For the last two years I’ve been in Naples just before Christmas. Struffoli is a honey drenched ‘cake’ in the shape of a wreath. I saw large versions in bakeries but also small versions at the celebrated café Pasticceria Popella in the historic centre. I resolved to have a go myself.
This is quite a fiddly recipe – especially rolling out maybe hundreds of balls and deep frying them in batches. If you can, get someone to help you. I think kids would enjoy rolling lots of tiny dough balls. I used this recipe, but I’ve translated it into European measurements.
Struffoli, Neapolitan Christmas honey cake
For the dough:
- 1 orange, zest of, reserve the juice for the glaze
- 1 lemon, zest of
- 30 g butter, room temperature
- 240 g 00 flour, plus lots for rolling
- 45 g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 200 ml vegetable oil for deep frying
For the honey glaze:
- 1 orange, juice of
- 300 g honey
- Hundreds and thousands of good quality (so they don't bleed) or silver/gold/bronze balls or pearls.
To make the dough:
- In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, zest, salt, baking powder together.
- Add the butter.
- Add the eggs and vanilla
- Scrape down the processor then pull together the dough in a ball. Flour and cover with clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for half an hour. In the meantime make the glaze in a large pan (you'll be putting all the fried balls in there).
To make the glaze:
- Use the orange juice and mix with the honey in the large pan, heat until dissolved. Set aside.
To make the balls:
- Remove the dough from the fridge and divide the ball into 8 sections. Roll them into long sausages (a bit like making gnocchi). Then cut each sausage into sections, between 1 cm and 1/2 cm and roll into a ball. Press quite hard when rolling and put them on a floured surface.
- Keep rolling until you have dozens and dozens of small balls. It's ok if they are different sizes as that is how they have it in Naples. Remember the balls get bigger when fried.
To assemble and decorate:
- Heat up the oil for deep frying. to 180c. Have a baking tin lined with a clean non-fluffy tea towel or kitchen paper, next to the pan.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the balls into the pan, in groups. Fry the balls until they float and are pale golden. Don't crowd the pan, you will have to do this in stages. Put each batch onto the baking tin until you have fried all of them.
- Place all the balls into the honey/orange glaze and stir until they are all covered and have absorbed the glaze. Don't be tempted to add more liquid, you want it sticky so it'll hold it's shape.
- Using a flat plate or cake stand, grease/oil a cup or glass and stand it in the middle. This is to make a wreath shape.
- Using a large spoon pour the glazed balls around the cup/glass. Add your decorations, say hundreds and thousands or little pearls or whatever you choose. Leave to cool and then carefully remove the cup or glass. You will have a wreath.