I usually limit my food coloring use to royal icing and the occasional red velvet cupcake, and instead aim to create cakes that are beautiful without adding colors with names like electric yellow and dusty rose. That being said, sometimes you just need a slice of beautifully saturated pale pink and yellow cake, and when that’s the case this one’s for you.
The bright, vertical stripes of this cake were inspired by the striped dress of the female sitter in Lorenzo Lotto’s 1530s portrait, A Lady with a Drawing of Lucretia. This painting was in the collection of the Pesaro Palace in Venice for many years, and it is believed that the sitter was Lucrezia Valier, who married into the family in 1533. Lucrezia stares directly at the viewer, which is a little uncomfortable, and her stance demands that we look at the drawing she holds in her left hand – a drawing of Lucretia of Rome, famous for her marital fidelity and beauty. During an ancient military expedition, Roman leaders boasted about how moral and faithful their own wives were, and the conversation led them back to Rome to check on said moral and faithful wives. Turns out that Lucretia was the only one home and actually staying committed to her husband, which ironically led to her rape. Lucretia killed herself rather than deal with the shame of the rape, and her portrait and the accompanying message (“NEC ULLA IMPUDICA LUCRETIAE EXEMPLO VIVET” means “by the example of Lucretia, let no woman live on once her virtue has been blemished”) suggests the integrity of the sitter.
Lotto painted Lucrezia in an elaborate, softly painted striped costume typical of the time, but it is his color choice that is a bit unclear. Green was often associated with courtesans during the Renaissance, so it is slightly odd that a portrait meant to depict honor and purity shows the subject wearing that color. Lotto had a reputation for getting into disagreements with his sitters, and this could be an example of a joke he played, or Lucrezia could have actually really liked the color green – it’s up for interpretation!
You making this cake however, is not open for interpretation – just do it! It’s super impressive and not nearly as heard to make as it looks! Plus who can deny an extra-tall cake topped with raspberries?
Recipe adapted from Brit + Co.
Featured art: Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia, oil on canvas, circa 1530-32