Small packages

Selections from the new book “Small, Sweet, and Italian: Tiny, Tasty Treats From Sweet Maria’s Bakery.”

Orange polenta cakes.
Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
Orange polenta cakes.

“Good things come in small packages” or “Size matters.” I’ve always believed this. Many people think of jewelry, but I always think of sweets. Small bites are hard to resist for a lot of reasons. They are the perfect serving size and seem to be baked just for you, with no sharing necessary. They offer less guilt and fewer calories just by virtue of their size, are easy to prepare, and have short baking times. Small sweets can also satisfy a big craving. With smaller sweets it’s easier to sample two or three desserts. Indulge — they’re tiny!


Makes 24 cupcakes

¾ cup cake flour

¾ cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1¼ cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs

4 extra-large egg yolks

2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1 cup orange marmalade

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the egg yolks and orange zest, and mix well. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until blended.

Fill the lined cupcake pans ¾ full with the batter. Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a fine crumb. Remove the pans from the oven. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pans and transfer to wire racks to cool. Cool completely before topping.


Dust the tops of the cupcakes with confectioners’ sugar. Spoon a drop of orange marmalade onto the top of each cupcake. Serve at room temperature.


Makes about 36

1½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup sour cream

1½ cups roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoons fig jam

1 tablespoon Marsala wine

1 egg, lightly beaten

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In a food processor, combine 1½ cups of the flour and the salt. Add the butter and pulse until uniform. Add the sour cream. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to make a soft, not sticky, dough, adding the remaining ½ cup flour as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the chestnuts, chocolate chips, honey, jam, and Marsala and stir to combine. Remove half of the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into 3-inch rounds. Place approximately ½ teaspoon of the filling in the center of each round. Brush the outer edges of the dough with beaten egg. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges to seal. Place the calzones on the lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with beaten egg. Repeat with other half of the dough and remaining filling.

Bake calzones for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven. Cool calzones on the pans. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Makes 8

½ cup long-grain white rice

4 extra-large eggs

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the rice. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat, drain, and set aside to cool.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the eggs on medium-high speed. Add the sugar and vanilla, and mix to incorporate. Add the ricotta and mix until smooth. Stir in the cooled rice and milk. Place 8 ½-cup ramekins on a baking sheet. Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the rice mixture. Carefully place the baking sheet into the oven. Bake the pies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the centers are just about set. Remove from the oven. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate until serving.


Makes 36

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

9 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour or spray mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the 2 cups flour and the baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the eggs and oil on high speed for 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Then beat on high for 5 minutes more.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup three-quarters full with the batter. Bake the popovers for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven. Cool the popovers in the pans on wire racks. Remove from the pans and continue to cool completely on the wire racks.

To make the icing, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the confectioners’ sugar, lemon extract, and ¼ cup water until smooth. (The icing can be made 2 days in advance. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature and remix before using.) Place the wire racks with the popovers on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the icing over the popovers. Let dry at room temperature.

From Small, Sweet, and Italian, by Maria Bruscino Sanchez. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press LLC.