Prinjolata is a traditional Maltese Carnival dessert. A huge dome shaped no bake cake made from a mixture of biscuits, cake, nuts and buttercream covered with Italian meringue and other toppings!
Once the Carnival season starts approaching, Malta gets invaded with these white dome shaped Prinjolatas. Typically, these are made from a mixture of crushed biscuits and crumbled sponge cake, candied cherries, pine nuts, and other nuts combined together with a thick buttercream. It is then covered with a thick glossy Italian meringue and topped with pine nuts, candied cherries and drizzled chocolate. Prinjolata tends to be quite big and heavy, so I suggest to serve just a small piece at a time.
When I say heavy, I mean it is physically heavy as it’s dense but also heavy in sweetness. I think this is the sweetest Maltese dessert we have! In my opinion it’s really a treat to only enjoy once a year though.
What’s in the Prinjolata
The base of the prinjolata are crumbled sponge cake and crushed biscuits. You can do both, as per tradition, or else you can use either or. As I used both, I left some of the biscuits in bigger chunks as this adds a nice bite and crunch to it. I personally like to make everything from scratch, although you can easily use store bought sponge cake and biscuits. For the sponge cake I used my recipe from the classic recipe I use for my lamingtons. For the biscuits, a simple pasta frolla as this one here. Both of these recipes make more than needed for the below recipe of prinjolata, which is good for leftovers! However, if you want to keep things light, simply divide both recipes in half and you should have enough for one big Prinjolata. This is in fact what you will find in the recipe below.
Like in most of the other Maltese desserts, nuts are a main ingredient here! For the prinjolata, the main nut used are pine nuts. In fact, the name of Prinjolata comes from the Maltese word ‘prinjol’ that means pine nuts. In addition, almonds and hazelnuts are also used. I would say to mainly focus on the pine nuts and add any other nut you prefer as an extra addition. Together with the nuts, in the filling you find candied cherries. However, the latter is optional. I tend to omit them from inside the dome itself as I’m not a big fan. Another add-in that has been commonly used during the recent years is chocolate. Either as chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.
All of these ingredients are combined together with a sweet creamy buttercream. However, many are replacing this with condensed milk or whipped cream as they are more easily accessible and a quicker option.
The last important step of the prinjolata is actually decorating it. Carnival is a bright colourful event, thus this needs to be displayed in this traditional dessert. First the dome is covered with a glossy Italian meringue. Instead of meringue you can also use whipped cream, although you need to be careful as this is not as stable as meringue. This meringue is then topped with colourful candied cherries, nuts and chocolate. Although, here you can have fun by switching the candied cherries with colourful candy or else by using colourful chocolate instead of normal chocolate.
Italian Meringue Tips and Tricks
Traditionally, Italian meringue is used to make prinjolata as it’s the most stable one. However, if you feel confident making the other types of meringue go ahead. Although just make sure that it’s stiff so that it holds well on the Prinjolata.
Italian meringue is quite stable as it’s thick and glossy. To achieve this meringue you need to start by making a hot syrup. Normally sugar and water are used, however you can also make with other sweeteners such as honey. One essential tool you need while making the Italian meringue is a food/candy thermometer. This is the only way to be precise and to achieve the desired result. After the hot syrup is prepared, you’ll need to stream it in gently, while the eggs are whipping. Be very careful as the syrup is extremely hot!
To the eggs, an acidic element needs to be added to help the eggs whip up quicker and it will make the meringue more stable. Omitting the acid might result in the collapse of the meringue. In my meringue, the acidic element is the lemon juice, however you can also use cream of tartar or white vinegar.
Lastly, before starting the Italian meringue I recommend to clean all the tools with lemon juice or vinegar. Simply dab some juice or vinegar on a napkin and wipe everything clean. This will remove any leftover oils from previous cooking. Leftover oils, although not visible, can cause the eggs not to whip, thus wasting a lot of time and energy.
How to store?
Prinjolata can stay covered outside as Italian meringue doesn’t need to be refrigerated. However, you can also store it in the refrigerator. Although if you choose to keep it cold, I suggest that you take it out ahead of time before serving as this might be too hard to portion out and therefore to eat.
Prinjolata – Maltese Carnival Dessert
- 125 g butter
- 125 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100 ml milk
- 175 g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 250 g plain flour
- 100 g icing sugar
- 125 g butter cubed
- 1 egg
- 1 lemon peel
- 200 g sponge cake
- 200 g biscuits
- 100 g pine nuts roasted + extra for decorating
- 50 g hazelnuts roasted
- 50 g almonds roasted
- 50 g candied cherries extra for decorating
- 50 g dark chocolate melted
- almond flakes
- 125 g butter room temperature
- 200 g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp amaretto or whisky
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 170 g sugar
- 90 ml water
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a square or rectangular tin with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a bowl mix together the self-raising flour and salt. In a mixer or in a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar together until you get a pale colour.
- Add the eggs to the mixture and mix well. Gently add the flour and the vanilla extract. Mix well until combined.
- Lastly pour in the milk and mix until it’s incorporated. Don’t over mix the batter. Pour the batter into the tin and tap on the bench to remove any bubbles formed in the mixture. Bake the sponge for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once baked, let the sponge cool in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack. Let the cake cool completely.
- In a large bowl mix the flour and the cubed butter to a crumbly mixture. Work with your fingertips so that you don't melt the butter. Add the icing sugar and the lemon peel and combine well. Form a well with the ingredients, put the egg in the middle and start mixing.
- Knead the dough briefly until all the ingredients are incorporated and a smooth dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Roll out the dough into a cylinder and cut discs. Transfer to the baking tray, leaving some space between one another, and bake for 15 minutes, until they turn slightly golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool at room temperature on a cooling rack.
- In a mixer whip together the butter and the icing sugar. Once incorporated, add the vanilla extract and the liquor. Whip everything together for about 5 minutes until the yellow colour of the butter gets paler and the mixture is creamy. Cover the buttercream and set aside.
Forming the Prinjolata
- Roast the nuts until fragrant. Set aside and let them cool completely.
- In a large bowl combine together the crumbled sponge cake, crushed biscuits, roasted nuts, candied cherries and buttercream. With your hands mix everything well together until it gets sticky. Place the mixture in a bowl or form a dome on a plate. Cover with cling film and let it rest in the fridge overnight.
- In a saucepan place the sugar and the water over medium heat. Mix the mixture together until it starts to simmer. Once it does so, stop stirring and clean the sides of the saucepan if any crystals are visible. **
- Let the mixture cook. Once it reaches 110°C/230°F on the thermometer, start whipping together the egg whites and lemon juice on medium speed. They should start to froth and foam.
- As soon as the sugar mixture reaches 115°C/240°F, remove the saucepan from the heat. Start drizzling in the sugar mixture gently on the side of the stand mixer while it continues to whip the eggs on high speed. Let the mixture whip for about 8 minutes until stiff peaks. Use immediately to cover the Prinjolata.
- Decorate the prinjolata with a generous layer of Italian meringue. Don’t worry if it looks messy. We don’t need it to look perfect and smooth. Top the meringue with halved candied cherries, roasted pine nuts and almonds. Drizzle everything with melted dark chocolate. Let the chocolate set and serve!
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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