When people immigrate to a new country, they often carry with them reminders of their homeland and a few cherished belongings. Old family recipes are both – cherished and reminders of home. Mary Cannici says of her grandmother’s special cake recipe, “This recipe immigrated to this country from Sicily when Nonna was a little girl and her family came to Ellis Island.” The cake is a wonderful combination of a creamy ricotta cake and an egg-rich pudding. Farina, a finely ground cereal grain with a mild taste, is used as the thickening agent. Serve this versatile and easy-to-make cake with fresh seasonal fruit and you have the perfect dessert for brunch or dinner! Easter and Mother’s Day are just around the corner!
Nonna’s Breakfast and Dessert Farina Cake
Recipe by Mary Cannici
4 cups whole milk
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup farina
16 ounces (2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
2. Bring milk, sugar, and butter to simmer in large saucepan and cook, stirring often, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Slowly whisk in farina until smooth.
4. Remove saucepan from heat, stir in ricotta and vanilla.
5. Let mixture cool slightly, then stir in beaten eggs until combined.
6. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then serve warm.
Serves 15 to 18
1. Farina can usually be found in stores that carry natural foods. Sprouts, Whole Foods, and health food stores often carry farina in the bulk bin section. Cream of Wheat is made from farina.
2. Be careful not to add too much of the farina at one time. Add small amounts of it slowly, stirring constantly, to prevent lumps from forming.
3. Although the egg custard flavor is more pronounced when the cake is served warm (after the 10-minute cooling period), it is trickier to serve warm since the texture is like a rough custard. After the cake sits for a while, it firms up and can be cut into squares.