Prinjolata, a nicely refined name for a mad mound of carnival cake. Sheer decadence and full-on frivolity. Having given this cake a miss for all my 19 years in Malta, I was curious to see what exactly is ‘under the bonnet’ of this giant dome of polker-dotted whipped cream.
As the hail storms took their toll on the grand carnival procession yesterday, and we were holed up at home, I set to making prinjolata mini sized to make up for our missed trip to Valletta, Malta’s capital. Baking is also a sure-fire way to keep warm in our somewhat underheated stone house.
Call me a kill-joy, but since J was old enough to muster pester power over sweets of any kind, I have tried to limit Prinjolata intake over the years. I know, as it only comes round once a year, I should let him have his indulgence before penetential traditions of Lent. Prinjolata is a massive, gooey mound that stands proud and gawdy on cafe’ counter tops well before carnival festivities begin. It takes its name from ‘prinjol’, Maltese for pine nuts (a word similar to the Italian ‘pinoli’). Pine nuts go into its filling, along with those neon beacons of glacé cherries. Well, it’s no good going half measure once you’ve set about baking a junk-food delight of a cake!
It was quite a revelation, the prinjolata. You first bake ‘pan di spagna’, a kind of trifle sponge. Then break the sponge up into small pieces and get the beaters out again to mix in the cherries, pine nuts and cocoa nibs. It seemed odd to mash up a perfectly good sponge to start again, but it works. Of course, some like more cocoa nibs…
The Artex ceiling topping in mine is mostly fresh cream with a little packet-mix topping added. I think those in confectioners and cafes must be near-on 100 per cent the latter otherwise they’d need to be kept in the chill counter not open air. At home, you can probably use just fresh cream. I didn’t top them all as I prefer it plain, and sliced up like a semi-freddo. The cream of course is what makes it so decadent a cake for carnival. And I forgot to say, it has a nip or two of whisky in it.
Would I make it again? The verdict – once a year! But it was fun and at least J got a slightly healthier portion this time round. A great idea to while away a bitterly cold February day at kids’ half term if you can’t get to, or don’t have carnival where you are. More on Malta & Gozo’s carnival here.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- SPONGE INGREDIENTS
- 4 eggs
- 200g caster sugar
- ½ tsp best quality vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon zest, chopped finely
- 200g self-raising flour
- FILLING MIX INGREDIENT
- 2 tbsp whisky/Vermouth (or one of each)
- 50 g pine nuts, roasted and chopped finely, but not ground
- 50 g glace’ cherries (mixed colours)
- 2 tbsp cocoa nibs
- 250g butter, softened
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- TOPPING INGREDIENTS
- 250ml cream, whipping
- half packet of shop-bought topping mix in white
- glace’ cherries, halved, to decorate
- flaked almonds, to decorate
- 50g chocolate, melted in bain marie, to decorate
- Prepare dariole moulds by lining them with cling film leaving overhang, or do the same with a 22cm basin, if making a single cake.
- Sponge: Preheat oven to 180°C. Using a mixer, beat the eggs and caster sugar together until smooth and thickened; this takes 5-8 mins.
- Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat in. Pour the mix into a single sponge cake tin and bake for around 25 mins unitil risen and lightly golden.
- Turn out the sponge and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then, break the sponge into small cubes (1 cm max).
- Put the sponge cubes into a large bowl, sprinkle over the whisky and/or Vermouth and add the chopped glace’ cherries and cocoa nibs, stirring in well.
- Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over a medium heat, dry, no oil. Toss them and make sure they don’t burn – they toast very quickly. Chop using a herb cutter board to fine pieces. Do not grind them up in a food processor. Add pine nuts to the sponge mixture. Set aside while you make the filling…
- Filling: beat the softened butter and sugar together well. Add another tbsp whisky to the mix to loosen it as it can be stiff.
- Transfer the sugar-butter mixture to the bowl with the sponge crumb mix. Add the vanilla extract. Beat the whole lot together until well mixed. The sponge will completely disintegrate and blend in. It will be a stiff mixture, but persevere and add a tiny drop of whisky or water to loosen if need be, but not much.
- Forming the dome cake: using a tablespoon, take good spoonfuls of mixture and dollop into the dariole moulds, pressing down gently between each spoonful to get rid of gaps.
- When the moulds are filled, cover over the top with the excess cling film and chill for a couple of hours in the fridge.
- Topping: beat up the cream along with half the topping mix until it’s thick and forms soft peaks, but do not over beat other wise it will granulate.
- Turn out the little cakes from the dariole moulds on to serving plates. Spread over the whipped topping roughly. Decorate with halved cherries and sprinkle over almond flakes, or pine nuts. I ran out of pine nuts and found almond flakes more interesting to decorate with.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over simmering hot water (bain marie). Drizzle it messily over the little cakes. Keep cakes chilled til ready to serve.
- Particularly if using fresh cream, eat within two days and keep cakes chilled in the fridge.
Life Images by Jill says
my goodness that certainly looks and sounds decadent and delicious! certainly not one for calorie counters! And it looks so festive – like Christmas!
Red Bistro says
A Maltese friend over yesterday for tea said he’d not actually eaten prinjolata before tasting a morsel of mine. He said it reminded him of the trad. Maltese Christmas log (but with cream not chocolate topping). It does have candied fruit, so is Xmassy. I’ve no idea about it’s culinary origins. I did see though that’s it’s on the counter top of even a Maltese-run cafe’ in London! It’s one for those who like heavier desserts, I do admit. Thankfully, it’s a once-a-year job.
not only does this look festive, it looks delish too!
Red Bistro says
Thanks Dina, and yes, it is delicious. Not that I had much of it as my son hoovered up most of these mini ones I made. Next year, must make double the batch!