Coffee Chocolate Nutella Cake

Anyone who knows me can tell you that my favorite place in all of Italy – and perhaps in the whole world -- is Bologna. I know, I know – I live in Rome. Isn’t that better than Bologna? The truth is that though Rome is an amazing city, Bologna will always have a special place in my heart. In addition to the amazing people I met there, there are also the places that characterize the city, and are part of the many wonderful memories I have of my time living there. Piazza Maggiore and the Neptune Fountain, the Torri Asinelli, Via Zamboni, the Giardini Margherita, and San Luca are just a couple of these. And of course, the Nutelleria. 


Perhaps one of the most difficult things I had to adjust to while living my first year in Italy was Italian breakfast. For those of you who don't know, Italian breakfast is on the sparse side – just a coffee consumed at the counter of the bar and a pastry (“pasta” if you’re in Bologna, “cornetto” if you’re in Rome.) Some Italians I know skip the pastry all together and just have coffee. 
Gone was my French toast, my bagels with cream cheese, and omelets with a side of bacon. Breakfast was a non-meal in Bologna. Sure, I was eating better in the lunch/dinner department -- tagliatelle al ragu', piadina with prosciutto and mozzarella, pizza with bufala mozzarella -- but I missed having a substantial first meal of the day.

Lucky for me my Italian friends were curious about our decadent American breakfast traditions. The topic of breakfast always opened up a series of lively discussions and questions on their part:

"Mangiate il bacon a colazione??" (Translation: "You eat bacon at breakfast??" Answer: Yes.)

"Come fate a mangiare pesante alle 9.00 di mattina?" (Translation: "How can you eat this heavy stuff at 9am?? Answer: It's easy.)

"Ma mangiate cosi' ogni mattina?" (Translation: "You eat this way every morning??" Answer: No, usually during the weekend when there's more time.)

"Ahh, ma mangiate queste cose a brunch, non a colazione!" (Translation: "Ahh, so you eat this stuff at brunch, not breakfast!" Answer: Sure, it if makes you feel better.)

In order to allow them to better understand American breakfast, "cenazione" (colazione [breakfast] + cena [dinner]=cenazione) was born. An American style breakfast-- but at dinnertime, so as not to scare away my non breakfasting friends -- the cenazione included blueberry muffins, omelets and homefries, and the star of the meal, chocolate chip pancakes.

Pancakes -- not to be confused with their less fluffy cousins, the crepe--are perhaps the quintessential American breakfast. There's nothing quite like a tall stack of them, drizzled with butter and maple syrup (or nutella, if you're Italian and maple syrup is overwhelming) to start a Sunday morning. It was hands down the favorite dish prepared that night, although my Italian friends consumed it separate from the egg and home fries portion of the meal -- evident murmurs of disbelief were heard when my sister and I ate our home fries alongside our pancakes. When she visited me in America, Gloria took advantage of the American breakfast tradition and probably had pancakes almost every morning she was staying with us, doused in a good amount of maple syrup.

This is a tried and true recipe, easy to throw together whenever you are craving something more decadent for breakfast. Here I use chocolate chips, as I did for the first cenazione at Gloria's, but you could also substitute sliced bananas, blueberries, or even chopped toasted pecans.



2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup chocolate chips, or more to taste


Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until they are well combined. In another smaller bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and sugar. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed and there are no more lumps in your batter. Stir in the melted butter and then the chocolate chips. Heat a skillet over medium low heat and add a little butter to grease the pan. Use a ladle to pour the batter in to the pan; flip the pancakes with a spatula when tiny bubbles start appearing on the surface of the pancakes. As your pancakes cook, put them on a plate tented with aluminum foil so that they stay warm. Eat right away with maple syrup, Nutella, or by themselves if the chocolate is already too sweet for you. Serves about 6.