Several of my friends enjoy teasing me online about food I like and dislike. Recently, a few friends posted videos of bologna cakes made with cream cheese, and dry ranch dressing mix. After recovering from my initial revulsion, I imagined recreating a fancier version of such a cake with more appetizing ingredients.
I made my Torta Mortadella (Mortadella Cake) with mascarpone and ricotta icing spiced with marinated green olives, fresh parsley, and jalapeño pepper dusted with ground sweet chili pistachios. This hors d’oeuvre may easily substitute for a pâté served with toast points or water crackers. Toss a green salad with the torta and lunch is served.
The key to the icing is reducing the amount of moisture from the ricotta, parsley and olives. Drain the ricotta in the refrigerator in a small colander with fine mesh over a bowl. Wring moisture from the ricotta in a tea towel to speed up the process.
Traditionally, mortadella is served in thin slices, so engage the deli counter on slicing the meat thick for the cake (~1/3 of an inch). Thin slices of mortadella will make assembly of the cake cumbersome and require more layers of icing. Request slices of uniform diameter from the deli which are not close to the tapered ends of the loaf.
After trying traditional pâté accompaniments of toast points, cornichons, and whole grain Dijon mustard served with the torta, my friend Kim and I agreed that a sweet hot pepper jelly would really contrast well with savory cake (later confirmed in a later serving of the torta!). The spicy flavor of the torta’s internal icing layers gives a good punchy contrast to the mild mortadella and creamy mascarpone on the outside.
- 8 oz low fat ricotta cheese, drained for 3 hours in the refrigerator
- 1/2 cup marinated green olives, drained of all juice and patted dry
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, packed
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 cracked black pepper
- 8 oz mascarpone, softened at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 1.5 pounds thick-sliced mortadella
- 1/3 cup ground roasted pistachios
- Combine the first six ingredients with about 4 tbsp of the mascarpone in a food process. Blend until all the vegetables are finely chopped. This mixture will be used as icing between the layers of the mortadella and must be pasty in consistency. If the icing glistens wet, continue to drain the mixture in the refrigerator or wring out with a tea towel.
- Cut a circle from a piece of cardboard that exceeds the diameter of the sliced mortadella by a few millimeters. Wrap the cardboard circle in aluminum foil. This circle will ease assembly and movement of the cake.
- Use a paper towel to pat dry the slices of mortadella. Place the first slice on the piece of cardboard. Spread a thin, uniform layer of the olive, pepper, parsley icing on the mortadella slice. Repeat the process after pressing the next slice on top of the icing. After placing the final slice, use the spreading knife to scrape the layered icing clean from the sides of the mortadella.
- Spread the remaining mascarpone on the sides of the cake from the bottom to the top. Turn the cake at the cardboard base to preserve your icing work. After completing the sides, spread mascarpone on the top layer of mortadella.
- Draw and cut small designed shapes from a sheet of wax paper. Gentle press the pieces of wax paper on the top surface of the cake in your preferred design.
- Sprinkle the top surface and sides of the cake with the ground pistachios. Use a pastry brush to clear the pistachio from the surfaces of the wax paper. Use the tip a small, sharp knife to peel away the pieces of wax paper.
- Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Slice with a sharp knife.