It’s said that this cake was first served to Pope Alexander III in 1177 on the Croatian island of Rab, and it became a delicacy served to the aristocracy during the Venetian Republic’s dynasty. Today, it’s served at festive occasions, including baptisms and weddings, and is one of the island’s most famous exports. And, while the traditional spiral shape is sometimes replaced with a heart or a horseshoe, it’s considered almost sacrilegious in Rab’s town to deviate from the classic recipe. Resembling more of a biscuit than a cake when cut, Rab cake is just beautiful served with coffee.
30 minutes, plus 1 hour for resting the dough
WHAT YOU NEED
130g (scant 1 cup) OO flour
1 egg, beaten
20g (3/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 pinch sea salt
200g (2 cups) ground almonds
200g (1 2/3 cups) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon maraschino cherry liqueur
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
Almonds for decorating
WHAT TO DO
To make the dough, mix together the flour, egg and butter in a large bowl. Add 2. tablespoons water, the sugar and salt and knead for 12 minutes to form a smooth, silky dough.
Divide the dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 120C (235F).
To make the filling, beat together the ground almonds, icing sugar, egg, liqueur, orange zest and lemon zest in a large bowl with a spatula.
Place half the dough on a floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll out to a 25-30 cm (10-12 inch) rectangle.
Place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into a tight spiral snake, 5cm (2 inches) wide, then top the pastry spiral with the filling to cover all the pastry.
Roll out the other half of the pastry dough to the same thickness as the base, and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) wide ribbons.
Attach the ribbons of dough all the way around the edges of the spiral, pinching the dough together to seal.
Score the top of the cake filling with a fork to decorate, then press whole almonds into the top.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the outside crust is firm. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar.