Rice Pudding Cake (Torta di Riso)

I bake weekly for a crowd including coeliac sufferers so I’m always hunting for different ways to liven up their coffee morning. This GF Italian old-school classic was perfect because everyone loves rice pudding, and they all love cake.

It’s best served with fruit: I’ve suggested a fruit compote made from frozen berries, but see the Toppings footnote for alternatives.

Serves: up to 16

Ingredients
For the cake:

  • 1 litre whole milk (1,031g if weighing)
  • 200g golden caster sugar (see Sugar footnote)
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest only – save juice for compote
  • 1 large orange, finely grated zest only – save juice for compote
  • 200g pudding rice (see Rice footnote)
  • Butter or oil, to grease tin
  • 4 large eggs, separated (they should be 62-66g each when weighed in the shell)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or 3-4 seconds’ grating of fresh nutmeg)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30g almond flakes, chopped roughly if necessary (weigh after chopping)
  • 50g raisins

For the fruit compote:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon, juice only (see Cake Ingredients)
  • 1 large orange, juice only (see Cake Ingredients)
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour or arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 tsp each of 2 ground spices complementary to your fruit – allspice, nutmeg/mace, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, etc; you could add 1 star anise (but fish it out at the end)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons sugar – anything from white caster to molasses sugar, depending on your chosen fruit and your own tastes
  • 500g packet of frozen mixed or plain fruit, defrosted overnight in a sieve over a bowl, with drained liquid reserved for whipped cream

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 300ml double cream
  • Icing sugar
  • Reserved defrosted juices from frozen fruit (see Compote Ingredients)
  • Flaked almonds (optional)

Kit

  • 2 heavy-bottomed saucepans, 1 large and 1 medium
  • Fine grater for citrus zest
  • Citrus juicer
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • A 24-25cm (9-10″) diameter round, loose-bottomed or springform cake tin
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • An electric mixer (hand-held or stand)
  • Spatula or metal spoon, for folding
  • Cooling rack
  • A sieve and medium bowl to defrost frozen fruit
  • Manual whisk

Steps
Making the cake:

  1. Heat the milk, sugar, and lemon & orange zests to boiling in a large pot on the hob, stirring regularly. Stir in the rice and bring back to the boil. Reduce to a hard simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom/sides of the pot well. You want the milk to be fully absorbed and see the consistency of very thick porridge.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool (at least 15 minutes) whilst you get on with the rest of the steps.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted). Very lightly grease your tin, more heavily on the sides, and line the bottom with paper ensuring it covers the join of the ring.
  4. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high speed as the colour and texture change.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks and spices on medium speed until very pale and creamy (no need to clean the beaters from the whites).
  6. Add the vanilla, whisked egg yolks, chopped almonds, and raisins to the rice mixture, stirring well.
  7. Add the egg whites, folding very carefully until no white streaks or lumps remain.
  8. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin, smooth the top, and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the tin, reduce the temperature to 170 C (150 C fan-assisted), and bake for another 30-35 minutes. When the centre feels firm and springs back quickly from a light finger touch, remove from the oven to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 20 minutes before turning out.

Making the fruit compote:

  1. Whilst the cake is baking, bring the lemon & orange juices, cornflour, spices, and sugar to the boil in a medium pot on the hob, whisking vigourously to ensure the cornflour and sugar are fully dissolved.
  2. Add the drained fruit. Stir well and bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, giving it a good stir every so often to avoid a skin forming.

Making the whipped cream topping, and serving:

  1. Whisk the cream with a few tablespoons of icing sugar on high speed until you have soft peaks. Add the defrosted fruit juices 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until you have the texture, colour, and taste to your liking.
  2. Cover the cooled cake with the fruit compote followed by dollops of whipped cream. (If you whip the cream to stiff peaks, you could also pipe it decoratively.)
    Alternatively, top each individual serving with fruit and cream.
    You can also dust with icing sugar and/or sprinkle flaked almonds over, if you like.

Toppings
Just like rice pudding itself is best enhanced with fruit of some kind, so is this cake. You could use any jam/compote/marmalade you prefer – although shop-bought are best thinned with a touch of water and warmed over a gentle heat to make them less clumpy.

If you prefer in-season fresh fruit over frozen, pretty much anything sweet and juicy will work here – peaches, apricots, mangos, berries/cherries, plums, peeled orange segments, you name it. Chop as necessary for bite-sized pieces; or, lay out whole slices in your choice of pattern.

You can also use tinned fruit – best are the ones packed in juice, not syrup. Drain well and reserve the juice for the whipped cream.

Sugar
Most of the recipes I reviewed didn’t specify a type of sugar for the cake, which means generic white caster. I’ve plumped for golden caster for extra depth of flavour; but you could also try soft light brown or even something darker (be aware that the darker the sugar, the darker the baked cake will be).

Rice
Researching this recipe, I found various types of rice used, but mostly regular long-grain (sometimes basmati), or medium-grain (sometimes arborio). I couldn’t find any examples of this cake using short-grained pudding rice but I opted for that, because pictured examples of cakes using longer grains looked a bit odd-textured. (Just don’t use brown rice, or the quick-cook type, in this recipe.)

Attributions
I reviewed dozens of rice pudding cake recipes, from Italy and beyond (there are examples traditional to communities all over Europe). I decided to combine elements of both this one from Epicurious and the Two Greedy Italians‘ recipe. I deleted the alcohol; binned the vanilla pod, breadcrumbs, and candied orange peel (but kept both the almond flakes and the raisins); added spices; and made a quick-cook berry compote plus a berry juice-flavoured whipped cream.

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