Many times while I was in Abruzzo I had the pleasure of eating these cakes famous from the hilltop town of Guardiagrele, 8km from my father's village. Many times I even found a reason to go there just to justify a detour to Pasticceria Lullo Emo tucked in the centre of town. The cake's name Tre Monte signifies the three mountain peaks of the Maiella mountain, of which Guardiagrele is snuggled beneath. But these cakes are more commonly known as Sise delle Monache, which literally means 'nun's breasts'! Why nun's breasts I hear you ask? Well legend has it that the name describes the way that nuns in old times would preserve their dignity by stuffing cloth between their breats so as not to show the female form through their clothing. Whatever the reason for their name, they are truly magnificent to eat!!
Sise delle Monache cakes are unsophisticated and yet so delicate and precious in their simplicity. Soft sponge formed into clusters of three 'breasts' is filled with rich custard cream and dusted liberally with icing sugar. As big as your hand and enough to feed a couple of people if you are willing to share, these cakes entice fans to travel miles and queue in the tiny pastry shop famed for making them. As you stand in the queue, you observe others standing at the wooden bars running either side of the store. Too eager to wait until they get home, customers tear open the exquisitely wrapped packages and devour the pastries then and there, leaving sweet snowflakes of icing sugar on their faces, hands, clothes and the bench where they stand...evidence of sheer pleasure.
Many people have tried to replicate these cakes, but none have been able to come close to matching the secret recipe held by the Pasticciere Lullo. So I'm afraid, for you dear reader, you will need to admire from afar or travel all the way to Guardiagrele in Abruzzo to try one for yourself. It's worth the journey let me tell you!