I featured this yeasted Italian Easter cake in my spring newsletter. That was before the virus, which seems like a lifetime ago. Easter is coming and, this year, the holiday will take on a completely different flavor. Andrea Boccelii will be performing in the Duomo in Milan inside the empty cathedral, and many people will most likely Zoom their way thorough the family gathering.
I want to help, yet for a lack of other ideas, I turn to cooking and time in the kitchen. Perhaps some of these recipes and delicious food ideas will take our minds off the state of affairs, even if for just a moment.
Italian Easter cake and treats reside in the long history of the cuisine. Many of these cakes utilize yeast to give them their unique flavor and texture. The Colombo, Pastiera, Pizza Giana and Casatiello come to mind. This cake, Il Suonno, means “the sleep,” and is so named because it has to rest and let the yeast rise for three days. Yes, it take three days to make! Most of the time is spent just leaving it alone and letting it rise or rest. The first day, we are refreshing our mother sourdough starter. On day two, mix all the ingredients and put the batter to bed for the night. The next morning, day three, bake the cake and enjoy it for a late Eater brunch and for many days to follow.
Il Suonno – Italian Easter cake comes from Campania, in the south of Italy, and is a classic and beautiful way to celebrate the coming of spring. This is an advance cake recipe, but practice makes perfect!
Il Suonno Italian Easter Cake
- Round Bundt-type cake pan
- 10 eggs
- 600 grams sugar (3 cups)
- 1000 grams flour (6 ½ cups) - 50% cake flour + 50% all purpose
- 2 Tablespoons sourdough starter (or 1 package (7 grams) dry yeast)
- 1 package Paneangeli Lievito Pane degli Angeli - (or 1 tbsp baking soda)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 125 grams softened butter (½ cup)
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup Sambuca
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 orange, juiced and zested
- 1 tsp anise seed
- Day 1: Feed your sourdough starter. The mother starter is a natural leavening agent used in making sourdough bread, yeasted cakes, pizza, etc. If you don't want to use a starter, you can use a package of dry yeast. If you choose to use dry yeast, you can skip to Day 2.
- Day 2.In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar and beat very well until a bit frothy. Use either a whisk or stand mixer. Feel free to mix by hand, but know it will be a good upper body workout. Add half the flour and whisk/mix it in. Add the dry yeast or sourdough starter, the baking soda or Lievito, a pinch of salt and mix well. Smash the butter with the back of a fork to soften and then add and mix well. Add the milk, the Sambuca, the white wine and stir to combine making sure the butter is fully incorporated. Add the rest of the flour and mix well. Now, the batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Stir vigorously, making sure everything is very well incorporated. Add orange juice, lemon juice, zests and anise seed and stir vigorously. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in a cool part of your kitchen and leave overnight.
- Day 3:The next morning, the batter will be bubbly and just a bit larger in volume. Pour the cake batter into two Bundt (round tube) pans that have been greased and floured. Cook at 360 degrees F for 45- 50 minutes. When done, the top will be a nice light golden brown. Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes and then remove from pans, turning them over onto serving dishes. While the cakes are still warm, drizzle with sugar glaze and cover with pastel colored sprinkles.