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October 19, 2018

Italian Wedding Cake misnamed, but who cares?

Photo/Ellen Fox Emerson
We’ll host a family reunion next week. When planning a dinner party, half of the challenge is deciding on the menu. For this, I decided to go with an Italian theme.

One friend asked if the menu selection has anything to do with my heritage. No, I just love Italian food — colorful and relatively easy to make.

The menu will include lasagna, Caesar salad, focaccia bread and Italian Wedding Cake also known as Italian Cream Cake.

The three-layer cake is dense and quite moist. The ingredients include buttermilk, pecans and coconut. It’s much like a coconut cake. Honestly, to make it seem like an authentic Italian recipe, possibly mascarpone or ricotta should be substituted for the cream cheese.

The history/origination of any recipe is something I enjoy learning. Leafing through several of Italian cookbooks, I found no recipe even remotely came close to this one.

Online, I read many recipes and chuckled over some of the comments, each with the same theme. One described it as “more Southern American than Italian and no one seems to know where the recipe originated.”

Another said: “Is there anything remotely Italian about” this cake? “Or is it a misnamed Southern dish?”

And finally in Savannah Now, a writer said, “the origin has been lost, but one food writer suggested it was created by an Italian baker in the South.

Mildly disappointed that it probably isn’t an authentic Italian dessert, I’ll serve it anyway. It’s too delicious.

Italian Wedding Cake
Serves 12

The cake
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups vegetable shortening
½ cup butter, softened
5 extra large eggs, separated
1-¼ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

The icing
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional

Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly butter and flour three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, knocking out excess flour.

In a bowl, shift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Place the shortening, butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the flour a half-cup at a time, alternating with the milk. Add the vanilla, coconut and chopped pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then fold into the batter gently but thoroughly.

Divide the batter equally among the pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the upper two-thirds of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tester (toothpick) comes out cleanly. Cool the layers on racks for 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool completely.

While the cake cools, use the paddle attachment blend the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add in the confectioner’s sugar and beat until creamy. Ice the cake allowing for a half-cup of frosting between each layer and the rest for the top and sides. Should you want to decorate a little more, press coconut and pecans onto the cake sides.

> Click here for information about Ellen’s cookbook, No Sacrifices — Entertaining Gluten-Free

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