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1 East Preston Street,
city of Edinburgh,
Open Monday-Friday, 9.30-5, Saturday Sunday 9-5.30, Closed Tuesdays.

It’s easy to miss Strigicake, but don’t. Just around the corner from the Commonwealth Pool, I’ve passed it countless times as I wile away the hours whilst my daughter is at dance class. But last week I popped in, and was delighted to discover a true hidden gem.

Owner Eleonora Maimardi hails from Tuscany, but first visited Scotland 21 years ago with her then fiance. The city made enough of an impression that when a change of scene was in order, Edinburgh was the chosen location. Strigicake is Eleonora’s first bakery, after years of working in them, and is winning over the locals with her  traditional Italian offerings. 

Strigicake opened last May, and Eleonora has taken a "slowly, slowly” approach to educating Edinburghers about her native Tuscan cooking. She offers traditional Scottish savouries (homemade soups and sandwiches), and a range of familiar cakes: iced biscuits, brownies, carrot cake. But over the past year, she has slowly introduced more Italian elements - and cakes - to the menu, "one by one” she tells me. These cakes are worth getting to know, and Eleonora is a font of knowledge about them all.

I try a cavallucci: a biscuit from the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, described as a "Tuscan scone.” It’s softer than biscotti but harder than a cake, and flavoured with anise. Ele0nora tells me it’s best eaten after dinner, dunked in coffee or preferably fortified wine. She even suggests I try dipping it in Buckfast, which leaves me to wonder who’s educating whom here. While that was a fusion too far for me, with my evening espresso it was delicious. 

Another Tuscan classic is castagnaccio. Made with chestnut flour and pine nuts, this is an old peasant food, says Eleonora, from the time when 20 kilos of chestnut flour were worth one kilo of wheat flour. Slightly savoury and packed with raisins, this is perhaps a more Marmite-y cake. I love it, and find it a perfect "sweet but not too sweet” pick-me- up.

Although Sicilian in origin, cannoli are also available and one of the best sellers ("everyone loves cannoli,” Eleonora tells me, and she is quite right). Of the more Scottish selections, the chocolate peanut butter brownie is very popular, and very good ("best ever”, says my son). Prices are extremely reasonable, the food is wonderful, and there’s a history lesson thrown in. A must try. (R. Edwards) 

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