This flat, crumbly cake comes from Mantua in the region of Lombardy. My friend Terri Rozzi, who comes from that region, gave me her recipe, which I have altered slightly. Use finely ground cornmeal; if you have only coarse cornmeal, grind it fine in a food processor. This batter is more the consistency of a dough; don't be surprised by its compactness and dryness, which give it its crumbly texture and its name. This is a good cake to have on hand for company.
2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 1/3 cups finely ground cornmeal
1 cup whole almonds, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup lard
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 10 by 2-inch round cake pan. In a bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, almonds, and sugar together. With a pastry blender or your hands, work in the butter and lard until the mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest together. Add to the flour and blend with your hands. The batter will be very stiff.
Pat the batter into the pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.
Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack, then dust the top with confectioner's sugar. Cut into wedges to serve.
Variation: Serve the cake as a shortcake, either split in half or whole, with sliced and sugared fresh strawberries or other fruits. It is also good with ice cream.
Note: Use finely ground cornmeal; if you have only coarse cornmeal, grind it fine in a food processor.
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