Every Italian region, and often even towns within the same region, have a different traditional Carnival sweet, and Florence is no different. In the Tuscan capital this time of the year, all pastry shops display the typical ‘schiacciata fiorentina di Carnevale,’ which, unlike many typical Carnival desserts, is not fried.
Schiacciata fiorentina is a cake with a delicate flavor of orange and spices, covered with a generous layer of icing sugar and decorated with the emblem of Florence, the lily, reproduced through dusting with cocoa.
Schiacciata is however not a cake in the traditional sense; the recipe should not use chemical yeast powder, but rather, fresh yeast, either starter (lievito madre) or brewer’s yeast, as it would be done for focaccia. When cooked, it should not be taller than three centimeters.
Schiacciata is said to be the evolution of the original ‘stiacciata delle Murate,’ prepared by the cloistered nuns of the convent of via Ghibellina in Florence, who cooked it in the rectangular trays where they served meals to prisoners (in fact the traditional schiacciata should be rectangular in shape). Legend has it that schiacciata was served as part of the last meal of those sentenced to death, executed in the nearby Prato della Giustizia.
The traditional recipe does not feature any cream, but many contemporary reinterpretations of this Florentine dessert include an exquisite filling with whipped cream, custard or chocolate or a hazelnut cream.