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“Trionfo di Fragole” Strawberry and Cream Cake

         The local strawberries on Long Island could not be more beautiful this year—even if they’ve arrived earlier than usual due to our incredibly mild winter.  There has to be some upside to Global Warming for more than just the population of Canada!  These berries were an inspiration to Andrew who latched onto a recipe from that favorite of ours, “La Cucina Italiana”, in their latest issue.  The literal translation of Trionfo di Fragole is “A Triumph of Strawberries” and quite honestly that really hits the nail on the head. This delicate sponge cake is light as air and lemon-y thanks to a liberal dousing with Lemoncello, the Italian liqueur.  The tart strawberries are mounted atop two layers of whipped cream.  Then, just for decoration, mint leaves adorn the center of the mass of strawberries atop the cake.  So the minute you can, do not walk, run to make this incredibly wonderful cake.  It is so delicious, I wondered how it got its name.
         I speak Italian reasonably well and searched for an answer in Italian. I found the recipe all over the place.  Cooks from one end of Italy to the other have posted it on their blogs but not one contained any explanation of why it is called “Trionfo”. 
         In an effort to see if I could find the answer in English, I posted my question on www.Food52.com, a wonderful site with a very engaged readership. Just before I was about to publish this post, I received this from a fellow blogger, Chef Susie.  Here is the explanation she found:
St. Anthony of Padua
who has the distinction of
being canonized faster
than any other saint…
in under a year from his death!
“Sant’Antonio da Padova. Festa delle fragole a Campo de’ Fiori, Rome. On the occasion of the festival  of Sant’Antonio da Padova, every June the 13th, the Roman girls who used to harvest strawberries organised a party in Campo de’ Fiori to celebrate the ending of the harvest time. This festival was called Trionfo delle fragole, that is Triumph of the Strawberries. At the centre of the field was built a very big basket around which the girls used to lay little baskets filled with strawberries. 
At the end of this “ritual”, sturdy men used to carry the basket on their heads through the streets of the centre of Rome. During the procession girls and boys used to sing merry songs celebrating Sant’Antonio, such as: 



Salutiamo cor fischietto 
   We salute you with whistles 
Sant’Antonio Benedetto. 
  Holy St. Anthony
Trullallero, trullalà 
           Trullallero, trullala
Tutti quanti a sfravolà. 


     Everybody to the fair
The celebration ended with a general, and generous, distribution of the strawberries.” 

Campo dei Fiore seen from
La Carbonara Restaurant
overlooking the Piazza

          Chef Susie’s explanation really hit home.  First, when I went to school in Rome, I went to Campo dei Fiori virtually every single day.  That was where we bought lunch and it was home to the restaurants surrounding the market  where, for very little money, we ate our dinners. So the Campo has a deep and abiding place in my heart.  Second, you will note that yesterday, as I wrote this post, was the 13th of June, the exact date that the festival took place!  And finally, today marks the 301st post on Chewing the Fat.  There’s only one small detail left to figure out…where’s the cake in Chef Susie’s tale? 

          For that I went to my authority on all things about Italian cuisine, Marcella Hazan and here is exactly what she wrote me back: “ My dear Monte, I am grateful for your kind thoughts. “Triumph of …” is a not uncommon title for a dish that exalts the qualities of one of its components. It has no regional roots, nor do I believe, has the dessert you made, although it sounds delicious. How can you go wrong with strawberries and cream?”–Marcella Hazan.

         How indeed!  So for our 301st post on the Anniversary of the Triumph of the Strawberries in Campo dei Fiori,  there could be no better way to celebrate than with a Trionfo di Fragole. It will fast become a favorite. Here’s the recipe:


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