Every year on the 8th of March, La Festa della Donna - International Women’s Day - takes place in Italy, commemorating the sacrifices and hard work of women throughout history. Perhaps the most common holiday tradition on this day is the giving of mimosa flowers. Although historians cannot agree on exactly how the custom came to fruition, there is some evidence that in 1946 - almost 40 years after the first recorded Women’s Day - the Unione Donna Italiana (Italian Women’s Union) settled on mimosas to mark the event, their beauty and brightness a reflection of women across the country. Even today, it remains an enduring symbol of the holiday, and variations on the floral theme find themselves in the most unexpected of places…
The gift of the flowers…in cake form: the torta mimosa
Like other Italian flower inspired creations, the torta mimosa - or mimosa cake in English - takes its name from its uncanny resemblance to the mimosa flower, given to women to celebrate Women’s Day. The traditional recipe dictates that the cake is made from a light sponge or Pan di spagna, layered between custard and whipped cream, before a final covering of sponge squares; these squares replicate the golden buds of a mimosa bouquet. As the story goes, the cake was first invented by the pastry chef Adelmo Renzi who, in 1962, presented it during a confectionery contest in San Remo, paying homage to the ‘City of Flowers’.
Our own recipe is a slight variation on Renzi’s own, but it is nonetheless one that honours the heritage, customs, and traditions of the original Women’s Day.
Total cooking time: 1 hr
Calories per slice: 387 kcal
For the cake
- 4 large eggs
- 200g caster sugar
- 200g self-raising flour
For the cream
- 300ml whole milk
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 250ml cream
- icing sugar, for dusting
How to make our delicious torta mimosa:
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Separate the eggs, then add the sugar to the yolks and whisk until thick and foamy. Add the flour and fold in gently.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold into the mix.
- Divide the cake mixture equally between two 9 inch cake tins lined with greaseproof paper. Place both tins in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes or until golden in colour.
- While the cakes are in the oven, begin to make the cream. Gently heat the milk over a low to medium heat, without letting it boil. While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks together with the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add a splash of the warm milk to the egg mixture and stir well so as to avoid it separating. Slowly add the rest of the egg mixture to the milk and heat until it is gently boiling, ensuring to stir continuously. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens, then set aside to cool.
- Once it is cold, whip the cream until stiff and fold it into the mixture.
- When both the cream and cake are cool, slice each cake in half to create four layers in total. Chop one of the layers into 1cm cubes. Spread the cream over the top of the other layers and begin to stack them on top of one another. Once the layers are arranged in a tower, spread the cream all over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with the small sponge dice and dust with icing sugar for an extra sprinkling of sweetness.
Buon appetito e auguri a tutte le donne!
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