Friday, December 9, 2011

Ladies' Caprice


Caprice. A word seldom used in English, but common in French and Italian (capriccio), especially when it comes to children.  Leave it to the Romance languages to aptly capture what we call a "tantrum."  Faire des caprices.  I picture a Diva, storming off stage mid-aria in a wild swing of emotions when her accompanist misses a note. 

A caprice comes down to impulses, urges and unpredictability.  

Since Roman turned two, I've disregarded the idea of "terrible twos."  He is eagerly conversing in two languages, taking in the magic of New York City, forming friendships, singing and dancing.  None of that feels terrible in the least. 

Of course our days are not without conflict.  Just yesterday he lay screaming on the floor of a NY public library at the mere suggestion that he put his coat on before going out into the 40 degree chill.

So when I came across a recipe called Ladies' Caprice in Ruth's Box, I was fascinated.
Caprice: An extravagant and sudden whim.

What would Ruth-- a NY lady, wife and mother of two, do when faced with an extravagant and sudden whim of her own?  Shop for a bold new hat?  Smoke a cigarette and dream of some far off land?  Call a friend and scheme against her husband?  Perhaps she would just bake.


The recipe card was hard to decipher.  I gather from her incomplete notes that Ruth must have baked a few Ladies' Caprice in her time.  So I improvised.

Ladies' Caprice: meet Nonna Elena's marmalade tart, meet Brutti Ma Buoni nut/meringue cookies.


I hope I did justice to the original recipe.  I can assure you that this remarkable tart will calm whatever sudden, extravagant whims you might have.  It's just that good.  So please, pas de caprices.

Ladies' Caprice

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces cold sweet butter (1 stick plus about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cream

For the filling:
Black raspberry jam (8 or more ounces)
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sweet butter (cut into chunks).  Process until the butter is broken up into small pieces.  Add the sugar, egg yolks (reserve the whites for the tart filling) and cream.  Continue to process until the mixture begins to come together.  Form it into a ball with your hands.
Grease a tart pan with a removable bottom.  Flatten the ball of dough and press it evenly into the tart pan, using the heel of your hands, work the dough slowly to extend it to the edges and up the sides of the tart pan. Prick all around with a fork and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Let cool completely.

Spread the black raspberry jam along the bottom of the cooled tart shell.

Make the filling:
Using an electric beater, beat the 2 egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla extract.  Use a silicone spatula to fold in one cup of finely chopped walnuts.
Spread this mixture on top of the raspberry jam in your tart shell.
Bake once again at 350 degrees, for about 40-45 minutes.
Let cool before serving.
This will keep well overnight if you want to make it one day before serving, and will keep for several days.


  1. Caprice really is a great word...I love it's nuances in Italian and other romance languages. But I think I now love it most in this cake/tart!

  2. Nicole: i especially love when lost, unusual words (and recipes) are resurrected. Thanks for reviving capriccio/caprice! and the tart looks like a heritage treasure find.
    P.s. if you think 2s are capricious, wait until the 3s: those were much worst for my kids. Thank goodness they overcome that and 4s and 5s are my favorite ages.

  3. c'est si bon Nicole - merci pour l'avoir faite!

  4. I've learned something today! A few things actually. First, start to use the word caprice to describe my 5 yr olds mood swings and second, make this ladies caprice soon!! Looks delicious and indeed would calm the savage beast of a woman in the midst of a good caprice :)

  5. That cake looks very interesting! A great combination of baking techniques. Crumbly and crunchy and buttery...must be delicious!

  6. Joanne, and Amelia: I'm surprised at how little "caprice" is used in English, especially since it's such a great word :)

    Andrea- sometimes a special word helps deal!

    Pola, the cake really is good!

  7. oh, for the love of languages! "caprices" is ever so much better than tantrum. thanks for sharing this tidbit. made my day.

    a very happy holidays to you, nicole.


  8. What a fun word for a pastry! Of course, the French have jalousie and éclair ; I think caprice is my favorite because I remember ladies saying before gobbling a pastry " c'est juste un caprice!" perfect and the tart sounds wonderful

  9. This looks very similar to a recipe in my Hungarian cookbook--called Ladies' Whim. I noticed it when I was making goulash the other night and was intrigued. And here you are making something very similar--too funny.

  10. Ah i capricci, I know those too well. But it is all a part of motherhood. This could certainly soothe a girl after one of those.

  11. Nicole... The texture of these layers are so beautiful. Love the name of the recipe. Similar to your imagining Ruth, I have baked when faced with an extravagant and sudden whim. But I also understand hat shopping or dreaming of a far off land.

  12. I am charmed by the name of this tart. Ruth had her ways in the kitchen, didn't she? Such lovely layering. It's been a long time since my girl was a two year old, but I agree-- there was nothing terrible at all. challenging moments, yes--but overall, a joy. fleeting, ever-changing

  13. Très belle entrée en matière... devant un "caprice" faire de la pâtisserie... une très belle idée!


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