Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

February 28, 2014
4 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

At this time of the year there's no avoiding it – you can't go past a pastry shop in Florence without noticing the windows are filled with large, flat, powdered sugar-dusted cakes known as schiacciata alla fiorentina. The scent of orange peel and vanilla wafts through the cold, late winter air, inevitably leading you right in to the nearest pasticceria for a slice of schiacciata and a coffee. Traditionally served plain, but sometimes filled with slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream or pastry cream, they're instantly recognisable for the giglio, the stylised lily and symbol of the city of Florence, masked and dusted over the top in contrasting powdered cocoa.

Schiacciata means 'squashed' or 'flattened' and usually refers to Florence's savoury salt and olive oil drenched focaccia or flat bread. But in this occasion, like their schiacciata all'uva (grape bread), the word not only refers to something flat (it should never be taller than 1 inch), but also to something sweet and strictly seasonal.

This yeasted cake has long been a tradition of Carnival season and is a centuries old recipe of peasant origins. With its typical ingredients including lard (today, though not the same, often olive oil or butter replaces this), eggs and a long rising time using fresh yeast, it would have been a simple, but hearty and caloric country cake. It's directly related, in fact, to the unappealingly but aptly named, schiaccata unta (“greasy schiacciata”), which at one time included ciccioli – pieces of deep fried pork fat.

Today's schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a delicately scented, fluffy, not too sweet cake. The characteristic flavour, marked by orange zest, and incredibly soft, spongy texture, make it a favourite for a mid-morning or afternoon snack or even breakfast (well, why not?). It also goes down quite nicely with a glass of vin santo or dessert wine.

Although it requires a lot of rising time, it's a simple preparation and easy to do at home, even if these days, Florentines, will usually buy this out at their favourite pastry shop.

You could leave it simple with just a dusting of powdered sugar. But note that the hint of bittersweet cocoa goes so well with the subtle orange scent of this cake, you'll want to offer the slice that has the lily on it to your favourite person. Or, do what I do (to make it fair): I put the layer of cocoa on the bottom to cover the entire cake. Then I mask out the lily shape with a paper cut out that I cut myself and I cover the whole cake in a very generous dusting of powdered sugar. It means everyone gets a bite with cocoa on it, even if the easier and more traditional way would be simply to dust with only powdered sugar, then, with a empty lily cut out (this time rather than use a lily shape, use the empty stencil of the lily) carefully dust a cocoa lily onto the cake. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) plain flour
  • 3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) lard (or, less traditional, butter)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Powdered bittersweet cocoa for dusting (optional)
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water) until you have a dough. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  2. Beat in the lard, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt until well combined. Place the dough in a buttered rectangular tin. It should be about 2cm or 2/3 inch in height. Cover with a tea towel and let the schiacciata rise for 2 more hours.
  3. Bake at 350 ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool and when cooled completely, dust liberally with powdered sugar.
  4. If you like, cut out a mask of the Florentine lily and dust with cocoa powder. If desired, cut through the middle of the cake and fill with some slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream, pastry cream or diplomat cream (half pastry cream, half whipped cream) before dusting with powdered sugar.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rose
  • AntoniaJames
  • Emiko
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx

18 Reviews

Jigger May 8, 2023
This recipe lacks fluid except for the small amount for yeast: add fluid amount (water or milk) otherwise the recipe is useless, especially to novice bakers…
Emiko May 9, 2023
Did you have trouble making this cake? I have tested and eaten this very traditional Florentine cake many, many times and I can assure you that there is sufficient liquid (including butter, eggs, etc just like most cake recipes). As I have answered to some of the comments below, you want enough water to make a dough with the flour -- the exact amount of water isn't so important, but I would start with about 1/2 cup of water or enough so that the flour turns to a dough -- you will see as you are mixing it in and you should do it bit by bit. If you use too little water, the flour will be crumbly and too much the flour will be like a batter and neither of these are "doughs". Depending on where you live and the climate, as well as the hydration and age of your flour, you may need a little more or a little less than what I've suggested. So it really is best to go by feel and look. I hope that this makes sense for you.
Rose January 1, 2017
Made it twice and ruined both times. Don't know if it is the area or the measurements that it is not coming out right.
Emiko January 3, 2017
Sorry to hear this! What exactly went wrong?
DidierM June 28, 2020
You didn’t say how much water “exactly “ was needed!
DidierM June 28, 2020
It’s the amount of water which is not indicated on the recipe!
Emiko June 29, 2020
In ingredients list it says 'fresh yeast dissolved in some water'. It's not an exact recipe, no, but that's because you don't need an 'exact' or a significant amount of water for this, the dough/batter for this cake is mostly made with the butter, sugar and eggs (like most cakes). The water is just to dissolve the yeast in and make it active, but if you need an indication, I would say use about 1/2 cup. Hope that helps you.
Jigger May 8, 2023
This is an absurd answer and does not adhere to any baking standard…
Emiko May 9, 2023
I've responded fully above to your query.
Dorene October 22, 2014
Lorenza March 22, 2014
Please advise as to the amount of water called for in step one of the recipe; "combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water)" I do not find that measurement in the list of ingredients or the written instructions. Grazie
sexyLAMBCHOPx March 22, 2014
Add a bit at a time until you have dough.
Emiko March 23, 2014
Thanks for pointing out that this isn't clear enough for some readers, Lorenza. It's the sort of recipe (like many traditional recipes) that are passed on with measurements by eye and feel! In the list of ingredients you'll see "fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water." This is the water you will be adding to the flour. It doesn't need to be much, just enough to loosen the yeast and create a dough with the flour - it doesn't need to be a precise amount, but you can aim for using about 1/2 cup and just watch as you're adding until you get a dough. If it's too much, leave it as is, if it's too little, add some extra water. I hope this helps.
Amber March 13, 2014
Can it substitute dry yeast for fresh in this recipe?
Emiko March 14, 2014
Yes you can, you'll just want to make sure you get the right ratios when substituting dry (7 grams of dry yeast should work for this recipe). This article has some more info too:
Amber March 14, 2014
Made the cake this morning and it is delightful! The 7 grams you recommended worked well and I found the article very informative - thank you! I used butter but was tempted to try the olive oil. Would you use the same amount (100 grams) for the olive oil? I used about 3/4 cup warm water with dry yeast to get a dough consistency. Didn't know how fluid (olive oil) vs. butter might affect the cake.
Emiko March 14, 2014
Substituting olive oil for butter you generally use a little less oil than the butter required (there's a chart here that gives you an idea: so for 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) you could go 1/4 cup according to this chart. I've never tried it myself but I've seen quite a few of schiacciata alla fiorentina recipes that use it. So happy to hear you had good results!
AntoniaJames February 28, 2014
Bellissima!! ;o)