San Martino a Cavallo, the typical Venetian dessert for November 11th

In the days preceding San Martino (November 11) in the windows of the pastry shops of Venezia and its surroundings a particular dessert appears: the St. Martin on horseback. It’s about a biscuit of shortcrust pastry which replicates the figure of the Saint riding his horse, decorated with a large variety of sweets. It is the typical gift that many Venetians still exchange on the occasion of the anniversary, which today is above all an opportunity for children to discover the deeds of the Saint.

San Martino on horseback, the legend

The origin of the horse-shaped dessert is in fact linked to a legend that sees San Martino as the protagonist, a story that you may have already heard and that always fascinates the little ones. Born in the early fourteenth century in present-day Hungary, Martino was forced to move to the city of Pavia, as the son of a Roman officer. Here he was educated in a conscription school until his entry into the imperial guard at the age of 15. During his studies, unbeknownst to his parents, he approached the Christianityattracted above all by the values ​​of sharing and closeness to others and feelings from charity and humility.

Legend has it that on November 11, Martino was passing by on his horse in Venetian territory on a cold and rainy day. Along the way she ran into a very poor man, dressed only in rags and weakened by the very cold. Seeing him in those conditions and having nothing else to offer him, the soldier he took his sword and cut the great cloak in two which covered his shoulders to give one to the needy and allow him to warm up. It is said that, after that charitable gesture, the clouds cleared and a warm sun came out. For this reason, the last beautiful days of November are known as “San Martino’s summer”.

The typical Venetian dessert

The sweet that depicts San Martino riding his horse is therefore one of the Venetian traditions for remember this gesture of generosity. As mentioned, this is a large, very simple shortbread cookie. If, however, the work is carried out by a good and creative master pastry chef, the Cavallo di San Martino can become a very elegant dessertespecially if enriched with fine details (such as the horse’s mane) and colored decorations.

With a little effort, however, equally brilliant results can be obtained by opting for the do it yourself at home. The recipe is not at all demanding. To obtain the shape of the Horse of San Martino, just do a quick online search and find the pdf file of a template to print on paper and crop. Alternatively, there are some on the market steel moulds also purchasable through the most well-known e-commerce sites.


Once this is done, all you have to do is prepare 250g. of flour, 90 g. Butter, one egg, 50 g. of icing sugar, a pinch of salt and a vanilla bean (or a sachet of vanillin). All the ingredients are poured into a bowl (or in a planetary mixer) to be processed until a sandy mixture is obtained. The compound should be kneaded until it becomes a compact ball.

After that, it should be removed from the bowl and compacted until the creation of a rectangular and flattened loaf. Cover it with cling film and then leave it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. After the rest period, the mixture is placed on a clean and floured surface to be rolled out with a rolling pin in order to obtain a pastry with a thickness of half a centimeter or so. At this point, take the paper or steel mold and make your shape. With the remaining pieces of pastry you can invent details to embellish the cake.

Once this is done, move the creation onto a sheet of parchment paper and put it in the oven on a baking tray 15-20 minutes at 180° (it should be golden but not too dry). In this way you will get your San Martino on horseback, clean and simple. Tradition, however, wants sweets to be placed on the dessert to make it more gluttonous. Anyone who wants to take this extra step can prepare a simple glaze (with the possible addition of a dye) to be applied with a sac à poche and used as a “glue” to fix gummy candies, chocolates, colored sugar flakes or what you prefer.

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