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Italian Recipe: Calabrian Cuzzupe

Cuzzupa, a lightly sweetened cake with eggs nestled into it, is a classic Easter dessert in the Italian region of Calabria. Traditionally cuzzupe are made for each member of the family. Size of each cake depends on age and "rank" of the family member-- the head of the family gets the biggest cake, the kids get the smallest ones! 

A welcome alternative to the sugar-loaded candy (peeps!) and chocolate eggs that we typically fill up on this time of year, cuzzupe are just a tad bit sweet with a hint of lemon. They're fantastic for dipping in coffee at breakfast. The ingredients you'll need are all rather simple, as well! 

Cuzzupe can take on many forms. They're molded by hand into hearts, baskets, braids, etc. You can even make each cake unique for the family member it "belongs" to. The unusual tradition of cradling eggs in the dough carries significance, of course. Back in the day, the number of the eggs in the cake carried a message. Nine eggs in a cuzzupa from a prospective mother-in-law to son-in-law meant the engagement to her daughter was renewed. Seven eggs signified the engagement could move forward to marriage.

These cakes are festive and truly a classic in southern Italy. Every town and every family has its own unique recipe. 

Calabrian Cuzzupe

Ingredients:

Hard boiled eggs (as many as you want to use for decorating)
6 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
The grated peel of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons Crisco (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking)
3/4 cup of milk
Confetti candy sprinkles

Directions: 

  1. Make hard-boiled eggs ahead of time. The quantity is up to you—it will depend on how many cuzzupe you plan on making, and how many eggs you’d like to fit in each one. Keep the shells on! Feel free to color/dye them if you want to get fancy.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease flat cookie sheets.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in Crisco, sugar, and grated lemon peel. Then make a well shape. Add in the 6 eggs (but save one egg white!) and milk.
  4. Gradually take flour from sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. Once it’s mixed well, knead dough until it is smooth. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of board or counter.
  5. Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake.
  6. Place your hard-boiled eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure.
  7. Next, beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, then brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. Be careful not to get egg white on cookie sheet as it will burn and also try to keep egg white off of colored eggs as they will be spotty after they bake.
  8. After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes, dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on your cuzzupe!
  9. Bake your cuzzupe in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. The cakes should be lightly browned when finished. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans. Be careful when removing them, as they are quite fragile!
  10. Buon appetito!

 

Recipe adapted from Cooking with Nonna.