Let’s bake a cake!

Facciamo cuocere una torta!  A torta margherita is a traditional Italian cake. One of the most popular cakes in Italy, it was named after the country’s first Italian queen: Margherita di Savoia.

The first recorded  recipe for the torta was in the 19th century, but it probably had been handed down from mother to daughter for centuries earlier.

I recently baked a yummy torta margherita from a box mix in my Florentine kitchen and next I wanted to try one from scratch.  Here’s my guide.


If you want to try one too, here’s the modern recipe:

5 eggs

180 grams sugar

zest of a lemon to taste

150 grams flour

150 grams potato starch

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

vanilla, 1 Tablespoon I’m guessing


80 grams melted butter, cooled

powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of baked cake

Beat eggs, sugar and zest of a lemon on high until you get a light mixture that looks like the example in the Youtube video.  The mixture should be a pale yellow and hold its form enough that you can “write with it” as la signora says.

Next, with mixer on low, add flour and starch, baking powder, salt and vanilla.  The vanilla in the video is a powdered form available in Italy.  La signora reminds us to only mix the flours, etc., in; you don’t want to lose the lift you got by beating the eggs.

Last, slowly mix in the melted butter.

Pour mixture into a round baking tin, buttered, floured and lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 180 degrees C. for 40 – 50 min.  Sprinkle the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

It worked!  My yummy cake looks like this:


And I eat it like this:



But, you want to make it without potato flour?

Since we, in our American kitchens, don’t typically have potato starch on hand, I believe it is possible to change the recipe slightly, by adding an additional 100 grams of 00 flour.  Here’s another recipe I found on the internet for a Torta Margherita sensa fecola di patate. I haven’t tried it yet, but probably will soon.
Tempo di preparazione: 20 minuti, Tempo di cottura: 40 minuti, Tempo totale: 1 ora
Ingredienti per Torta Margherita senza fecola da 22 cm di diametro
250 g di farina 00)
200 g di zucchero
80 g di burro
4 uova
1 bustina di vanillina
1 bustina di lievito per dolci Paneangeli
120 ml di latte
zucchero a velo vanigliato q.b.

Buona fortuna!

Always on the search for history, I found the following article in the August 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine.

In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates Torta Margherita, a 19th-century cake from Italy that is both gluten and dairy-free.

This recipe comes from Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining), and is a cake that has been enjoyed in many Italian households.

Artusi’s introduction to his cookbook gives an insight into the origins of the cake. He originally made it for a friend of his, Antonio Mattei, who took the recipe and, after making a few changes, sold it in his restaurant.

The cake was such a success that it soon became the norm to finish a meal with Torta Margherita. The moral of the story, according to Artusi, is that if you grab opportunities when they arise (as Mattei did) fortune will favour you above someone who merely sits back and waits.

120g of potato starch, sifted
120g of fine white sugar (caster sugar)
4 eggs
Juice or zest of a lemon (optional)
Butter and baking paper (to line the baking tin)

Separate the yolks from the whites and beat the yolks together with the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the lemon (optional) and the potato starch and beat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then delicately fold the whites through the batter. Place the mixture into a round cake tin (buttered and lined with baking paper). Bake at a moderate heat for about an hour or until golden on top and firm to the touch.

Time: 60 minutes

When I found this recipe I was intrigued: a gluten and dairy-free cake that tastes nice? And with only three ingredients? But the picture in the recipe book looked very enticing so I gave it a try.

And I’m glad I did! I ended up making several of these as they were so delicious; friends and family devoured them all. The cake is incredibly light, goes well with tea or coffee, and takes just an hour to make.

And, alternatively, there is this: http://www.academiabarilla.com/italian-recipes/desserts-fruit/margherita-cake.aspx

This will take you breath away: contemporary Japanese fashion


Come back tomorrow for an explanation!

Update: 7/20/13: There is a fine exhibit at SAM now called, somewhat confusingly, “Future Beauty” but is actually a show of some of the high fashion emanating from Japan from the last 30 years.


The show includes these designers:

Rei Kawakubo
Yohji Yamamoto
Junya Watanabe
Issey Miyake
Jun Takahashi
Hiroyuki Horihata
Makiko Sekiguchi
Hiroaki Ohya
Shinichiro Arakawa
Naoya Hatakeyama
Tatsuno Koji
Tao Kurihara
Hanae Mori
Kenzo Takada
Maiko Kurogouchi
Taro Horiuchi
Akira Naka
Keisuke Nagami
Kosuke Tsumura
Tamae Hirokawa
Masahiro Nakagawa
Takao Yamashita
Kazuaki Takashima
Mikio Sakabe
Naoki Takizawa
Aya Takano
Akira Onozuka
Kumiko Uehara
Hokuto Katsui
Nao Yagi
Lica Azechi


In a move that keeps art museums maintaining their reputation of being elite and unapproachable, the visitor is not allowed to take photos in the current exhibition.

Now, I have spent a good part of my adult life working in and for art museums and I know all the reasons for not allowing photograph (mainly the potential damage caused by the flash of the camera’s light).  But if art museums want people to come, to look, to enjoy, then they need to allow today’s visitor the opportunity to take a picture.  Phones with cameras are ubiquitous.  Phones are in everyone’s hands.  So, here’s a tip to the art museums of the world:  allow pictures.  You don’t have to do any more focus groups to understand why museums seem elite.


So, yeah, I took these pictures without permission by playing hide and go see with the guards.  Stupid.


The most aggravating part of the experience is that I couldn’t get pictures of the  most knock-out designs because the guards were watching for me (I don’t blame the guards, they were just doing their jobs, but the administration needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  Wouldn’t you think especially in the coffee-capital that is Seattle, they already would be smelling the coffee?)


So, please enjoy these few pictures that I stole.



This was interesting.  Some of the garments were folded like origami and displayed as 2-d designs.

One of the most flamboyant dresses could be folded up entirely and packed like a large, flat paperback book .  Now that’s ingenious.  Too bad I can’t show you because of the photog restrictions.

If you can, catch this show!

Sayonara! Mata ne.

R is for Rialto Bridge in Venezia, Italia!

And the winner is:  Erikeno who recommended the Rialto Bridge!  What a great idea!  You can collect your prize in person in September!


Honorable mention goes to JBragg with the suggestion of Raku ware from Japan.  Thank you JBragg! Here’s a picture for you:


But, back to dreamy thoughts of the Rialto…


It turns out that early versions of this beloved, gorgeous ponte di rialto were made of wood and kept collapsing.  About 1585, it was decided to build the bridge in stone and a Swiss-born engineer/architect known as Antonio da Ponte (1512 – 1595) (Anthony of the bridge, are you kidding me?), helped design and build the bridge that has since become a major symbol of Venice.

Check out this link for the latest and greatest information.



1588 – 1591