veronica's special sambuca ricotta cake

Immigrants play a big role in bob's adult life. He married into an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant family, surrounded himself with immigrant friends (Iranians, Turks, Italians, a Greek) and generally remained open to foreign friend relationships whether they moved to the USA or not. Academic life can also be a bit unstable in relationships, since students especially are generally only around a short time, and some faculty move on for various reasons, so the in-person stage of some friendships is cut short. But some leave behind concrete memories of their presence, in this case, as a tempting cake recipe just when we were looking for a new dessert for Thanksgiving.

Veronica came into our lives just as Letizia left, both teaching Italian at bob's university. Veronica snagged by an American guy from her Salerno birthplace south of Naples to become a transient academic here, and then mother of two Italian-American boys who got to give their other heritage a try when the family moved to Rome. But creating a friendship that will last a lifetime, helped along with Facebook, where she shared one of her trademark cake recipes with distant American friends.

Sambuca is one of the many European anice flavored liqueurs, the Italian one of course, but it is a bit too sweet for us, so we used the Lebanese version: arak, which was on hand, no need for a trip to the PA State Store. We also (blame bob) were trying to hastily google the conversions from European to USA cooking units as we proceeded with the recipe, so not all ingredients entered the batter in exactly the appropriate proportions (carelessness and bad short term memory). Fortunately eggs come in integer units, so that part was easy. As for all the others, everything is given in grams in Europe, those are mass units, but over here we have both volume and weight units depending on what stuff you are measuring. No need for physics expertise here, or mathematics, just patience with unit conversion websites, preferably those associated with cooking.


veronica: bob:
4 eggs, separated 4 large eggs, separated
  1 t cream of tartar, for beating egg whites (American trick)
200 g ricotta (good quality!) 1/2 lb (Italian shop sourcing preferable)
200g granulated sugar 1 c
300g type 00 Italian flour 2 c (our modification, a bit less)
100g unsweetened butter 1 stick (4 oz = 8T)
1/4 c (4T) Sambuca or anise liqueur 6T Arak is okay too
16g baking powder 1 1/2 t
100g dark chocolate, big chunks 10oz 60% bittersweet chocolate chips, minis
confectioner's sugar as needed for serving yup


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F, convection option preferable.
  2. Spray a bundt pan lightly with cooking spray and coat with flour.
  3. Separate the eggs.
  4. Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peeks are formed. Set aside.
  5. Beat the ricotta and sugar with the egg yolks, then incorporate the butter (cut into small pieces) and liqueur, then the flour.
  6. Fold in carefully the egg whites, and then the baking powder.
  7. Finally mix in the chocolate chips.
  8. Bake 35–40 minutes, until it passes the tooth pick cake test. If you don't know what that is, don't enter the kitchen please. 
  9. Before serving, lightly sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.


  1. Veronica suggests bigger chunks of the chocolate so it doesn't melt. Experimentation advised. We just had some leftover chips in two formats, but bigger is better.
  2., weight-volume cooking calculations. You can specify what ingredient and how to convert it.
  3. Illustrations available.
veronicascake.htm: 24-nov-2017 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]