Italy on my Mind

One of the best aspects of being a ceramicist is using my pottery in my cooking, it allows me to test my work (make and consume cakes) and decide which pieces are best suited to the ingredients I love to use the most (chocolate and nuts). Inspired by my recent chat with Paola Bacchia from Italy on my Mind, I decided to make one of my favourite cakes from one of her beautiful dessert recipes.  Most traditional Italian dolce recipes can be a little on the sweet side for my taste, often a little heavy on cream and sugar. By allowing the ingredients to complement each other rather than dominate Paola has created recipes that not only taste incredible but beg to be made and shared with family and friends.


Paola uses a mix of fresh seasonal local ingredients from Australia, combined with imported specialty products from Italy. This combination gives her cooking an original flavour that blends the best of both cultures. Cooking is all about connection, not only with the food and the ingredients, but also to a wider community of food lovers. It isn’t just about making a meal; it’s about finding what works for you by harnessing the produce available around you. This is creative cooking made simple.


Recently, I baked a delicious dark chocolate, pear and pistachio cake from Paola’s blog. I modified the recipe with an idea that I lifted from another of my favourite desserts, Paola’s Sicilian Apple Cake. In the apple cake Paola adds a layer of toasted walnuts at the base. You really can’t go too wrong with fruit, nuts and a healthy dose of dark chocolate.  I like this cake best served warm, just out of the oven when the chocolate is still melting and always with a liberal dollop of decadent heavy cream.  It’s just as good served cold when all the little chocolaty bits have hardened and still with that generous dollop of cream (you can eat a salad later!).



200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

70g (3/4 cup) coarsely chopped pistachio kernels, plus extra to serve

150g unsalted butter, softened

150g castor sugar

3 eggs

150g plain flour, sieved

1tsp baking powder

1 pear, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped

Cocoa for dusting


Optional – 50g walnuts (1/3 cup), toasted

                 _extra butter 1tbsp, melted



Preheat oven to 160C. Process chocolate and pistachios in a food processor until coarse crumbs form, set aside (We don’t have a food processor so I get my husband to roughly chop the pistachios and chocolate while I drink a glass of wine and start toasting the walnuts for the base of the cake).

For my little adaptation I’m adding toasted walnuts to form a crunchy base at the bottom of the cake. Spread walnuts on a baking tray and pop in the oven for approximately 5-8 minutes until golden and crunchy. Pour the melted butter into base of a 22cm-diameter springform cake tin greased and lined with baking paper. Sprinkle toasted walnuts.


Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined, then stir in flour and baking powder. Stir through pistachio and chocolate mixture, then pear, pour into cake tin. Bake until an inserted skewer withdraws clean (45-50 minutes), cool in tin for 10 minutes, turn out and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

Dust with cocoa and decorate with extra chopped pistachios. The cake will keep, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for 5 days.


To view this and many other delicious recipes, please visit Paola’s blog