Serpentone

Snake-Shaped Cake

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Apples and dried fruit, nuts and sugar are the main ingredients for this classic Umbrian cake. The pastry is quite unusual: made with olive oil, flour, sugar and water, it has quite a different texture to butter pastry. The decoration of the cake is where the cook’s imagination takes flight - all kinds of expressions on the ‘snake’s’ face can be created using a few carefully placed ingredients. Some local cooks also add small coloured sweets to the snake, to represent scales. The cake is quite sweet, so should be served thinly sliced, with some chilled, fairly dry dessert wine or some strong coffee.

Ingredients

  • 115 g/4 oz/ cup sultanas/golden raisins
  • 225 g/8 oz/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 115 g/4 oz/generous ½ cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 60 ml/4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • pinch of salt
  • 100-150 ml/3 ½ fl oz-¼ pint/scant ½ cup- cup warm water
  • 50 g/2 oz/ cup blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 8 walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eating apples, peeled and sliced
  • 5 dried figs, chopped
  • 5 ready-to-eat prunes, stoned/pitted and chopped
  • 30-45 ml/2-3 tbsp icing/confectioners’ sugar

For the Decoration

  • 2 glacé/candied cherries or 2 coffee beans
  • 1 blanched almond
  • 10-20 ml/2-4 tsp caster/superfine sugar

Method

  1. Soak the sultanas in a small bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes, until they are plump and softened.

  2. Put the flour and caster sugar on to the work surface and add the oil and the salt. Add a little warm water, then knead gently to make a fairly solid pastry dough.
  3. Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and flour a baking sheet.
  5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the blanched, chopped almonds over the sheet of dough.

  6. Drain the sultanas and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Spread them over the almonds, with the walnuts, apples, figs and prunes.

  7. Sprinkle with the icing sugar and carefully roll the dough up on itself, to form a long cylinder. Twist the cylinder around to form a coiled snake shape and transfer on to the baking sheet.

  8. To make the decoration, press the glacé cherries or coffee beans into place to represent the snake’s eyes, and then press in the almond to represent the snake’s tongue. Sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

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