Mandarin Semifreddo Cake

Semifreddo al Mandarino |

Mandarin Semifreddo Cake with a pistachio ice cream core. This is a spin-off of a game I made in my Instagram stories.

The genesis of this cake

I wanted to ask who’s following me on Instagram which cake to make next. But then I thought it was a bit bland.
Then somehow I thought about those gamebooks that were popular some (many) years ago. Gosh I’m old…
Gamebooks were fiction books that gave the reader the chance to choose which way to go in the story by using “forks” in the narrative.
So I though why not using the same idea to let the people watching my stories pick a recipe. This was my own “Gamerecipe”.
The poll function on Instagram stories lets the user decide between two options. So I ask the folks on Instagram to decide between 2 of many ingredients and preparations.
Maybe it got a bit out of hand and I ended up with 7 ingredients/preparations.

Here were the choices (in green what was picked):

Marquise ✅ Sponge Cake ❌
Butter ✅ Coconut Oil ❌
Fruit ❌ Citrus fruits ✅
Hazelnuts ❌ Pistachios ✅
Streusel ✅ Dacquoise ❌
Chocolate ❌ Caramel ✅
Vanilla ✅ Cinnamon ❌

You can see the full story (although in Italian) on my Instagram story highlights under the name “Ricetta-game”.

The cake

Semifreddo cake. Marquise base (cocoa), vanilla syrup, mandarin semifreddo cream, pistachio gelato core, mandarin streusel (gluten free) and caramel glaze.
Of course the first attempt is always wrong.
In insight I think the marquise was unnecessary, at least as a base. It was too thin and too soft. Even the syrup was redundant as the marquise remains quite moist. This kind of approach was more for the Pan di Spagna (sponge cake). So I ended up using the Pan di Spagna instead, and with this and other minor adjustments I came up with this semifreddo cake. Technically this is not a semifreddo but a perfait. But SEO wins, always. So I will call it semifreddo.
Because life was not complicated enough I made the pistachio gelato myself, deliberately unbalancing the sugars (dextrose) to make the core soft enough even after coming out of the freezer. Needless to say you can buy your own high quality (preferably hand made) gelato.
In the first attempt I even went out of my way making the pistachio paste on my own. That meant shelling and peeling the pistachios one by one.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

To sum up, I really had fun making this cake. I had fun during the stories and interacting with my friends on IG. And I loved the process of coming up with something creative.
Maybe this is not my best cake and it has so many preparations that it can be daunting. But it has some good starting points for future creations.

Mandarin Semifreddo Cake

Prep Time2 hours
Resting time3 hours
Total Time2 hours
Servings: 8
Ingredients for a 20 cm (7.9 in) pastry ring.


  • 1 20 cm 7.9 in sponge cake disc (Pan di Spagna) approx 1 ½ cm high. For the recipe see here

For the vanilla syrup:

  • 110 g water 3.9 oz
  • 100 g sugar 3.5 oz
  • powdered vanilla bourbon, the tip of a tsp. or vanilla extract/vanilla bean

For the pistachio gelato*:

  • 650 g milk 22.9 oz
  • 135 g water 4.8 oz
  • 160 g sugar 5.6 oz
  • 50 g dextrose 1.8 oz
  • 50 g skimmed milk powder 1.8 oz
  • 3 g carob flour 0.1 oz
  • 115 pistachio paste pure (4 oz)
  • pinch of salt
  • * the quantity here is more than needed and it's possible to use only half of the mix. Alternatively a good quality hand made gelato can be used instead

For the mandarin pate a bombe:

  • 127 g egg yolks 4.5 oz
  • 90 g sugar 3.2 oz
  • 165 g mandarin juice 5.8 oz
  • 20 g lemon juice, freshly squeezed 0.71 oz
  • grated mandarin zest ½ mandarin
  • 7 g gelatin sheets approx 1 e ½ 0.24 oz
  • For the meringue:
  • 140 g sugar 4.9 oz
  • 35 g water 1.2 oz
  • 95 g egg whites 3.3 oz

For the mandarin flavored whipped cream:

  • 350 g whipping cream
  • 30 g mandarin or tangerine liqueur

For the mandarin semifreddo cream:

  • 330 g mandarin pate a bombe 11.6 oz
  • 330 g mandarin flavored whipped cream 11.6 oz
  • 165 g meringue 5.8 oz

For the mandarin streusel:

  • 50 g almonds, peeled 1.8 oz
  • 50 g flour 1.8 oz
  • 50 g brown sugar 1.8 oz
  • 50 g butter, cubed 1.8 oz
  • grated mandarin zest ½ mandarin
  • pinch of salt

For the caramel glaze:

  • 200 g sugar 7 oz
  • 200 g water 7 oz
  • 175 g cream 6.2 oz
  • 15 g potato starch 0.5 oz
  • 10 g gelatin sheets approx 2 0.35 oz


For the vanilla syrup:

  • Put the water and sugar ina small pot on medium heat.
  • When the sugar hasdissolved add the vanilla bourbon powder (or the vanilla seeds, orvanilla extract) and leave in infusion.

