One bite of this tantalizingly light, but slightly chewy cake will remind you of a souffle pudding with the texture of a sweet risotto. Arborio rice, often used in risottos and rice puddings, stars in this lemon scented cake imbued with ground almonds, a perfect make ahead dessert as the flavors mingle delightfully as it cools. In fact, the cake is much easier to cut once it has cooled.
A short-grained rice, Arborio is named for the town in the Piedmont region of Italy where it is grown. When cooked, the rice retains firmness, but is creamy due to the higher amount of starch in the variety. Once only grown in Italy, Texas and California now grows excellent arborio rice; in fact, in some taste tests, the American arborio rates highly, is less expensive and is readily available in most supermarkets. However, when looking for authentic Italian arborio rice, look for the seal from the Italian rice growers’ consortium which has a stork on it. If kept dry, arborio rice keeps indefinitely.
Pleased as I could be about successfully preparing this cake and getting it into the oven, imagine my shock and horror to see the one-third cup sugar sitting on the counter! That’s what I deserve from taking on the phone while I prepare something I’ve never made before. Read at the end of the recipe directions what I did to salvage the cake, but in the long run-loved the result!
Lemon Rice Cake
Unsalted butter, melted, and fine dried breadcrumbs, (Panko), to coat a 8-9-inch springform cake pan
2-1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
4 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1/3 cup sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously brush the springform pan with butter, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs rotating pan to coat the inside all over, then discard excess.
In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and stir in the rice and salt. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then begin stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed the milk, about another 10 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a bowl to cool slightly, then add almonds and lemon zest.
Lightly beat the eggs and gradually fold them into the rice mixture. Stir in the sugar. In a clean bowl with a heavy duty mixer and a ship attachment, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Pour into prepared springform pan and bake 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand on a rack 30 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan and remove the spring form. Slide cake onto rack and cool completely. Recipe adapted from “Italian Country Cooking-the Secrets of Cucina Povera” by Loukie Werle.
What to do if you forget to add the sugar! Increase sugar to 1/2 cup.
Almond Lemon Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup almond liqueur, or
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 lemon, juiced
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, almond liqueur or flavoring and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until mixture is syrupy-about 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before brushing liberally on cake.
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