Pasticcini di San Valentino
I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s day. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sentiment, the meaning behind it and all of that, but I hate how commercial it has become – it takes away from the spirit of the thing. For me, Valentine’s day is about spending time with the people you love, being grateful for them and doing something, however small, to show that. Soppy bit over… I promise!
I decided to bake something for Valentine’s day when I was rummaging through my kitchen drawers looking for something and found a heart shaped cookie cutter. I prefer cakes to biscuits and had mascarpone cheese in the fridge which I had bought with some vague intentions of making a cheesecake and some frozen berries for smoothies in the freezer, so I decided to make up a recipe, and I have to say I am rather pleased with the way it turned out:
These sweet little cupcakes were even good enough to pass the Italian mother test… the Italian boy’s mum actually liked these enough to take some to her mum! Trust me, that is the best endorsement you could ever hope for!
You will need (makes approximately 20 cupcakes)
For the sponge cake (pan di spagna)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder (you can replace the flour and baking powder with self raising, but I find that this way it rises better)
3 large eggs
200g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 x cup of milk (or enough to get the right consistency)
Icing sugar to sprinkle on top
For the filling
250g mascarpone cheese
1/2 portion pot of fruits of the forest yoghurt
1 cup frozen mixed berries (or fresh, if they are in season)
Sugar to taste (I used 3 tablespoons)
Start by making the sponge, then while it is baking you can whip up the filling.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract.
3. Whisk/mix together until you get a smooth mixture.
4. Grease a large baking tray – I actually used a roasting tin – or line with greaseproof paper.
5. Pour the mixture in. You are aiming for a layer about an inch thick.
6. Place in the oven for circa 20 minutes or until cooked through. You can check this by sticking a knife or toothpick in the centre of the cake, and seeing if it comes out dry. If it does, it’s ready. If there is cake mix clinging to it, leave it to bake a little further.
7. Leave to until a little cooler, then turn the sponge cake out onto a cooling rack. Once completely cool, move to a clean, floured board or tray.
8. While the sponge is in the oven or cooling you should have time to make the filling, which just means transferring the yogurt, mascarpone and sugar into a bowl, whisking until smooth, and then mixing in the berries. Put the mixture in the fridge so that it doesn’t become too liquid.
9. Using the heart shaped cookie cutter and a knife, divide the cake up into heart shaped sections, making sure to cut all the way through, like so:
DO NOT THROW THE LEFTOVER SPONGECAKE OUT! IT CAN BE SALVAGED TO MAKE YUMMY CHOCOLATE BITES 😉
9. Place the hearts on a plate, then one by one slice them in the middle so that you get two thin layers of sponge. Add the mixture to the middle of each cake and transfer them to another plate.
10. Sprinkle with icing sugar.
And there you have it. Valentine’s day cupcakes sweet enough even to impress an Italian mamma… and since I am basically in awe of this particular mamma’s cooking skills (trust me, she is like superwoman in the kitchen) I am ridiculously pleased with myself!
Stay tuned for yummy chocolate bites using the leftover spongecake – waste not want not!