Cesira Berardelli’s love of cooking and giving back go hand in hand.
And there’s no dessert that shows off her compassionate heart more than her Anisette Loaves. Berardelli has made hundreds of them over the years for birthdays, graduations, wedding and baby showers, holidays and more. She’s also donated the loaves to numerous fundraisers across the region, including those she’s involved with through Keystone Chapter UNICO.
“People will line up and ask me, ‘Do you have the Anisette loaves?’ They love them,” she said on a recent day in the North Scranton home she shares with her husband, Joe. “They always sell out, and it’s a wonderful feeling because you know that not only are people enjoying them, but it’s all for a good cause.”
The recipe, which earned Berardelli a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore, came from a friend years ago. Berardelli began to make the treat herself, and both friends and family went wild for it. A twist on the classic Italian cookies, hers are baked into loaves then sliced into sharable pieces. She then ices them, just like their bite-sized counterparts, and tops them with either sprinkles or sometimes shredded coconut and maraschino cherries.
Thanks to her Italian roots, Berardelli loves the taste of Anisette, but she knows it’s not for everybody. She advised bakers who don’t to swap in vanilla extract or almond extract instead.
Local Flavor doesn’t shy away from the sweet, spicy taste, though, and we loved every bite of the treat.
“It’s perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning,” her husband said.
The city woman’s involvement with UNICO stretches back several years, and today she is a charter member of the Keystone Chapter.
“It’s an incredible organization,” she said.
Always lending a hand at fundraisers and events year-round, she makes her Anisette Loaves for bake sales and more, including for St. Joseph’s Center’s annual summer festival and the annual summer block party at her church, Mary, Mother of God Parish at Holy Rosary Church. She also made them for her former parish’s events before the church closed.
Berardelli, who immigrated to the United States from Italy when she was a girl, has been involved with community organizations for most of her life. Aside from UNICO and her church, she volunteers with the Catholic Women’s Club and Geisinger Community Medical Center Women’s Auxiliary, and she has participated in Lackawanna Blind Association’s Helen Keller Day Fashion Show.
“Giving back is my greatest passion,” she said. “It’s always been part of my life to get involved and help out where I can.”
Her greatest love, however, is her family. Her husband is not only her biggest helper in the kitchen but also loves to cook just as much as she does. The couple, who will celebrate 54 years of marriage in August, enjoys making classic Italian delicacies and hosting their family and friends for dinner parties.
“It’s so nice just to be able to all get together and see each other again,” she said. “We’ll call up our friends and invite them over and have the best time. We missed that.”
The couple, who have four children and 11 grandchildren, also host holidays at their home — a time filled with love, laughter and, of course, great Italian food such as homemade gnocchi, ravioli, sauce and more. She passed on her love of cooking and baking to both her children and now to her grandchildren, who love to help their grandparents in the kitchen.
“We’re so blessed,” she said. “I know how fortunate I am to have all these blessings in my life, and that’s why giving back is such a love for me.“
Cesira Berardelli’s Anisette Loaves
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons anise extract
- 1/2 pound butter, melted
- 1 cup milk
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 cups flour
- Beat eggs with sugar. Add anise extract and melted butter. Add milk, baking powder and flour 1 cup at a time. (Bakers may need to add more flour if they use large eggs.) Dough should be firm.
- Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and spoon mixture onto parchment paper. Shape mixture into four loaves.
- Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.
- 1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 teaspoons milk
- Sprinkles, shredded coconut and/or maraschino cherries, for topping
- Combine powdered sugar with vanilla extract and milk; stir. (Bakers may need to use more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency.)
- Ice loaves when completely cool. Decorate as desired.
- Cut into slices.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest