The name of this dessert derives from the Italian word, cicerchia, which is a small bean that is similar in appearance to a chickpea, but tastes more like a sweet split pea. This cake was given this name because the small resemble many beans stuck together. It is traditionally served at Christmas and during carnevale which is celebrated throughout Italy each February.






Skill level

Average: 3.6 (24 votes)


  • sunflower oil, to shallow-fry
  • 500 g honey
  • 100 g (⅓ cup) roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • hundreds and thousands, and sugar flowers (optional), to decorate


Sweet dough balls 

  • 125 g lard or unsalted butter, melted
  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 g (1⅓ cups) plain flour
  • 250 g (1⅓ cups) self-raising flour
  • 110 g (½ cup) white sugar

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time 4 hours
Drink match 2010 Paolo Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($23, 375ml).

To make dough balls, combine lard, wine, eggs and vanilla in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat flours, sugar and lard mixture until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and stand for 30 minutes, then beat on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth and slightly firm.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6. Shape into 1 cm-wide "sausages", then cut into 1 cm pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place in a single layer on a lightly floured tray.

Fill a large frying pan 2 cm deep with oil and heat over medium heat. Fry balls, in batches of 10, turning, for 3 minutes or until puffed, golden and cooked. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Place honey in a large pan over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes or until a little honey dropped into a glass of cold water hardens. Remove from heat, add fried dough balls and almonds, and carefully stir to coat.

Trace a 24 cm circle on a sheet of baking paper, then another 8 cm circle within the large one. Place paper on a tray and carefully spoon dough ball mixture within ring, layering as you go. Scatter over hundreds and thousands, and decorate with sugar flowers, if using. Chill for 4 hours or until set. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges.



Photography by Alan Benson.


As seen in Feast magazine, December 2011, Issue 4. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.