Jim Leff

                  Unfortunately, it doesn't last through the final act!

                  For a grad school project, we had to come up with marketing ideas for the show's producers (this was before it won the Pulitzer) and most of our suggestions focussed on the cake.

              2. re: Michael Yu

                Actually, I was a little off about the almond and lemon cake--it's a lemon-flavored almond sponge cake rather than a flourless thing. Roden's recipe sounds mighty fine, though--a whole bunch of egg yolks blended with sugar, almonds and lemon zest, than mixed with egg whites and not much flour, and baked. Roden refers to it as "Bocca di Dama," and says its a Livornese recipe that went with the Jewish comminity to Tunis. I think Joyce Goldstein's recent book about Italian Jewish cooking might be a place to find similar things, though I haven't looked at it myself.

                In any case, I'm definitely going to make one of these guys this weekend. Thanks for getting me interested!

                ("Sformato," by the way, seems to refer to any molded dish, and most of the recipes I've found under that name are savory and vegetable-based.)

                1. re: Steven Stern

                  OK. As long as our legal beagle says its OK, can I get the recipe for the lemon flavored almond sponge cake? I'd like the amounts of each of the ingredients you mentioned...

                  Michael Yu

                  1. re: Michael Yu

                    Since the Powers That Be seem OK with it, sure thing.
                    It is, I repeat for all to hear, from Claudia Roden's "The Book of Jewish Food."

                    You have five eggs, separated, plus 6 more yolks; in a food processor, you beat the 11 (!) yolks with 1 1/4 cups (250 g.)of sugar, a cup (200 g.) of blanched almonds, and the grated zest of one lemon. When it's smooth, you blend in 2/3 cup (100 g.) flour. You beat the egg whites till stiff, then gently fold the yolk mixture into them. Bake in an oiled and floured 9" springform pan at 325 degrees F (160 C) for 3/4-1 hour, until firm. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when cool.

                    Like I said, I haven't made this myself, so caveat baker and let everybody know how it turned out.

                    1. re: Steven Stern

                      I tried the recipe as written. Lots of yolks, very rich cake, but I am not good at stiffening whites. It turned out just OK. Did you perhaps leave out baking powder? The cake turned out rather flat... The recipe for the orange almond cake I think is much better. Thanks anyway Steve.

                      Michael Yu

              3. re: Steven Stern

                Love Claudia Roden's book - picked it up to find a couple Sephardic recipes and ended up reading it from cover to cover.

              4. Hi Michael,
                I too have found this cake wonderful. My 21yr old daughter has been diagnosed 12 months ago with type 1 (insulin dependent)diabetes caused by an autoimmune response.She really missed being able to eat cakes,especially for birthdays. I found this wonderful recipe but have used Xylitol instead of sugar. If you don't know this product you are really missing out. It looks and tastes exactly like sugar and has no after taste at all. It can substitute sugar in any recipe. It is made from corn.It doesn't use insulin and is very low GI. She can eat nearly a whole cake for the same amount of carbs as a tiny piece of any other cake. Great for weight loss! I'm now looking for recipies using the same basic ingredients but with other flavours. If you know of any I'd be gratefull. Thanks a lot and G'day from Sydney Australia

                1. Michael, I know this is an extremely late response to your inquiry, to say the least! I just published the recipe in my blog, cherrychapman.com, and I too was wondering about its original region. I suspect also it is Sicilen, or borrowed from the island of Crete, that has a similarly made walnut cake. I am glad to know there is another person who loves this cake and finds it as intriguing as me!