Italian Almond Torte

This is a torte, not a cake, and will stay quite flat. Be prepared for pointed questions about what happened to your cake … until people taste it. -Jackie Capurro

  • 1 8-oz can almond paste
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 T dry-roasted sunflower seedsCrumble the almond paste into a large bowl with your fingers or a fork. With a mixer, blend in all the remaining ingredients except for the sunflower seeds.

    Spread the batter evenly in a 9-inch removable-bottomed cake pan that has been buttered and floured. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the top.

    Bake at 325°F for 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove outer rim of pan.  Wrap in plastic after torte has cooled.

    Serves 8.


Painting With Stone

Florence, Tuscany – Take time to visit this tiny jewel in Florence: the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Literally meaning “Factory of Hard Stones”, this lovely museum is an excellent antidote to “compulsory tourist sites” overload. The subject of its collection is semiprecious stone and its use in intarsio (inlay) for the production of all sorts of decoration.

The craft of inlay work goes back to antiquity, but it was revived on a grand scale by Ferdinando I de’ Medici for the decoration of the furnishings, artworks, and architecture seen today all over Florence. In fact this Grand Ducal workshop was established to carry out the elaborate stone inlay work found in the Cappella dei Principi (Basilica of San Lorenzo). The art of assembling stone fragments to cover large or small surfaces, including objects, furniture or whole walls, was studied and perfected by skillful and carefully chosen artisans.

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Buon Onomastico

In Italy, as well as in many other countries in Europe and Latin America, people celebrate the day of the year associated with one’s given name.Italians call it onomastico.

The custom originated with the Catholic and Orthodox calendar of saints, where believers named after a particular saint would celebrate that saint’s feast day. In Italy, one’s onomastico is seen to be almost as important as one’s birthday – often people receive small gifts on their Onomastico.

Ninety percent of Italians are named after saints for varying reasons. Many are named this way simply due to being born on a particular saint’s day, while others because of patron saint of their town. Still others are given their name because their parents have a special connection or received a grace from a specific saint.