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
Holy St. Anthony
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:
Recipe for “Trionfo di Fragole” Strawberry and Cream Cake from “La Cucina Italiana”
For the Cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened,
plus more for greasing pans
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) plus more for dusting pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, kept at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
For the Filling:
5 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup limoncello (see note)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound strawberries, preferably small, trimmed
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Mint leaves for garnish
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 2 (8- or 9-inch) cake pans
Make the cake:
Heat oven to 350º with rack in middle. Lightly grease 2 (8- or 9-inch) cake pans with butter and dust with flour.
Into a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk in four batches; beat until just combined.
Divide batter between cake pans, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake until cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans and testers inserted into centers come out clean, 20 to 25 minutes (tops of cakes will be pale in color). Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack, then invert onto rack and cool completely.
For the filling:
In a small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons sugar, limoncello, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water;
heat over medium heat, whisking, just until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
With tops of cakes facing up and avoiding outer 1/2-inch border, poke both cakes all over with tines of a fork. Brush with syrup.
Slice half of the strawberries. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat cream and remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated
sugar to stiff peaks.
Cover 1 cake with 1/2 of the cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange sliced berries on top. Top with second cake layer.
Cover with remaining cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with whole berries, then dust with confectioners sugar. Garnish with mint.
Note: Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur available at liquor stores.