Gubana, a traditional fruit and nut filled cake from Friuli in Northern Italy, is related to strudel, babka, and a host of other Slavic, Czech, and other Eastern European pastries with names like presnitz, putitza, and povetitza. What distinguishes all of them is the construction.
Each is made by rolling up a filling in a dough that is then coiled in a pan so that when the finished cake is cut, you see an attractive spiral pattern of filling in each slice. I once went on a Gubana pilgrimage and ended the day with a visit to Cividale del Friuli, an old Roman town in the Natisone Valleys, the epicenter of gubana’s homeland. A visit to Gubana Vogrig and a talk with Lucio Vogrig, the bakery’s owner, gave me all the information I needed to attempt a version of gubana, later published in my Italian dessert book in 1990. Just a couple of years ago, a client who has an Italian bakery asked me to show his staff some recipes, and gubana was among them.
I hadn’t made one in years, and when I did a few weeks before traveling to the bakery, I wasn’t satisfied with the texture of the dough. I made a few adjustments, but it didn’t seem to be improving noticeably until I decided to use a variation of brioche dough—the result was excellent.
Makes one 9- or 10-inch cake, about 12 generous servings
- FOR THE SPONGE
- 1/2 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm, about 100˚F
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fine granulated active dry or instant yeast
- 3/4 cup unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 1/2 cup /110 grams sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 Grated zest oflarge lemon
- All the sponge, above
- 2 1/4 cups/300 grams unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1/2 teaspoon /3 grams fine sea salt
- 8 tablespoons /115 grams unsalted butter, softened
- FOR THE FILLING
- 1 1/2 cups golden raisins
- 3/4 cup candied orange peel, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 2 cups walnut pieces, lightly toasted and finely chopped but not ground
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- One 9-inch round, 3-inch deep cake or spring form pan, buttered and lined with a disk of parchment paper
- FOR THE SPONGE
- Whisk the milk and yeast together in a small bowl. Wait 30 seconds and whisk again. Use a small rubber spatula to stir in the flour. Cover with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let ferment until more than doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- FOR THE DOUGH
- Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest by hand in the bowl of an electric mixer. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the sponge.
- Attach the dough hook and add the flour and salt. Mix until smooth on lowest speed. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Mix on low-medium speed until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl, then beat in the butter a little at a time. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Flour a cookie sheet and place the dough on it. Flour the dough and press it out flat to about 8 x 12 inches. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- FOR THE FILLING
- Place the raisins in a small pan, add water to cover, then bring to a boil. Drain and transfer to a large bowl with the orange peel and add the rum. Scatter the brown sugar on top.
- In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter and cook the breadcrumbs in it over low heat until they are golden, then add to the filling. Add the nuts and egg and fold the filling together until evenly sticky. Let cool.
- FOR THE ASSEMBLY
- Invert the dough to a floured work surface and roll it to a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin. Beginning from a wide end, roll up the dough and filling. Form the dough into a loose spiral and drop into the pan, leaving room between the curves for the dough to grow while it’s rising. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the gubana proof until there are no longer any gaps in the dough, about 1 hour, but possibly longer.
- About 30 minutes into the proofing, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
- Bake the Gubana until well risen and deep golden, with an internal temperature of 200˚F, 65 to 75 minutes.
- Place the pan on a rack and cover the gubana with foil and a slightly damp towel so that it cools slowly. Unmold when cooled. Wrap and serve the day after it’s baked.
This recipe was featured on Season 24 - Episode 2407.
Mary Ann, always glad to receive your newsletters with authentic Italian recipes. I also enjoy your calmness in your presentations of the recipes. I have all your cookbooks and enjoy them very much. Have a Happy Easter.
Thank you Theresa and Kathy for your nice comments; I hope you will continue to watch our shows; new season airing now. Happy Easter
Well made this yesterday and it basically took all of yesterday. The dough was way too sticky to work, so I see now why you call for putting it in the frig for an hour. But you still can’t work with it once it is out of the frig because it needs more flour to roll out into the rectangle. It took forever to reach an internal temp of 195 deg F, I’d say close to 2 hours and by then I had wrapped it in foil to stop the browning and keep the heat within the dough. It turned out dry and now everyone is just picking out the “stuffing” which is really tasty. The multiple risings were long as well even though I had the oven on in the background at 200 deg F and left the covered dough nearby to rise. This recipe needs a lot of work. I think if it were left as a straight log shape and not curled on itself in a spring form pan that would greatly speed up the baking.
Mary Ann, I keep praying to St. Jude, (For hopeless cases), that you will make a tour to the Midwest, Chicago’s western suburbs, one of the Cook Stores or book stores, Anderson’s or Barnes & Noble.
When I was in Providence for a wedding two years ago, I checked with the television studio to see if you were there, but no luck.
You were in Boston for the Italian fest at the same time, but our air was already booked yo return home. I was devastated.
I have about all of your books, DVR every show, and even saved many. You are, by far, the best because you remained with the same concept for true ITALIAN Heritage cooking. You are awesome, and I thank you for all I have learned and taught my daughters from you. My granddaughters even watch your shows with me.
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