For the pistachio gelato:

  • Note: These ingredients are commonly used in gelato making but not all of them are easy to find. Alternatively you can use good quality pistachio gelato instead.
  • Put the milk with the water in a small pot on medium heat.
  • In a medium sized bowl weight and mix together the sugars (sucrose and dextrose) together with the skimmed milk powder and the carob flour. Also add a pinch of salt but be careful not to overdo it as salt has a very high anti-freezing effect.
  • When the milk and water reaches 40° C (104° F) add the solids, bar the pistachio paste. Stir to dissolve them.
  • When the mix reaches 65° C (149° F) turn off the heat and add the pistachio paste.
  • Mix with an immersion blender.
  • Transfer the mixture in one or two bottles/containers and put them in the fridge.
  • Make the gelato according to the instructions of you ice cream maker.
  • As a rule of thumb, if you own one of those ice cream makers with the bowl that has to be put in the freezer, then the mixture has to be really cold. Preferably it should be refrigerated overnight.
  • On the other hand if you own an ice cream maker with compressor, then the mixture does not need to be super cold. Nonetheless the gelato improves a lot if the mixture is left to settle overnight.
  • When ready, put part of the gelato in the 18 cm round silicone mold. You should end up with a gelato disc approx 1 cm or 1 e ½ cm in height (0.4 – 0.6 in).
  • Put the mold in the freezer.

For the streusel:

  • Preheat the oven at 160° C (320° F).
  • Grind the almonds in the mixer.
  • Add the brown sugar, flour, grated mandarin zest and salt. Pulse briefly to blend the ingredients.
  • Transfer in a medium sized bowl and add the butter.
  • Work with your hands until all ingredients are combined. The dough should have a coarse consitency.
  • Spread the streusel on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake at 160° C (320° F) for 15 minutes.

For the mandarin pate a bombe:

  • In a large aluminum (or glass) bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar, mandarin juice, lemon juice and the grated mandarin zest.
  • Cook at low heat in a bain marie while stirring constantly. The temperature has to remain quite low in order not to “burn” the fruit.
  • When the mixture reaches 80° C (176° F) transfer in the bowl of the stand mixer and work at medium speed. Alternatively you can use a handheld mixer instead.
  • Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water. Add the wrung gelatin to the mixture and work it until lukewarm.
  • For the mandarin flavored whipped cream:
  • Start whipping the cream on medium speed. As it starts to gain volume (soft peaks) drizzle in the liqueur. Keep whipping until the consistency is firm.
  • Set aside in the fridge.

For the meringue:

  • Put water and sugar in a pot on medium heat.
  • When the syrup reaches 110°-115° C (230°-239° F) start whisking the egg whites either with a handheld or stand mixer.
  • When the syrup reaches 121° C (250° F) the eggs should have gained volume and have soft-medium peaks. While the mixer is running slowly drizzle in the syrup. Let the mixer run until a firm peak consistency is reached.
  • Let the meringue cool down before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

For the mandarin semifreddo cream:

  • In a large bowl put 330g (11.6 oz) of mandarin pate a bombe.
  • Slowly fold in 165g (5.8 oz) of the whipped cream (keep the other half for later).
  • Lastly fold in the meringue, being careful not to deflate the cream.
  • Transfer in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Set aside.
  • NOTE: this quantity of cream is more than needed for a 20 cm pastry ring. With the excess cream you can make some small desserts by putting the cream in small glasses and maybe adding some leftover streusel.


  • Place the pastry ring on a cake disc board.
  • Line the inside of the ring with pastry tape (or a strip of parchment paper).
  • Place the sponge cake disc inside and moisten it with the vanilla syrup.
  • Using the pastry bag put a layer of cream on top of the sponge cake.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of streusel on the cream.
  • Place the pistachio gelato disc inside the ring, and press it gently with you fingertips.
  • With the pastry bag fill the cake ring with the mandarin cream.
  • Level with a long spatula.
  • Transfer the cake in the freezer until completely set (i.e. -18° C / 0° F for 3 hours).

For the caramel glaze:

  • Before starting combine 30g (1 oz) of water with the potato starch and mix well.
  • Caramel the sugar “dry”: in a tall pot, possibly with double bottom, put a small part of the sugar.
  • Cook on low-medium heat without touching it.
  • When the sugar has melted add some more. Keep doing this until almost all the sugar is in the pot.
  • At this point you can rotate the pot to make the sugar dissolve completely.
  • Add the remaining water (170g / 6 oz). Be careful to the steam and bubbles. This is why a tall pot is needed.
  • The caramel will solidify, it's normal. Keep working with a whisk until it melts.
  • Stir the potato starch and add it to the caramel.
  • Lastly, remove from heat and ad the cream. Stir.
  • Soak the gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes.
  • Add the wrung gelatin to the caramel and combine.
  • Pass everything through a strainer and mix with an immersion blender. Keep the blender at the bottom of the container at all times in order not to incorporate air.
  • Let the caramel glaze cool off.
  • The glaze is ready when it reaches 28°-25° C (82°- 77° F)*.
  • Remove the cake ring and tape.
  • Glaze uniformly and put the cake back in the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving.


*If the caramel thickens before glazing you can heat the glaze up in a bain marie. Then mix with the immersion blender and filter it befor glazing.
Did you try this recipe?Mention @tortaoragione and tag #tortaoragione!

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