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Bustrengo cake: a pantry staple recipe from Romagna


The bustrengo cake is a pantry staple recipe from the peasant tradition of Romagna. But it is widespread beyond also.

It is an ancient recipe that the gastronome Graziano Pozzetto, an expert on the cuisine of Romagna, defines as the cake of the peasant family because prepared with the ingredients usually available in the pantry.

Traditional cakes of Romagna

A pantry staple recipe from the Romagna tradition

It is a typical wintersweet. It is poor but rich in ingredients. The bustreng, in the Romagnolo dialect, is not to be confused with borlengo, a completely different preparation from Emilia. But it is related to Umbrian bustrengolo, and it is known, besides Romagna, in the contiguous Montefeltro area.

The origins of bustrengo are very ancient, and it isn’t possible to identify the meaning of the name, probably from the barbaric era.

Even if the sweet presents some differences from area to area, the cornflour is one of the ingredients that characterize the preparation.

There are some exceptions. For example, in Valmarecchia, in Romagna (Valmarecchia means Valley of Marecchia from the name of the river Marecchia that crosses the area), chestnut flour replaces cornflour.

In other places, chickpea flour or rice flour substitutes for polenta.
Among the other ingredients you can usually find in the bustrengo are welcome to breadcrumbs, honey, dried fruit, citrus fruits, and apples. The presence of apples is not a constant, but it occurs frequently.

The version of bustrengo with some cocoa and spices is recent.

It is a sweet that, when cooked, has the consistency of a bread cake.
Before cooking, recalls a soft polenta and, not by chance, once was cooked in a copper pot.

There are also savory versions of bustrengo with grated Parmigiano and rice.

Bustrengo cake of Romagna

Nonna Sara’s Bustrengo cake recipe

Grandma Sara used to make it by eye. There are no written notes about bustrengo cake that indicate the ingredients or even the quantities. And it could not be otherwise because she prepared it by opening the pantry and using what was available.

She put all the ingredients on the table and, usually, did not even weigh them.

In a bowl, she combined the dry ingredients and, stirring, added the milk, forming a soft polenta where she then added lemon zest, raisins, and nuts. And apples. Grandma used to add in grated apples not cut into small pieces.

To make the cake, I did as Grandma would have done.
I opened the pantry, grabbed the ingredients, and laid everything out on the table.
But, differently from nonna, I weighed each ingredient so you could make this cake.

As is often the case with poor flours, corn, chestnuts, or chickpeas, processing calls for water or oil. Butter was too expensive for the poor farmers.

Last note on honey. Spread honey with a brush on the surface of the warm cake, and let cool before cutting.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

On the blog, you will also find the recipe (HERE) for Castagnaccio cake, known as the bread of the poor. Another sweet of the peasant tradition, made with little sugar, chestnut flour, and water.

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Bustrengo cake of Romagna

Bustrengo cake

A sweet pantry staple recipe from the peasant tradition of Romagna.
Course Cupboard cakes
Cuisine Romagnola
Keyword cornmeal
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 47 minutes
Servings 6 serves


  • 18 cm diameter baking pan


  • 50 g of raisins
  • 100 g of cornmeal
  • 75 g of potato starch or all-purpose flour
  • 50 g of breadcrumbs
  • 50 g of brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 35 g olive oil
  • 1 grated apple
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 500 ml milk
  • 2 tablespoons of honey


  • Soak the raisins in a cup of warm water for 5 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C degrees (356 F).
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, potato starch, breadcrumbs, sugar, and salt.
  • Add egg, oil, lemon zest and juice, and grated apple.
  • Stirring, pour in the milk until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. It seems almost like a batter.
  • Drain the raisins, pat dry with kitchen paper, pour into the mixture, and stir.
  • Grease the mold and pour in the mixture. Bake for about 50 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, brush the surface with honey, and let cool before slicing.
  • Store the leftovers for some days out of the refrigerator.

Bustrengo cake of Romagna

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