Of all the cakes that I have worked on for this and for my previous books, none has been more gratifying than this tribute to the orange. It is so soft, so juicy, so tenderly aromatic, so easy to make.
I call it all’Anconetana because I had it and obtained the recipe for it in Ancona, the large port town in the Marches. But I understand it is made elsewhere in this happy central Italian region between the mountains and the sea. One ingredient of the original recipe is apparently native to the Marches. It is mistrà, the driest of the anise-based liqueurs. I have tried such Italian and French alternatives as Sambuca and Pernod, but they are too cloying, too stickily anise-tasting. I was about to abandon trying to duplicate this wonderful cake until I was prompted to try ouzo, which works very nicely.
Another ingredient you may want to replace is the Sicilian blood oranges that one would use in Italy. The Italian blood orange is full of juice and exceptionally fragrant. The ones from California I have tried are stingy with juice, short on fragrance, and, considering the amount of liquid that is required here, extravagantly expensive. You’d be better off forgoing the drama of the red juice and employing an orange such as the tangelo or the temple or any other comparably fragrant variety.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.