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Celebrate International Women's Day with this Italian Sweet Treat

In March, a river of small, vibrant yellow flowers frames the roads and canopies in Italy each spring. The sweet, refreshing smell of the flowers swirls like intoxicating ribbons. The Mimosa flower symbolizes spring and rebirth, and this flower, with a delicate appearance, can grow and thrive on the most fickle spring day. This flower is the emblem of La Festa delle Donne in Italy, also known worldwide as International Women's Day (IWD), on March 8.

Before I talk to you about the delicious cake, it's important to tell you about the day it is made. This important day, which aims to celebrate women, is a meaningful opportunity to honor women's beauty, sensitivity, and strength worldwide. The day is also a worldwide recommitment to push forward for equality and women's rights.

The day has been celebrated annually since the early 1900s, originating in the US. This we know as true. However, it is often reported that the day was created to commemorate the anniversary of a 50-year-old strike by female textile workers in New York City. This strike was for better working conditions and the right to vote. However, the United Nations said neither event may have even occurred. The origin story may have been a cold war effort to change the day's narrative often associated with socialist roots. However, efforts, large and small were made at the time to move the needle for women's rights. In fact, protesting women's issues were on the rise, rightfully demanding civil, social, political, and religious improvements. Whatever the start, the observance of the day quickly gained traction worldwide. The fire started, and it was not going out. Instead, it was spreading like wildfire.

The concept of a "woman's day" caught on in Europe almost immediately. In 1910, the International Socialist Women's Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, declared that the IWD should be celebrated globally on March 8. This was quickly adopted in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Although France jumped on board the following year, they would mark the day eleven days later, on March 19, to commemorate the revolution of 1848 and the "Commune de Paris." By the time the first event was held in Paris, over 1 million people would have attended a rally someplace in the world. In addition to the right to vote and hold public office, women's rights to work, vocational training, and an end to discrimination were demanded.

It would take 66 years before the United Nations officially recognized IWD on March 8. Since then, the day has been used to raise awareness about gender equality and women's rights and celebrate women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

Today, over 100 countries have made this an official holiday, often straying far from the holiday's original political roots. Blanketed in the traditional colors of purple, green, and white (green symbolizes hope, white represents purity, and purple signifies justice and dignity), the day is marked with celebrations, gifts of appreciation, charitable work, and calls to action.

Now, back to the cake.

The turn toward women's specific social, economic, and political achievements had begun in Italy in the 1920s. Though the Italians did not officially celebrate this day, called Festa delle Donna, until 1946. At that time, activists Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei offered Mimosa flowers to fellow women in a show of sisterhood and support. After World War II, the tradition of giving women Mimosa flowers on the day became a symbol of appreciation and love.

The Italian town north of Rome named Sanremo, also known as the "town of flowers," had a pastry competition in 1962. A chef from San Filippo di Contigliano named Adelmo Renzi won with a cake said to be in tribute to the town of flowers called Torta Mimosa (Mimosa Cake). The two-tiered Italian sponge cake sandwiches a layer of custard, surrounded with sweet chantilly cream, and topped with dozens of small cubes of yellow cake sprinkled with confectioners sugar to resemble the mimosa flowers.

Today, the Torta Mimosa is made by pastry chefs throughout Italy, especially on March 8. Each chef makes their version in tribute to the women they love, respect, and celebrate. So, whatever you choose to do on March 8, may it be your own, perhaps, with a piece of cake.

While I work on my version of the recipe, I thought I would share a terrific recipe I've found.


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