145g (⅔ cup) caster sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature, separated
30g (¼ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
180g (1¾ cups) almond meal
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sea salt
whole coffee beans, to decorate (optional)
120g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
120g (1 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
60ml (¼ cup) strong black coffee, at room temperature (please do not be tempted to use instant coffee)

As Francesco Gottardi writes, some cakes were not everyday cakes. They might be made to show off a bit when you were expecting guests, so he calls them dolci da esibizione (cakes to put on show). This is one of them – and it is one of my favourite ‘on show’ cakes. In true Hapsburg style, the cake is cut into layers and sandwiched together with buttercream, in this case a coffee buttercream.

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1.Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) fan-forced.
2.Grease the base and sides of a 21cm round cake tin with a removable base, then line with baking paper.
3.To make the cake, beat the sugar and egg yolks using a stand mixer with the whisk attached until pale, thick and creamy.
4.Add the flour, almond meal, vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix until well combined.
5.In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt (by hand, or with electric beaters) until stiff peaks form.
6.Add a heaped tablespoon of egg white to the cake batter and mix to loosen it a little.
7.In batches, carefully fold the remaining egg white into the batter, being careful not to lose aeration.
8.Carefully pour the batter into the cake tin, then bake for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
9.Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, cut the cake evenly into two layers.
10.To make the coffee buttercream, beat the butter and icing sugar using your stand mixer on medium speed for at least 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
11.Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of coffee at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated.
12.Spread some of the buttercream over the bottom cake layer, then sandwich the other cake half on top.
13.Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and the side of the cake.
14.Decorate the top of the cake with whole coffee beans, if you like.
15.Place the cake in a sealed container in a cool spot for a few hours to allow the buttercream to firm up.
16.Cut into slices using a very sharp knife.
17.Keep the cake in the sealed container in the fridge and eat within 4 days.

This is an edited
extract from Istria
by Paola Bacchia,
published by Smith
St Books, $65.
Photographs by
Paola Bacchia.