Many moons ago I visited Cetara with Francesco, my father-in-law and 4-year-old nephew. The day remains etched in my mind. The hot July sun chased us as we sped past sandy beaches, the crystalline waters of the Amalfi Coast and lemon trees. After an hours drive on a seemingly never-ending windy road we arrived at the fishing town of Cetara.It was here that I met my friend colatura di alici face to face and where I ate my first delizia al limone. After a day of fishing, swimming and sunning, we sat at a coffee bar. It was time for an aperitivo. I spied the ivory domes sitting on golden trays. At first glance, I thought they were a cousin to Sicilian cassata covered in a white glacé rather than marzipan. I was wrong.
The classic dessert is for lemon lovers. Lemons have a long history in Italy. They were first brought to the Amalfi Coast from the Middle East centuries ago. Once used by sailors to avoid scurvy, they were known to have curative properties, aiding digestion and stimulating hunger. By the 1500’s lemons appear in kitchens; finely chopped to flavor roasts, pickled in vinegar and salt and as sauce served with fish.This lemon-centric dessert reminds me of summer days. The scent of the sea and the local yellow fruit bring cravings for delizia al limone. The citrus taste and springy cake are refreshing and light. The bottom layer is made of pan di spagna – sponge cake – soaked in a lemon infused simple syrup or in a limoncello syrup. The filling changes from bakery to bakery. Most use pastry cream infused with lemon zest. Delizia al limone is made in a cake-form frosted with a lemon whipped cream and in individual dome portions. I prefer the latter at the end of a salty beach day in Cetara with family.