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Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s cake), a traditional Italian recipe

Torta della Nonna cake recipe

Torta della Nonna, or grandma’s cake, is a classic traditional Italian dessert much loved and made everywhere from north to south.

But at home, it was not a recurring cake.

Torta della Nonna cake recipe

Recipes are maps that tell the story of family “geography”

Recipes are like that. They follow their own path, knocking on some doors, not all. Sometimes they stop, and sometimes they are just passing through, destined to slip out of the pages of the family cookbook.

The history of every family is also composed of a dense plot of recipes that tell family trees, ties, and encounters.

And so, like my grandma before me, I often make shortcrust pastry and custard but had never baked a Torta della Nonna until a friend called me and asked for help with a Sunday lunch dessert. She would like a Grandma’s Cake.

Miss Oriella, home cook of Romagna

I have to call Oriella.
She is a Romagna cook who has known a thousand lives. In fact, she worked in many different kitchens until she landed on her own. And she must have hit it off well because she hasn’t moved from there.

I call her on a Saturday morning, sure to find her at home making something good. There is only one time when you can’t call her unless you want to hear terrible things. It happens when Beautiful is on television. And, of course, on Thursday mornings, when she goes to the market.

I call her asking for the Torta della Nonna recipe.

After a moment of silence, she says, “Don’t you know how to cook anymore? You know your grandmother’s custard, the best one? You make that, then shortcrust pastry and toast pine nuts. I didn’t understand what you would from me.”

Oriella is a sincere and straightforward Romagnola. And indeed, I realize that, perhaps, more than the recipe, I was looking for a familiar reference point to delve into unfamiliar territory. And I found it.

I start with Grandma Sara’s pastry cream, scented with the grated lemon ring, to give a hint of freshness to this dessert that is a little tart and a little bit dessert that I will make more often from now on.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

Custard is one of my favorite desserts. Use it to fill other desserts but don’t forget that you can serve it in individual cups with fresh fruit or chocolate sprinkles. If you are looking for a tested recipe and tips, HERE is my home recipe. I use custard for many sweet preparations: cream and fig tart (HERE, find the recipe); Zuppa Inglese, raviole cookies (HERE) and lemon pie with blueberry cream (HERE)

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Torta della Nonna recipe

Food tip

Pass butter over the surface of the hot cream to prevent it from forming the coating that creates lumps. Or spread plastic film over the surface.

Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s cake) recipe

serves 6
round baking pan, diameter 20 cm
List of the Ingredients

Shortcrust pastry
170 g flour
100 g butter, cold from the refrigerator
100 g icing sugar
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

Custard cream
100g sugar
50g flour
4 yolks
500 ml milk
grated lemon peel


Shortcrust pastry

In a bowl mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add egg and cold, chopped butter.
Knead quickly with your fingertips so as not to overheat the butter.

When the dough is well blended, wrap in plastic film and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pastry cream

In a saucepan, mix sugar and egg yolks with a whisk. Add grated lemon zest and flour.

Stir again and pour milk in a trickle, stirring with a whisk to avoid lumps.

Place mixture over medium low heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly (especially along the edges of the pan).

When the cream starts to thicken, stir for another minute. Then turn off and remove the pan from the stove.

Let cool.

And now make Torta della Nonna.

Roll out the shortcrust pastry thinly between two sheets of baking paper using a rolling pin.

Arrange the shortcrust pastry in the baking pan lined with parchment paper, prick the bottom with the tines of a fork, add the custard and finally the pan-toasted pine nuts.

If the shortcrust pastry seems soft, refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes before baking in preheated oven at 180C degrees for about 40 minutes.

Let cool out of the oven before serving the cake dusted with powdered sugar.

Torta della Nonna recipe

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