Torta della nonna, the charmingly named 'Grandma's cake,' is a popular Italian dessert that is
traditionally from Tuscany but can found in every region of Italy. There are as many variations of
this cake as their are Italian grandmas. Some are filled with a vanilla custard, others have a
ricotta cheese filling; some have a top crust, others do not. But it is fairly common for the cake
to be flavored with lemon and to have pine nuts on the top and sometimes in the filling as well.
This dessert is much better a day or two after it's baked. It is served cold with a dusting of
Pasta Frolla (Tart Crust):
1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
To make the crust:
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food
processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter; pulse until the
mixture begins to look like cornmeal. Add the egg and extract. Pulse just
until the mixture begins to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and
flatten into a disk. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the filling:
In a bowl, whisk together all of the filling ingredients until well combined.
To assemble the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an 8 or 9-inch fluted-edge tart pan with a removable bottom.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle about 10-12 inches in
diameter. Don't be concerned if the dough rips or cracks; it repairs very
easily. Place the dough in the tart pan; gently press to cover the bottom and
sides. Use your thumb to remove excess dough around the edge of the tart
Pour the filling evenly into the crust; smooth the top. Sprinkle the pine nuts
over the filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes, just until the center is firm and
doesn't wiggle when you shake the pan. Remove from the oven and allow to
rest for 15-20 minutes. Remove the edge ring of the tart pan and cool the tart
completely; refrigerate until serving. To serve, dust the top of the cake with
confectioners' sugar and cut into wedges.