This humble cake has been celebrating birthdays and warming tummies as long as there have been Nonne (grandmothers) in Italy. Whether you were a country mouse or a city mouse, as a child growing up in Italy, you enjoyed this confection.
True to its country roots, this recipe draws on standard pantry ingredients, pulled together to make an outstanding dessert. You probably already have everything in your kitchen to get started!
No time like the present for a little warmth and celebration, so follow along with us to create a classic Italian sweet.
We enjoyed making the video, but we enjoyed even more nibbling it slightly warm, after sitting on the sunny windowsill for an hour out of the oven. We know you will love it.
Tanti Auguri from Lucca!
Liz and Giuseppe
Torta della Nonna
Preheat oven to 390F
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Rice Flour
2 Tbsp flour to use for adjusting the dough as needed to correct consistency
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup Powdered Sugar
Lemon Zest, one half of a lemon
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 pinch Sea Salt
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 C + 1 Tbsp Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 C + 1 Tbsp Cup Rice Starch
2 Cups Whole Milk
Peel of 1 Lemon, no pith (use a vegetable peeler)
2 Tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp GrandMarnier
1 Tbsp Pine Nuts
PASTRY DOUGH PREPARATION:
Combine All Purpose and Rice Flours in a bowl. Sift in baking powder and pinch of salt.
Allow butter to soften to room temperature.
Once softened, cream the butter and powdered sugar for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Add the vanilla and grated lemon zest.
Using your hands, work the dough lightly, add whisked egg.
Avoiding over kneading.
The dough should have a crumbly texture. If needed, use the additional 2 Tbsp of flour to correct the texture. It should resemble a pie crust texture.
Shape into a brick like form, place in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours, or quickly in the freezer for 30 minutes.
CREAM FILLING PREPARATION:
Whisk together egg yolks with granulated sugar and rice starch until fluffy and pale.
In a sauce pan pour the milk, lemon peel and vanilla.
Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat.
Remove lemon peel.
Combine the egg and sugar mixture with the hot milk. Whisk vigorously in bowl, and return to sauce pan and continue cooking. Simmer until it thickens. Be sure to whisk all areas of pan bottom and sides to prevent sticking and burning.
At first sign of bubbles, remove from heat.
Place custard in a bowl over an ice bath, stirring occasionally until chilled, approximately 15 minutes.
Add the Grand marnier with a whisk.
Removing the pastry dough from the refrigerator, form it into a thick round disc approx 5" in diameter. Slice horizontally, to produce two equal disks approx 5" in diameter. Using a ziplock bag cut open like a book, place one of the disks inside the lightly floured plastic. Using a rolling pin, evenly roll out the first disk to the approximate diameter of the cake pan plus a bit. With the cake pan lightly floured (and/or you may use a parchment paper round at the bottom), carefully place the dough at the bottom of an 8 inch round cake pan.
Using your fingers, work the dough gently up the side a bit. Trim uneven areas with the back of the knife.
Using a spatula, place the cooled custard on the dough base, taking care to create a slight dome effect, the cream rising a bit in the center.
Roll out the second disk, slightly larger than the first, allowing extra dough to seal the cake. Placing the disk on top of the custard, seal all the edges of the top and bottom disks where they meet along the side of the pan, using the back of a knife to push the seams together, sealing in all the custard.
Using a pastry brush, gently coat the top of the dough with 3-4 passes of milk or egg wash.
Place a small X in the center of the dough to create a chimney, allowing steam to escape.
Lastly, sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Place cake pan in center of oven.
Bake at 390F for 15 minutes.
Lower temperature to 320F and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
Watch the pastry, and turn as needed to prevent uneven browning.
Remove and cool on a rack. Remove from pan. Dust with powdered sugar.
The torta can be eaten warm (after cooling minimum 1 hour to allow it to set up), or refrigerated.
The Classic Easter Colomba ... the Dove.
An Italian tradition at Easter is this cake baked in the shape of a Dove. This one by Dario Loison, our favorite producer of both Colomba's and Pannettone, located in the Veneto Region. Stop by and visit them to learn more abut their familie's production for almost 100 years. They also have a small museum dedicated to their art of baking and its a great way to see first hand an artisanal baker at work.