Thursday, March 3, 2016

Italian Torta della Nonna, Grandma's Cake

Make your day sweetly amazing with this crumbly and soft pastry
 filled with rich and delicate custard cream, and topped with tasty pine nuts
The other day I realized something. Why is there no recipe for this scrumptious torta della nonna on my blog? 
Seriously. What is wrong with me?!? I can't believe I waited this long to bake  this dessert for you. And when I say "bake it for you,"  I really mean, bake it for your eyes to see... and for my tummy to enjoy. I'm sooooo sorry ;)

Now, take a good look at THIS. Wanna make you grab that little fork and dig in, right?!? 
Photos can speak louder than words sometimes.

You might have heard before of the "torta della nonna" (Italian Grandma's cake). Or, if you are one of the lucky ones, you might have even tasted it. 
Simple, yet so delicate, rich and elegant. A mouth-watering fusion of vanilla flavor, nutty taste, with a hint of lemony aroma. 
This cake, that's more like a pie, is made with a soft and velvety Italian custard cream squooshed* between two layers of buttery and perfectly crumbly pastry dough. All topped with sweet pine nuts. 

*Squooshed: tenderly squeezed and gently smooshed ... In case you didn't know :)

And, if you are not a lover of pine nuts, you can always substitute with sliced almonds. Still amazing! 

As usual, I'm not just going to tell you how easy it is to make this dessert, but I'm going to show you with this quick video, and a recipe with step-by-step pictures.

You can serve this dessert by it-delectable-self, or next to some fresh berries. Looks delicious, right?!? After all, (Italian) Grandmas know better :)

Ingredients: to make an 11 inches (28 cm) tart
For the dough (pasta frolla):
  • 3 cups (450 gr) of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 gr) of sugar
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • one pinch of salt
  • 6 oz (170 gr) of unsalted butter 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the custard pastry cream (crema pasticcera):
  • 4 cups (1 liter) of milk
  • half lemon (peel, in one piece)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (75 gr) of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 gr) of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the top: 
  • 4 oz (115 gr) of  pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • powdered sugar to decorate (optional)
Preparation time: 30 minutes to prepare, 1 hour in the refrigerator, plus 45 minutes in the oven

1. Prepare the dough: in a food processor, add the flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt and the butter cut in pieces. Pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Add the vanilla extract, two eggs plus the egg yolk and mix only until the dough comes together. If by any chance the dough is too dry add a little bit (maybe one or two tablespoons) of milk. If too wet, add a bit of flour.
Collect the dough and divide into two pieces, a large and  smaller piece (about 2/3 and 1/3). Make into two disks, wrap each separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

2. Prepare the custard cream: place the lemon peel in the milk and warm up until hot, but not boiling. You can warm up in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove.
In a sauce pan, add the egg yolks, flour, sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk well until light and fluffy.
Add a little bit of the hot milk (discarding the lemon peel) and whisk some more. Incorporate the rest of the milk, while whisking. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a slow boil, while stirring. The cream will thickens so make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. Lower the flame when it starts to bubble and cook for one or two more minutes, until it reaches the desired thickness.
Pour the cream in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap. The plastic should touch the cream, so it won't become harder on top. Let it cool down.

3. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175°C).
Grease an 11 in (28 cm) tart pan with butter and flour (or spray). Roll out the larger dough first on a lightly floured surface to a circle of about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. Helping yourself with the rolling pin, move the dough to the tart pan. If the dough breaks, you can easily fix it with your fingers, so don't worry!  Trim the excess dough around the edges, or add little pieces if needed. Prick the bottom with a fork.

4. Pour the custard cream in the tart shell and spread. Roll out the other pastry to right around 11 in (28 cm) circle, and place it on top of the tart. You need to be a little more carefully this time. Cut off any extra dough from the edges, and press the edges together to seal. Gently prick the top with a fork just a little. Brush the top with some milk and sprinkle with the pine nuts, pressing them down slightly with your fingers so that the nuts stick to the dough.

5. Bake in lower third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until slightly golden on top and around the edges.
Let it cool down at room temperature first, than one hour in the refrigerator before dusting  with powdered sugar, and cutting your first slice... for yourself, of course :)


  1. Thank you so much for your post. This post helps me a lot, and I have learnt some new things from your blog. I've bookmarked your blog for the future visit.
    Restaurant Management Software

  2. It looks very nice, thank you for sharing with us this recipe.

  3. Cooking is an art of food which is generally occupied by the female only. But nowadays there are several men who find themselves comfortable in cooking. If you are fond of food and try to make something new, learn cooking very carefully. The fun of making varieties of food is too much enjoyable for the people who love to cook.
    Visit link For more
    “Cooking Classes”

  4. Hi Manuela! I have just baked this cake.It is still warm. Looks exactly like yours!I am from Mediterrenea, Cyprus. Its close to Italy, but we do not know this cake. Thank you for sharing. I'll try it tomorrow

  5. Love this cake - I have made it 3 times - thank you

  6. This cake looks so good. I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe.