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The sweet saint

Friends of Erre4m good morning and welcome to this new post. Today we're going to talk about San Martino's cake.

27 September 2021

San Martino is a typical Venetian cake. The history of this very special cake begins with the tradition of celebrating the saint in Venice, a saint much loved and venerated by its population. It all starts with the foundation of the church dedicated to him in 1540. Every year on November 11, a solemn procession was held from the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, where his relic was kept, to the church of San Martino di Castello. On that day the lords loved to celebrate by eating chestnuts and drinking new wine. The less fortunate used to sing and make noise under the windows of the gentlemen hoping that some kind hearts donasseroloro some leftover chestnuts. Of this ancient festival remains the custom, continued mainly by children, to bang between them objects that make a lot of noise such as pots and lids and ask for some change to shopkeepers or passerbyveneziani. And it is precisely for children that the cake of San Martino was created, a creation of the great Venetian confectionery tradition. This simple but extremely choreographic cake is loved above all by children. But why a cake with a similar shape? The answer lies in the legend of the summer of San Martino.

Martin is a Christian saint who lived in the fourth century AD. The legend tells of a rainy and cold November day when Martin, a Roman centurion, went out on horseback covered with his long red cloak to protect himself from the weather. Along the way he saw a poor man, half-naked and staggering from the cold. Martin had no money with him and, taking pity on the man's situation, he cut his cloak in half and gave part of it to the poor man. Shortly after it stopped raining and the sun came out, warming the air as if it were summer. Hence the name St. Martin's summer to indicate those beautiful warm and sunny days at the beginning of November. During the night Martin dreamed of Jesus with his cloak in his hand, thanking him for his gesture of compassion.

The cake of St. Martin is based on this legend, a rich short pastry base in the shape of a horse with his centurion proudly on his back, equipped with a helmet and unsheathing a short sword ready to cut in half the red cloak he wears on his shoulders. This printed biscuit, which can have different shapes (from small to single-portion, to large to satisfy the gluttony of several people), once cooked is glazed with dark or milk chocolate, decorated with royal icing that outlines the forms and garnished with candy at will. The resulting visual effect is a magic of shapes and colors that become an irresistible treat for children but also for adults. Let's take a look at its main parts together.

The shortcrust pastry

The shortcrust pastry is one of the main foundations of pastry making, made up of four main ingredients: weak flour (see previous posts), butter, sugar and eggs, as well as salt, vanilla and/or lemon flavourings.

The weak flour is the ingredient that creates the structure of the shortcrust pastry thanks to its low protein content. The light gluten that forms during kneading thanks to the water in the eggs and the kneading action allows the ingredients to be held together, resulting in a crumbly, soft product. Beware that too much protein produces a rubbery shortcrust pastry, which shrinks during baking and "hardens" the baked product.

The fat is the ingredient that gives the shortcrust pastry plasticity and friability. Fats especially those derived from cow's milk produce taste and friability to the baked products. Compared to vegetable fats, butter has the peculiarity of having a low melting point (28-30°C) which allows it to melt in the mouth, releasing its characteristic aroma of cream. The low melting point, however, makes it difficult to work, with the need to rest in the fridge during the processing of the pastry. For the initial mixture it is recommended to use it at a temperature of 10-13°C which makes it cold but with a perfectly ductile consistency.

The shortcrust pastry

Sugar is the ingredient that sweetens shortcrust pastry, but not only. If caster sugar is used, the crystals that form when they come into contact with the water in the eggs are unable to solubilise, remaining almost intact. This allows the sugar to caramelise during cooking, making the shortcrust pastry crunchy once it has cooled. If, on the other hand, you opt for icing sugar, also known as impalpable sugar, as opposed to granulated sugar, it dissolves with the water in the eggs, making the shortcrust pastry more crumbly.

The eggs and yolks have various functions. The first is to moisturise the dough thanks to the water they contain (75% the former, 50% the latter) giving it the right consistency; the second is a binder thanks to the egg albumin they contain (11% for eggs, 18% for yolks); the third is the taste and crumbliness of the fats present (14% eggs, 32% yolks).

The salt should be remembered that in very small quantities, the classic pinch, is a flavour enhancer, so it should never be missing!


  • 1000g FARINA DEBOLE W150-180
  • 700g BURT
  • 200g TUORLO



  • In a planetary mixer with a leaf organ, mix briefly and at low speed the butter with the icing sugar and the flavourings
  • Add the egg yolks and turn for a few seconds
  • Finally, add the sieved flour with the yeast, kneading as long as necessary to form a smooth and homogeneous dough
  • Knead, flatten, wrap in cling film and leave to cool for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight
  • Flatten the shortcrust pastry to a thickness of about 1cm, press, place preferably in microperforated sheets that allow the shortcrust pastry mould to keep its shape.
  • Bake in the oven at 165-170°C until the product is a light hazelnut colour
  • Let cool, then glaze with tempered chocolate

The royal icing

Real icing is basically a very heavy meringue (see also for meringue the previous posts). In the royal icing the ratio albumen-sugar (always icing sugar) is 1:5,5. As with meringue, the royal icing is also acidified, in this case with lemon juice.

The albume, as we know from the meringues post, has a very strong whipping power due to the egg albumin, the egg proteins.

The beating of the egg white gives volume and softness to the royal icing.

The Icing sugar creates the consistency of the icing. As it dissolves in the egg white, it creates a viscous environment that holds together the protein network generated by the egg white. Once the royal icing has been processed and left at room temperature, the water in the egg white will be lost through evaporation, leaving a hard, compact compound that is nothing more than the micro granules of icing sugar bound to the egg albumin.

Lemon juice, thanks to its acidic pH, allows the proteins in the egg white to bind better. The lemon juice must always be filtered in order to eliminate the parts of pulp that remain inside during the squeezing of the fruit.

And now let's move on to the recipes and the procedures!

The royal icing


  • 55g ALBUME



  • In a planetary mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the egg white with the sifted icing sugar
  • When the mixture is frothy, add the lemon juice a little at a time, continuing to whip until the icing is white and compact
  • Divide into small bowls according to the colours you wish to use
  • Pour into a decorating bag with a smooth spout and decorate the iced biscuit as desired
  • Stick the biscuits together until the royal icing is still soft
  • Let the icing dry and serve

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