The scarcella, also known in some areas as scarcedda, is a typical Puglian Easter cake. Another dialect term (from the Brindisi region) is pupu cullovu which means baby with egg, which I thought was quite cute and reminded me of the time when baby Jesus was conceived by the young virgin Mary.
Traditionally, it is shaped like a ciambella (doughnut) and is covered with white icing and decorated with small chocolates or multicoloured balls (hundreds and thousands). The round shape of the cake is rooted to historical fables, and symbolizes the birth of a new life. It is also believed to bring good luck.
Another widespread tradition of scarcella is to use boiled eggs instead of chocolate, nestled in the scarcella cake. Many years ago the eggs were hand-painted by ‘Nonna‘ or ‘Mamma‘ who would show off their artistic flare. Sadly this tradition is in decline.
Scarcelle are usually prepared and cooked during the Holy Week or even during the week preceding this. Many years ago the scent of ammonia was prevalent in local houses and even could even be detected on streets during this period because ammonia was used to preserve the cakes. Some pasticceria still use ammonia in tiny quanities for this purpose. Limon zest is of often used to give the cake a more aromatic flavour (and perhaps to mask the scent of ammonia!!!) .
Scarcelle are made from a basic pastry dough mixture and come in various shapes, the most popular shapes are; doughnuts, doves, bread baskets and shapes that appeal to children like dolls and animal shapes.
If you wish to have a go at this traditional Pugliese Easter cake (minus ammonia), then check out this Youtube video, which guides you through the process.
Buona Pasqua a tutti! Happy Easter everyone!
Thanks goes to ‘Con la Puglia nel cuore‘ for this write-up on Traditional Puglian Easter cake. Originally written in Italian, adpated and modified by Puglian Pleasures for our English readers.