Croatian Rab Cake on a table with oranges and zest
Rab Cake Is The Croatian Dessert At The Center Of A Local Legend
By Elias Nash
Rab is a small Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea that faced centuries of succession by European powers. It’s now known for tourism and a dessert called Rapska torta (Rab cake).
Local lore says Rab cake was invented in 1177 for Pope Alexander III, who was aboard a ship traveling on the Adriatic Sea when a storm hit and had to take shelter.
The nearest port was on Rab, and the pope stayed to bless the recently-renovated Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. The Benedictine nuns created the dessert to show gratitude.
A different version of the tale has the pope introducing the dish to Rab. The original recipe for Rab cake has been preserved in the archives of St. Andrew’s nunnery.
The cake is composed of a crust and a filling similar to almond paste or marzipan made of ground almonds, eggs, sugar, lemon and orange zest, and Maraschino liqueur.
The crust contains flour, butter, water, and sugar, like shortbread. It adds eggs for a sturdier dough, while Maraschino liqueur is reintroduced to elevate the flavor.
It’s usually shaped into a spiral like a snail shell or other shapes, like hearts, horseshoes, or even letters and numbers. It is also dusted with powdered sugar before serving.