La Torta Setteveli “Seven Veils” Cake

While I’m writing this, my hands are shaking and my heart is racing because it’s a damned-if-you-do, and you’re damned-if-you-don’t. It’s so incredibly good that I can’t keep it all to myself, but I feel that if even one more person knows about it, I will have to compete with them for its limited supply.

Come closer….much closer…very close to the screen. I recommend having a Kleenex nearby for any stray drool.

I present to you…La Torta Setteveli, or the Seven Veils cake! (Sometimes written Sette Veli)

Setteveli - Seven Veils Cake

I want to swim in its layers, wrestle in it, and lick the spoon! I would sell a sibling for unlimited access to it. (Email me and we’ll talk, I have one in mind)

We made the mistake of actually eating lunch that day, and not just any lunch, a “first-time-meeting-Sicilian-friend’s-mother-burning-off-calories-for-months” lunch, so I sensibly stupidly decided to split half of this piece. After the first bite, its perceived size grew miniscule. I instinctively started to hunch over the plate, inserting my shoulder between him and divinity, crowding out my cake-mate. Mine…mine! My precious…..Sette veli!

Luca Mannori (from Prato, Tuscany) is the name most credited with this cake, and he was interviewed in English here about it. A cake so special its name is actually trademarked, though they can’t stop all the imitations. In 1997 he won the Coupe de Monde (World Pastry Cup) in Lyon (see site for seriously lickable creations) with Luigi Biasetto and Cristian Beduschi. There is even a Pastry World Cup Training Center in Brescia and Calabria with classes for those interested.

Though Cappello is from Palermo, Sicily, and is not credited as part of the winning team, his name often appears when speaking about the Setteveli and the cake has become almost a Palermitano tradition, with numerous variations all over the city. Even Gambero Rosso talks about Cappello’s Setteveli on p.103 in the “Italia del Gambero Rosso” guide for Sicily, which just came out on Friday with Sole 24 Ore. Pasticceria Cappello has a recipe page, but you won’t find the recipe of Sette Veli on it.

After my trip was long over, I would open up this picture and drool like a Pavlovian cousin….awaiting my next trip. Palermo and back in a weekend? No problem. I could even train it if there are no flights. 23 hours each way is nothing. No, seriously.

Then I decided to make it myself.

I started to do research…lots of research. I even found a video of Luca himself that explains how to make the Setteveli. It couldn’t be easier, right? Faith talks about it. There is talk all over the forums in Italian, and even some other attempts at it.

I planned for each of its layers. I schemed, I dreamed, and I dreaded. Even as I scooped gelatin leaves and hazelnuts and cream and butter and chocolate and flour into my shopping cart, I knew I was over my head. Oh, how I wished I were a Daring Baker!

It’s called so for its seven layers of goodness (note: I’ve seen some say each layer has a different layer of chocolate, but that’s not true)

  • Chocolate Glasse
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Chocolate disk
  • Hazelnut bavarian cream
  • Chocolate disk
  • Hazelnut bavarian cream
  • Cereal praline
  • Chocolate sponge cake

Of course, when avoiding reality, we procrastinate, and get the stomach flu, in my case this weekend. In compensation, I made a coffee cake, a homemade lasagna and soup from scratch in 24 hours, all avoiding my lurking mountain of ingredients, double-barred in my cupboard and peering at me from my fridge’s shelves. I had a brief reprieve until I could try again.

October is a nice month for me, and not just because it’s my birthday month. October will now become the month of the Sette Veli!

There are also going to be two contests on Ms. Adventures in Italy (contests = free stuff). The contest in the second half of October is a secret (ssh!) and I’ll tell you more about that later. The first contest is starting right now and going until October 12th and it’s all about the Sette Veli!

Give me your help, your wisdom, your comments and your support on my quest to make the Sette Veli. Do you have a favorite recipe for one of the layers mentioned above? A praline that is crunchalicious, a mousse to suffocate in? If you want to join me, more the merrier! Help me put the pieces together!! In return I’ve got an 18-month Moleskine notebook for you, and maybe some other treats, too!

I think it’s time for a road trip to Prato.

Pasticceria Mannori
Via Alessandro Lazzerini, 2 – 51900 Prato (PO)

Pasticceria Cappello
Via Colonna Rotta, 68 – 90100 Palermo

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  1. says

    Oh man! I’ve never heard of that cake before. Looks like “death by chocolate!” Incredible. You, my friend, are VERY brave to attempt it. But that’s why I love you…fearless!

    I have no tips for you other than have fun, and show us the results NO MATTER WHAT! Even if it doesn’t come out looking perfect, with ingedients like that, I think you are guaranteed that it will taste good. I’ll stick to making my humble oatmeal cookies. ;-)

  2. says

    Most of them seem pretty straightforward… are you too puzzled over cereal praline? I think I would do a brittle with crunchy cereals for that, but really don’t know what they meant.
    You will find a silpat useful in shaping up those disks, and I won’t do brittles or crackles without one now.
    I need volunteers to eat a cake I didn’t get a finished shot of. It serves 12, so hardly want to make it when I’m alone! It’s sponge, choco mousse, raspberry grappa and raspberry jam, then covered in whipped cream with raspberries. Any volunteers?

  3. says

    Omg. You are living the life I want! My husband and I have wanted to live in Italy for eight years now. It’s a little harder coming from the third world. Hopefully, it won’t take twice the time it took you to get there. I’m adding you to my list of daily reads!

  4. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @Judith – thanks for the reminder, I DO have one a Silpat and it will come in handy! Wanna come help me put it together? :)

    It looks like I’ll have company to eat any of my attempts! :)

  5. says

    I wish! I am trying to prepare for US friends, and since the muratori have left us roofless for the third time this summer and gone off AGAIN it isn’t easy.

    OTH, if you want to come eat this raspberry/chocolate monstrosity, I’ll give you six portions.

  6. says

    every year i take chocolate makers to luca Mannori. This year we are going to be the first group to do classes in his new space!

    Do you have luca’s book?

  7. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @Diva – I don’t! Let me know if it’s any good…though maybe a visit in person would be better… :)
    @Jessica – that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the Opera cake, that it resembles the Setteveli! heh.

  8. says

    I think this would throw me right over the edge in terms of richness and sweetness.

    That said, I love a challenge, have a charity function I can unload the finished product off on and some time on my hands – would love to join you in attempting to make this.

    Just send me a recipe and timeframe and I’m in!

  9. Gina says

    I just visited Cappello last week in Palermo! Setteveli was our first food stop in the city! Simply amazing – were those corn flakes in the bottom layer that made it crunchy??? I have photos!

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