Two Simple Cakes: Torta Paradiso & Yogurt Cake with Pears

Two basic Italian cakes, Torta Paradiso and Torta di Yogurt con Pera (Yogurt Cake with Pears).   Their simplicity and healthy aspect make them ideal cakes for breakfast & snack for kids (and adults)

With the help of my new kitchen companion, Il Cucchiaino d'Argento Cookbook (The version of cooking for kids of Il Cucchiaio d'Argento.), I was able to whip up cakes good for a battalion of 20 kids.  I forgot that I only have two.  Okay, I'm guilty.  So I baked too many cakes for a family of four with two kids as main targets.  In fact, when I stopped and took a breather, I had a good look at my creations and  I was astounded at the accumulation of cakes on the kitchen table and counter.  Not to mention the whole nine yards of MESS I created.  The beauty and the ugly sides of cooking were evident everywhere.  

I really couldn't explain my sudden hyper-baking.  

Maybe it boils down to the frustration of yet another 2 weeks of confinement in the house after already going through 2 weeks prior to this one.  Both kids have and had chicken pox and it's two weeks each of no contact with the outside world until they are declared non-contagious by their pediatrician.  It was perfectly timed like what the doctor told us.  As soon as Riccardo is ready to go back to school, Sofia should have her first spots.  Yes, right on the dot.

One minute I was sending off my son to school and the next minute, I was gathering all the ingredients of the torta paradiso and was all set to embark in baking.   Sofia was coming down with fever too and I could see it in her sad eyes after we bid our goodbyes to father and son at the door.  Baking was a hopeful attempt to cheer us both up.  We were going to be in this together.  Chicken pox, confinement and cakes.

I am not the best baker in the world and I have been quite transparent about it.  I wish, I try and I fail.  These two cakes were failures of my excited attempts to acquaint myself to the world of baking.

First trial and cake number one is Torta Paradiso I followed the instructions to the letter and it came out too dry.  I had been wondering about the separated egg whites that the recipe didn't speak about anymore while I was mixing the cake.  With my limited knowledge of baking, It's strange that a cake doesn't have egg whites but since it comes from a reputed and important line of cookbooks, I continued anyway.  The taste was wonderful with the delicate taste of lemon but the dryness bothered me.  That was when I checked the internet for confirmation of what I thought.  All the recipes I found included half of the egg whites, whipped and mixed with the cake mixture.  And baking powder.  I was astonished that a cookbook can actually overlook something so important.  If you have a vast experience in baking, tell me if I am wrong.   In the recipe I wrote under, I included the egg whites and baking powder that were not present in the cookbook.

With my tail in between my legs, I decided that I shouldn't walk out of the kitchen feeling down.  So I conquered baking again immediately after.  I was meaning to make another torta paradiso to find out if I was right in assuming that they forgot the egg white part but I didn't have enough eggs.   I landed on the page of Torta di Yogurt.

My approach to cake number two.  Yogurt Cake with Pears.  I was very excited and hopeful with this cake.  Aside from being my favorite because of its lightness and moist structure, it is purely delicious.  I doubled the amount of the ingredients because I wanted to make little cupcakes and ramekin-sized cakes for the kids in addition to the cake itself.  The problem was I put too much cake mixture in the baking pan and covered the top with pears which slowed down the cooking.  I took the cake out too early because the middle part was still uncooked which I only noticed when it had already cooled down and sliced it.  Just like what happened to Kitsch in the Kitchen.  I chanced upon her blog post with the same cake and the same problem.

The ramekin-sized ones came out perfectly after baking them for half an hour.  I reduced the baking time of the cupcakes to 20 minutes and they passed too. 

Dressed with powdered sugar on top and some cake sprinkles to interest the kids, especially Sofia, they did their part in my main reason to bake.  

The kids were happy and didn't notice the imperfections.  That was all I ever wanted anyway. 

One:  Torta Paradiso

6 - 8 portions in a 24 cm. round baking pan
  • 200 g. soft butter
  • knob of butter for buttering the pan
  • flour for spreading on the pan
  • 180 g. sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 16 g. vanillina (vanilla powder)
  • 16 g. lievito in polvere (baking powder)
  • 1 untreated lemon, rind only
  • 100 g. flour
  • 100 g. fecola di patate (potato starch)
  • powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt 
  1. Rub butter on a 24 cm. baking pan.  Cover with flour.  
  2. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  3. With a wooden spoon, mix butter, sugar and lemon rind until you attain a creamy consistency.
  4. Incorporate eggs yolks, one at a time, mixing it well before adding another one.  
  5. In another bowl, mix flour, potato starch, vanilla powder & baking powder.  
  6. Sieve the flour mixture while adding to the butter mixture.  Mix well.
  7. In another bowl, whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until stiff. 
  8. Incorporate with the cake mixture.
  9. Transfer to the baking pan.  Bake for 50 minutes.  To check if the cake is cooked, prick it with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean (dry and without anything attached to it), then the cake is cooked.  
  10. Let the cake cool.  Transfer to a serving plate and sieve powdered sugar to cover the top. 

Two:   Yogurt Cake with Pears

6 - 8 portions in a 24 cm. round baking pan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (125 ml.) pot of yogurt
  • 1 pot of sugar (using the pot of the yogurt to measure)
  • 3 pots flour
  • flour for spreading on the pan
  • 1/2 pot peanut oil
  • 16 g. lievito in polvere (baking powder)
  • 1 untreated lemon or orange, rind only
  • pinch of salt
  • knob of butter for buttering the pan
  • powdered sugar
  • 1 pear, diced
  • 1 pear, sliced (optional)
  1. Rub butter on a 24 cm. baking pan.  Cover with flour.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  3. Transfer yogurt to a bowl.  Rinse and dry container.
  4. Prepare the ingredients using the clean yogurt container.  Fill up the container for the quantity of sugar and transfer to a bowl.  Fill up container 3 times for the flour and transfer to a separate bowl.   Fill up container half-way for the oil. 
  5. Whisk eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until the color becomes lighter and it becomes creamy.
  6. Incorporate yogurt and mix with a spatula.   
  7. Add oil and mix well..  
  8. Add lemon or orange rind, salt and sifted flour.   Mix well.  
  9. Add diced pear and mix well.
  10. Transfer cake mixture to the baking pan.   Layer the sliced pears on top. 
  11. Bake for 30 minutes.  To check if the cake is cooked, prick it with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean (dry and without anything attached to it), then the cake is cooked.  
  12. Let the cake cool.  Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle powdered sugar to cover the top. 

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