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28 June 2012

Apricot & Mascarpone Cake and San Vito di Cadore, Dolomites




Our apricot tree is right in front of one of our windows.  Every year, it is a spectacle for me watching the life cycle of the fruit.  I like seeing the first signs of life after winter when the tiny bumps in every branch give way to flower buds in the rich color of bordeaux.  Then they open  up to white flowers that completely cover the whole tree.  It's a marvelous sight!  I never get tired of taking pictures of them every single year. 


When the flowers are all open, the bees come swarming in to do their pollinating.  And I love documenting this activity too with my camera.   The petals start falling off and cover the ground with a white carpet.  Then leaves come out, making the tree green finally.  That's the time when the fruit grow from tiny little bumps to big round green fruit that slowly turn yellowish then orange with slight tinges of blush.  That's the time when the fruit are saying that they are ready to be harvested. 

Like every single year, they are always ready when we are about to leave for our holiday.  So a day before leaving, I had a big basket of them. Done with my usual jam making, I still had some apricots to "terminate". I found a recipe of torta di mele e mascarpone (apple & mascarpone cake) that seemed perfect for my mission.  I substituted the apples with apricots. 


I had a feeling that the cake would come out very good because the mascarpone should give the softness and perfect consistency that I was looking for in a cake. Having a lot of apricots, I decorated the top with some slices then glazed them with the apricot jam that I just made. 


After making the slice, I hastened my usually long photo shoot and took back the cake to the kitchen. Looking at it through my lens was torturing me. How long did I have to stare at the cake before I succumb to my hunger pangs?  I gathered everyone and we had a big snack that afternoon.  Truth be told, my husband and I both think that this is the best cake that I have ever baked. I don't really have a vast baking experience to boast of but there was not a single mistake this time. My persistence finally paid off. 


And here is the first place we went to upon arrival at the Dolomites. San Vito di Cadore is the closest town to where we always stay. It's one of my favorite small places in this area where the atmosphere is perennially friendly and homey. 

The mountain chalet we rent is immersed in nature and is quite isolated from the usual town activities. We take refuge in the shops of San Vito di Cadore for our daily needs.  It's a small town surrounded by mountains 360 degrees around it. It's breathtaking! Going downwards from the center of the town, there is a quiet lake called Lago di Mosigo where it's possible to go fishing or just enjoy the view.  




Let me leave you with this recipe and these holiday pictures for now. There are already a number of dishes that I prepared here along with pictures of other towns I have visited that are in my queue of blog posts to compose.  I'm hoping to post the next one soon!

Hoping everyone is having a good week!

Apricot & Mascarpone Cake

Ingredients:
10 - 12 servings
For a round cake of 28 cm. diameter
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 250 grams mascarpone
  • 250 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 800 grams apricots, divided (half diced, half thinly sliced for garnish)
  • Icing sugar (optional), to sprinkle on top 
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam (can be replaced with any jam that has similar taste)
  • Cinnamon powder (optional)
  • Fresh mint leaves (optional) for garnishing
 Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Beat the eggs with with sugar and salt until the mixture becomes light-colored and fluffy. 
  3. Put the mascarpone in another bowl and stir it to soften.  
  4. Add about a couple of tablespoons of the egg & sugar mixture to make it less dense.  Then mix all the remaining egg & sugar mixture in the bowl.  Mix gently.  
  5. Add the sifted flour, baking powder & vanilla extract to the mascarpone.  Mix gently to combine.
  6. Add the diced apricots. Mix gently.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a 28 cm. cake pan that had been greased with butter and sprinkled with flour.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour.
  9. If the cake's surface becomes too dark in the middle of cooking, cover it with an aluminum foil and continue cooking.  (At exactly 30 minutes, my cake turned brown already so I covered it with an aluminum foil.)
  10. Check if the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick at the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean, then it's already cooked.  If not, leave the cake for a few more minutes in the oven.
  11. Let it cool.  When it has cooled, take it out from the pan.
  12. Arrange the sliced apricots on top. 
  13. In a small saucepan, warm up the apricot jam for about 2 minutes. 
  14. Brush the jam on the sliced apricots carefully.  
  15. When you have covered all the apricots, sprinkle a lot of icing sugar and cinnamon on top.  Decorate with some mint leaves.