Pampepato (Black Pepper–Chocolate Cake Bites)
Thanks to fruit, chocolate, nuts, and spices, this treat has nothing in common with traditional American fruitcake. For the best result, bake the Pampepato a week or more before serving. Recipe courtesy of The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food.
(Makes 2 cakes, serving 6 to 8 each)
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour (organic, stone-ground preferred)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons candied citron, very fine dice
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons candied orange rind, cut into very fine dice
- 2 small dried figs, finely minced
- 1¾ cups whole blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup ground sweet chocolate
- 1 cup cocoa (not Dutch process)
- Generous ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
Working ahead: Pampepato must be made at least 12 hours in advance. Ideally it should “ripen” for 3 to 4 days. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature. It freezes very nicely (before cloaking in chocolate).
Making the cakes: Butter and flour a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 300°. In a large shallow bowl, thoroughly mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, candied fruits, figs, and nuts. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, blend the water, sugar, ground chocolate, and cocoa to a cream-like consistency. Do not let it boil. Cool about 15 minutes and stir in the spices.
Make a well in the dry-ingredient mixture, filling it with the chocolate mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine everything, taking care not to overmix. It will be a very sticky dough. Use a rubber spatula to make 2 round mounds of the dough on the cookie sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Each should be no more than 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Smooth the mounds.
Baking, mellowing, and icing: Bake the cakes for 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Cool to room temperature on the sheet. Then wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and let them ripen at room temperature for 12 hours to 4 days.
Lay out a sheet of paper towels under a cake rack. Set the cakes upside down on a rack and spread an almost-transparent film of melted chocolate over the bottom of each. Once it has hardened, flip the cakes over and spread a slightly thicker film over the rest of the cakes. When the chocolate hardens, rewrap the cakes and store them at room temperature.