This colourful dessert is considered a party cake in Abruzzo.






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (25 votes)


  • 250 g unsalted butter, softened, chopped
  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 4 eggs
  • 300 g (2 cups) self-raising flour, sifted
  • 125 ml (½ cup) grenadine (see Note)


Crema pasticciera (pastry cream)

  • 700 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 130 g caster sugar
  • 35 g (¼ cup) plain flour
  • 35 g (¼ cup) cornflour
  • 2 tbsp good-quality cocoa, sifted
  • 2 tsp lemon zest

sciroppo di caffè (coffee syrup)

  • 110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
  • 30 ml Sambuca (optional)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) hot espresso coffee

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 3 hrs
Cooling time 50 mins

To make pastry cream, heat milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-high heat to just below boiling point. Remove pan from heat and cool for 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, using a hand whisk, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Whisk in flour and cornflour, then whisking constantly, gradually pour in hot milk mixture. Transfer to a clean saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 8 minutes or until thick and smooth. Do not boil.

Divide pastry cream between two bowls. Stir cocoa into one bowl and lemon zest into the second bowl. Cover each surface with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 3 hours or until cold and set.

Preheat oven to 180°C. To make cake, grease and line a 20 cm square cake pan. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour and ¼ tsp salt, then spoon into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a large serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into thirds.

Meanwhile, to make coffee syrup, stir sugar and Sambuca into hot espresso. Allow to cool.

To assemble cake, pour coffee syrup evenly over top and bottom layers. Spread half of the cocoa pastry cream over bottom layer, top with middle layer and pour over grenadine. Spread over lemon pastry cream, then top with top layer. Spread top and sides with remaining cocoa pastry cream. Serve cut into slices.


• Grenadine is a red syrup from supermarkets.



Photography by Simon Bajada


As seen in Feast magazine, Mar 2014, Issue 29.