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Title and date Fresco painting depicting a cake similar to “cassata” in the villa Poppaea in Torre Annunziata,
I century b.C.
Author Unknown
Technique Fresco painting
Theme Still life

The villa Poppaea is a luxurious seaside villa dating back to the first century b. C. located in the archeological site of Torre Annunziata (the ancient Roman town of Oplontis). It was built in different stages in a style which combines late Hellenic and Roman traditions.
The walls of the villa are finely decorated with particularly beautiful frescoes.
Thanks to the trompe-l’oeil technique, these fresco paintings represent feigned doors, windows and columns connected with the real ones, creating, in this way, perspectival effects and correspondences between reality and imagination.
The numerous and high quality details of the paintings show masks, fruit baskets, sweets, torches and birds.

Inside a room of the villa was found an interesting fresco depicting a typical dish of the Roman period: a cake very similar to our modern “cassata” with a red glaze on the top.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans still life paintings were very important, as they represented the gifts, generally sweets, fruit and vegetables, which the hosts used to give their guests, leaving them the choice of eating them how, where and when they wanted.
The style of this painting is characterized by the presence of lively colours and by a striking realism, due to the use of the chiaroscuro technique, of the relative perspective and to the tridimentional space representation.
The depicted cake is supposed to be topped with a gelatinous layer of red glaze; this is evident from the quick and light-coloured brushstrokes on it.
Elegant and realistic is the representation of the finely decorated metal pedestal whose round shape and material are suggested also in this case by the use of quick brushstrokes and of the chiaroscuro technique.
The bright “Pompeian red”-coloured background enhances the beauty of the depicted subject.

“Cassata” Sicilian style
Dessert, medium difficulty

10 servings

Spongy cake
Eggs N° 5
Sugar g. 150
00 Flour g. 175
Baking powder (sachet) ½ sachet
Butter and flour for the baking tin

Sheep ricotta Kg. 1
Icing sugar g. 150
Chocolate flakes g. 100
Cubed candied fruit g. 50
Bronte pistachios g. 30
Orange and lemon grated peel 1+1
Marzipan to coat g. 500
Royal glaze for decorations
Candied fruit for decorations g. 150
Maraschino syrup

– Prepare the spongy cake by beating the eggs with sugar for 20 minutes, then add, manually, the flour sieved with the baking powder.
– Pour the mixture in a greased and floured tin and cook for 20 minutes at 180° C. Turn out and let it cool.
– Prepare the ricotta by adding the icing sugar and sieve it, fold in the candied fruit, chocolate, pistachios and grated peels.
– Prepare the Maraschino and orange syrup.
– Take a tin, line it with clinging paper and blot it with marzipan in a thin layer. Cover the hems and the bottom with stripes of spongy cake, soak with the Maraschino syrup and fill with ricotta.
– Cover the bottom with spongy cake and turn out on a serving dish.
– Decorate with candied fruit and royal glaze to taste.
– Serve.

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