January: Novecento Cake

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Novecento finish with script

Buon giorno!

I am about to share my favorite cake recipe with you! This one is a keeper folks! It is called NOVECENTO CAKE! This cake has so many ingredients in it that I love – hazelnuts, mascarpone, Nutella, whipped cream, and Frangelico liqueur. It just spells L-O-V-E. This cake also has kind of an interesting story…

I receive a lot of email from folks who enjoy Italian food, sharing memories and stories, etc. I truly treasure these emails – the fuel that keeps me going. Sometimes I receive inquiries about specific recipes. Some of these recipes have me completely stumped – in other words – I have never heard of them!  There was one not long ago that both stumped me and captured my full attention.

Recently, I received an email from Terry, a friend of my website, inquiring about a cake he sampled in Italy that he absolutely could not forget. Terry visited Piemonte, a region in the North of Italy known for its amazing food and its wine country. While touring the town of Ivrea, he encountered the NOVECENTO CAKE and became determined to find or recreate it. 

The history: The cake was the brainchild of Ottavio Bertinotti, a pastry chef of reknown, in the town of Ivrea in Piemonte in the late 1800’s to herald the coming of a brand new century. This is how he arrived upon the name “novecento”. The recipe was a secret then and the secret is held closely even today – virtually impossible to obtain.Today it is made by a pasticcieria  called “Balla”. Unfortunately, Balla guards the secret recipe tightly and will not reveal it. The whole idea of secrecy intrigued me, so I spent some time researching the cake. Several have tried to duplicate it, and I have now joined this group of obsessed individuals.

After some time pondering this thing – I decided to come up with my own version – based loosely on what little I could find in research. As luck would have it, I saw that sponge cake or Pane di Spagna was used for the cake itself. Now this just happened to be a favorite and often made cake by my mother, Loretta. She loved sponge cake so we had it a lot at home, and she had a lovely recipe for it. I tweaked that lovely recipe especially for this cake by adding a bit of cocoa. She would, I think, be proud of this new creation especially since her sponge cake became the foundation on which to build it.

I also happen to love the flavor of hazelnuts which I added to the filling in the form of Nutella.

One nice thing about sponge cake is that it will hold liquid without becoming soggy. Maybe that’s why they call it sponge cake? Your call! As with many Italian desserts, this cake just begged to be brushed with “something potent.” I brushed the layers generously with Frangelico which is a hazelnut liqueur.

The resulting cake – not difficult to make – is a very typically Italian tasting pastry delight which has become my favorite dessert. It deserves the honor of the title: RECIPE OF THE MONTH!


Makes: One 3 layer cake

Prep: 1 hour 30 minutes

For Sponge Cake (Pane di Spagna):


8 egg yolks

8 egg whites

2 tsp. almond extract

1 1/3 C. Flour

1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

1 1/4 C. sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. Water

1/4 tsp. salt


( I like to make the sponge cake layers a day ahead of assembly and then make filling and assemble and let sit several hours or preferably overnight.)

Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt 3 times into a bowl.

Novecento 1

In mixer – mix egg yolks, sugar, water, and extract until light colored.

Novecento 2

Add flour mixture to the yolk mixture gradually making a batter.

Novecento 4

Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold them into the batter with a spatula. Add a little of the whites at first and beat them in with a spatula to lighten the batter. Then fold the rest in.

Novecento 5

Novecento 6

Pour into 3 greased and floured 9 “ cake pans.

Novecento 7

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes and turn out of pans to cool completely. Refrigerate the layers overnight and fill the next day.



8 oz. Mascarpone Cheese

1 Cup Whipped Heavy Cream

dash salt

3 Tbsp. Sugar

1/2 C. Nutella

2 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur (hazelnut)


Mix the Frangelico and Nutella together until smooth.

Novecento 8

Beat the Nutella mixture together with the mascarpone until blended.

Novecento 9

Whip the cream with the sugar and salt.

Novecento 10

Add a little of the whipped cream to the Nutella and Mascarpone mixture and mix in to lighten. Then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.




3/4 C. Frangelico for brushing

1/2 C. Toasted Coarsely Chopped Hazelnuts

1/4 C. Powdered sugar

1/2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder


Brush the tops of all sponge cake layers generously with Frangelico liqueur. It requires about 3/4 C. of liqueur for this.

Novecento 11

Spread 1/2 of the filling over the first layer.

Top with the second layer – press down a little on it –  and spread with the remaining filling.

Novecento 12

Top with the third layer. Press down again to firmly plant the layers and filling together.

Novecento 13

Sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts on the top layer.

Novecento 14

Mix the powdered sugar and cocoa together and sift over the top of the cake.

Novecento 15

Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Slice your NOVECENTO CAKE  and serve with Frangelico, espresso or coffee. A dollop of whipped cream on the side of each slice is nice! Enjoy this one!


  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.



Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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