Once upon a time there were Italina and her beloved Petrignacola (a small hamlet in the municipality of Corniglio that probably counts no more than sixty inhabitants). Today there are those who, after many years since her disappearance, still remember Italina’s cakes. I do not belong to this category as I do not remember her cake… I had never heard about it until a few years ago. Then, by chance, during dinner at my in-laws’ (oh yes, because everybody knows that Italians always talk about food, even while eating!), someone named this cake and my curiosity did the rest. My mother-in-law’s recipe book was therefore immediately called into question: there I encountered the first version of this big cake (calling it cake is actually reductive, given its size). A recipe of the past, where the method was not even named and some ingredients were quantified in “a little…”. It took me a few tries before I understood exactly what to do, but with a little perseverance (and a few pounds later, due to to the amount of cake eaten while trying), I found out that chocolate meant cocoa powder and that the doughnut to which the recipe referred to was not a proper doughnut (yes, at the first attempt I used a baking pan with a hole in the middle), but a simple dough base. Being originally baked in a wood oven, even getting timing and temperatures right hasn’t been that easy!

The fabulous thing is that my eagerness has been supported by the inhabitants of Petrignacola (especially by Valentina who acted as an intermediary), proud of their Italina and of her renowned cake. I had the honor of being able to “spy” the notes of many local families and from there I understood that perhaps an original recipe no longer exists, but that for each of them the version possessed is precisely that of Italina. What matters is precisely this: the link of a community with its traditions.

Among the various anecdotes I heard, what struck me most was knowing that Italina used to give this cake as a wedding gift to the village’s newlyweds. Someone claims that in reality Italina used to offer another of her masterpieces: Sassolino cake. No matter what the flavour of the cake was, what matters is that a few decades ago a cake could be a wishing present for the newlyweds of the village.  These are sweet memories of a way of living that no longer belongs to us and that I wish I had the chance to know better.

Not only genuine flavors, but also genuine places and people. A lost world that somehow continues to make us feel its presence through traditional recipes. A tradition that we do not want to forget. After all, I hope to be someone’s Italina one day.

Recipe is being published tomorrow, but before baking it, it is necessary to know what’s behind the scenes of “the mazron cake”.