In this gastronomic journey along the Via Emilia in search and rediscovery of familiar memories and flavors, sometimes it happens that I discover little culinary surprises. Recipes I have never heard of, such as the 5 minutes cake or, in Italian, torta dei cinque minuti.
Honestly, I was surprised to discover that The Slow Food Dictionary to Italian Regional Cooking mentions it, described as a non-leavened almond cake whose mixture has to be kneaded in five minutes, hence the name.
The cake is typical of my region but, as the dialect name suggests (torta di sinc minut), is from the Emilia area.
Its preparation respects the expectation evoked by its name.
The dough is firm and compact, and you will notice as you knead it.
After leveling the surface with a spatula or metal spoon, cook it in the oven.
Another feature of this cake is the identical proportion of flour, almond flour, butter, and sugar. If you want to make a bigger one, double the quantities of these ingredients because they have to have the same amount (also calculate two eggs).
I mixed the dough with electric whips. Alternatively, use the planetary mixer or proceed by hand with a metal spoon.
The function of yeast is to make the dough airy and fluffy; it does not serve to raise the cake.
I added nocino liqueur to the dough, but you can opt for anise liqueur, Marsala, or rum.
When I saw that dough so sticky and firm, I thought the cake would be a disaster. Instead, it will not only be perfect but its flavor and fluffiness will surprise you. The five-minute cake is a little cupboard masterpiece.
Italian pantry cakes
Domenica Marchetti, author of the newsletter Buona Domenica on Substack, wrote about the Italian tradition of the pantry cakes, often called ciambella:
A ciambella is nothing like an American layer cake; there is nothing fancy about it, and it requires neither frosting nor a fork. This one is sturdy, with a dense crumb, though somehow still tender—almost fudgy. It’s an excellent breakfast cake and good for an afternoon snack, too. It is, in fact, the perfect dunking cake, whether you are dunking in cappuccino, American coffee, tea, or a glass of cold milk.
The 5 minute cake also belongs to the category of sideboard cakes, of which dry cookies are also a part.
The expression pantry cakes include all simple, homemade preparations you can make with ingredients we usually find in the pantry. In addition, for the preparation, you need a few kitchen utensils, such as a bowl, spoon, and mold. Today, we have kitchen tools that permit us to make sophisticated and complex preparations, but once upon a time, this was the most popular homemade dessert.
From a base that usually includes flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder or baking soda, butter or oil, and sometimes a flavoring, take shape plethora of recipes that tell stories of family and life.
Over the centuries, sideboard cakes have become a symbol of home cooking while maintaining the simplicity of preparation. The ciambella, or pantry cake, is a staple recipe in Italy.
Pantry cakes have no fillings, although they may contain, or can be decorated with, fruit or jams. In addition to the classic ciambelle (at the plural), crostate are also sideboard cakes.
In addition to the homemade ingredients, the name recalls where they were once stored. That in Italian is credenza (pantry). In the country, women store it in the wooden cupboard with flour and bread. In the city, these cakes found their place on the shelves of sideboards protected by wooden and glass doors, just as with liquors, kept locked in the same pantry. One time ago, the hostess decided when to serve both.
Time for ciambella
Who among us, at least once, has not wiped the bowl of dough with his fingers, sighed as he smelled its fragrance filling the air, or rejoiced before a slice as yellow as a sunbeam and still warm?
Grandma frequently made cimabelle and tarts. Sometimes, they were reserved for some special occasion and could not be touched. More often, Nonna makes a ciambella because we children ask for it.
Grandma, shall we make a cake? She would smile and fasten her apron.
Then, she would take out the scale, bowl, and spoon.
The ingredients were what she found between the pantry and the refrigerator. But the special ciambelle also had ricotta or mascarpone in the dough, sometimes raisins or apples, and the scent of lemon zest.
I cannot list how many different ciambelle I ate during my childhood.
The only thing I can tell you is that the first thing to do, as was also Grandma Sara’s custom, even before retrieving utensils and ingredients, is to turn on the oven to bring it up to temperature since, after all, every pantry cake is a cake that calls for five minutes time preparation.
Buona cucina, Monica
Pantry cakes recipes
In the C is for Ciambella newsletter, Domenica shared a recipe from her mom, Gabriella. The ingredients include the flavor of Punch Abruzzo liqueur, just as in the 5-minute cake, you find a bit of Nocino.
That from Domenica is a full-of-memory-and-taste recipe. Don’t miss her newsletter.
I’ll point out some pantry cake recipes from the blog
- Cookies of the King, cantucci Bolognesi
- Semolina and pine nut tart with Marsala wine
- Ciambella of Imola, for me is a true taste of home since I was born and raised in Imola, a small town on the border between Emilia and Romagna
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5 minutes cake
- 1 roundbaking pan, 15 cm diameter
- 100 g of warm, melted butter
- 100 g of 00 flour
- 1 sachet of baking powder for sweet about from 12 to 16 g
- 100 g of almond flour or finely chop peeled almonds
- 100 g of brown sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 30 g of nocino liqueur in alternative Marsala, or rum
- 1 medium egg
- Preheat oven to 180C degrees (356F)
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and set aside.
- In a bowl, combine flour with baking powder and mix.
- Then, add almond flour, brown sugar, and salt and mix.
- Pour in the egg, nocino, and melted butter.
- Mix the dough with whips or in the planetary mixer. Or use a metal spoon to mix thei ngredients. The dough is thick and sticky.
- Place the dough into a mold lined with baking paper. Level the surface of the cake with a spatula or metal spoon.
- Bake for about 40 minutes. Check with a wooden toothpick to see if it is ready.
- Remove from the oven, let cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- Store the cake in the cupboard. It will keep fresh for several days.