THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
Let’s be clear, i believe that every day should be our Woman’s Day, especially because that would involve your
mother..and how can’t you celebrate her every day of the year? I have wonderful memories of this day in Italy, me picking up some mimosa flowers for my mom and sisters (or often stealing it from someones’s tree..) while walking home from school. The smell of it (which i rarely encoutner anymore since i have been living in the U.S.) brings back wonderful memories. And then of course, the delicious Torta Mimosa, an Italian staple.
But the story of Festa Delle Donne is also a very interesting one. In Ancient Roman times, the year ended with February, and, in fact the Latin name of that month, Ferbruarius Mensis, meant something like “month of cleansing or finishing up” in preparation for the New Year. February was followed by several intercalary days to get the calendar back on track, and then the New Year began on March 1, which was also the first day of spring (primo vere).
March 8 was one of the first of the springtime festae, a day sacred to Ariadne, whom Thesius had abandoned on the Island of Naxos after promising to marry her if she helped him slay her father’s pet Minotaur. Seduced and abandoned, she was a prototype for ancient Mediterranean womanhood. She later married Bacchus, but that was a whole new adventure.
In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women.
Authorities don’t agree how or why this Italian tradition started. Some sources say the tradition of men giving their wives, mothers, daughters, and other women friends sprigs of bright yellow Mimosa flowers on March 8, started in Rome in 1946. Women have since also started to give Mimosa to each other. The flowers are intended as a sign of respect for the women and also an expression of solidarity with the women in their support for oppressed women worldwide.
If you wonder why the Mimosa, well it was just a simple conincidence: the flower the symbolize March 8th was chosen just because the young women of the Udi (Unione Donne Italiane) in 1946, liked the flower for it’s great bright yellow color and the great strong smell.
There was, for a time, some resistance to the custom of giving women Mimosa, because it was heavily supported by Italian Socialists, but that appears to have evaporated over the years.And in fact, nowadays, Festa della Donna in Italy is indeed a day of celebration. I have so many memories of this day.
As a child it was the day that daddy was brining home Mimosas for his ladies: mom, grandma and my sisters and so did also Grandpa Silvano.But you know Italians..and we always find ways to celebrate with food don’t we? So as you can imagine a new cake was born: Torta Mimosa. A wonderfully and tasty typical cake of the North of Italy, to be even more specific from Emilia Romagna that I promise will make your ladies fall in love…with the cake of course!!
Happy FESTA DELLE DONNE!!
For sponge cake
•2 ½ oz all-purpose flour
•2 ½ oz potato starch
•5 oz sugar
For chantilly cream
•2 cups milk
•2 egg yolks
•3 ½ oz sugar
•1 oz all-purpose flour
•1 lemon zest
•½ stick vanilla
•7 oz heavy cream
•1 ¾ oz confectioners sugar
•1 cup water
•½ cup Kirsch (dry cherry liqueur)
•3 oz sugar
1 hour and 30 minutes preparation
To make sponge cake, whisk the eggs and sugar in a mixer until firm.
Then gently fold in, little by little, the flour and potato starch, sieved together, using a spatula.
Once the mixture is smooth, pour it into 2 cake tins, that have been buttered and floured; then bake at 325° F for 45 minutes.
Once cooked, allow the sponge cakes to cool. While the sponge is in the oven, make the Chantilly cream, by mixing the whipped cream with confectioner’s custard. See below on how to make the confectioner’s custard. Whip the cream with the powdered sugar, then put it in the refrigerator.
Make the confectioner’s custard as follows.
Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and put them in a bowl.
Using a potato peeler, take the zest off a lemon, being careful not to take any of the white part underneath. In a pot, bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla seeds and the lemon zest.
As soon as the milk starts boiling, remove from heat.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar.
Add the flour, previously sieved, and mix well.
Once the mixture is smooth, dilute it with a bit of warm milk, stirring while adding. Pour the remaining milk through a sieve to remove the lemon zest.
Put back the mixture over the heat and cook over a low heat for 5 – 10 minutes stirring continuously, allowing it to boil for 2 – 3 minutes.
Remove the custard from the heat and allow it to cool. Once the confectioner’s custard is cold, fold it in the whipped cream.
To make the syrup, to be used to soak the sponge. Bring to boil a mixture of water and sugar so that the latter dissolves. Once dissolved, remove from the heat and add some Kirsch.
When all the ingredients are ready, assemble the cake as described below.