Torta tenerina is an indulgent thin chocolate Italian cake recipe with a tender, moist heart and crunchy outside. It is extremely easy to make with just a few ingredients and is a perfect gluten-free dessert.
This rich chocolate cake goes so well with a cup of espresso, tea, or some dessert wine. For example, a glass of Vin Santo or a glass of Passito di Pantelleria. A favorite of mine is Donnafugata `Ben Ryé`. Also, try this Italian almond biscotti with an eggnog flavor, they are perfect to dip into the Vin Santo.
Torta tenerina is popular back in Italy and is one of the best-loved recipes by kids and grown up. I am sure you will love it as much as we do. It is incredibly versatile for every occasion from an indulgent breakfast, snack, or as an after-dinner dessert.
A little history of Torta tenerina recipe
Tenerina is an Italian word that means tender meanwhile torta means cake. It has been created in Ferrara, a beautiful city in the Emilia Romagna region, from an act of love by Vittorio Emanuele III. Rumour has it that Vittorio Emanuele III was madly in love with Elena Petrovich of Montenegro, a haughty-looking young woman, but was, in reality, a sweet and tender princess. With this intention, this dessert recalls her features.
In another version, the origin of the torta tenerina finds the birth of a woman in Ferrara, around the ’60. Apparently, she created this dessert to finish all the leftover chocolate eggs from Easter.
Note: The traditional recipe calls for dusting the top with icing sugar but I used cocoa powder to be more indulgent. Have your choice! 😊
You may wonder that this is remarkably similar to the brownies. However, they are extremely different. Brownies have plain flour, oil, butter, sugar, and cocoa powder and the eggs are beaten whole. While torta tenerina cake has no flour, no oil, and no yeast and uses sugar, melted butter, and dark chocolate which gives more richness and moisture to the cake. Also, the eggs are separate: yolks and egg whites are whipped separately to lift the patty during the baking time giving that beautiful cracking look on top.
Torta tenerina ingredients
In this recipe, we will just need 7 ingredients. All of them are extremely cheap and largely available in every store. Let's make this luscious torta tenerina.
- Chocolate - choose good dark chocolate not lower than 70% of cocoa.
- Butter - use unsalted butter.
- Sugar - caster sugar works better for the cake, as it dissolves better into the egg yolks.
- Eggs - medium room temperature eggs, free-range or organic where possible.
- Vanilla - try to use the seed of the vanilla pod instead of the essence. The pie will thank you.
- Starch - use cornstarch to thicken the batter.
- Salt - enhances the flavor.
Step-by-step for a moist torta tenerina
1. Preheats the fan oven to 170°C, 350°F, 4 Gas Mark. Melt the butter and the chocolate using a double boiler or the bain-marie* method on lower heat. Once is all melted, remove the bowl and set it aside to cool down. Stir often.
*Note: for the Torta tenerina it is important to use a medium heatproof bowl over a small saucepan. Fill the smaller pan with water making sure that the water will touch the bowl. The steam will do the trick.
2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
3. Add the egg yolks, vanilla seeds, and sugar to a stand mixer. Whip on medium speed until the sugar is dissolved, and the batter is thick and pale. Whip the egg whites on medium speed until are soft peaks.
4. Fold carefully the melted chocolate in the whipped yolks until all combined with a spatula. Add the whipped egg whites, one spoon at a time into the chocolate mixture, and fold carefully with a spatula.
5. Add the salt, and the cornstarch previously stiffed, to the chocolate batter, and fold gently.
6. Pour the chocolate batter into a tin, previously greased with butter and covered with baking paper. Level up the batter with the back of the spoon and bake for 25 minutes*. The cake is ready when the toothpick insert in the middle comes slightly wet with crumbs on it and the top is slightly cracking. Once cooled off, dust the top with cocoa powder.
*Note: as every oven is different the baking time may vary. In the event of this, I advise you to check if the tenerina is ready after 25 minutes and to look for the signs.
Tips for a perfect torta tenerina cake recipe
Even if this cake is super-duper easy to make there are some points you need to pay attention, to create a perfect torta tenerina.
- Stiff the corn starch - always stiff the corn starch to obtain a silky and clump-free dessert.
- Baking time - the baking time is quite crucial, as you don’t want to overbake the cake and be left with some brick-looking pie. For this reason, I suggest you check it after 25 minutes by placing a toothpick in the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes slightly wet it is a sign that is ready. Another sign that the cake is ready: the top is starting to become dry and slightly cracking.
- Cool down the melted chocolate - this is an important step as will allow the eggs to fold better into the batter. For this matter, I have listed this step first so it will have enough time to cool down.
- Use the best quality dark chocolate you can find - the chocolate is the main ingredient here. To get the best results is important to choose the best quality.
- Not do a proper bain-marie - this step is crucial. The chocolate and the butter must not go in contact with water as that will split the chocolate. Given that, I suggest you use a smaller saucepan and a bigger heatproof bowl. Furthermore, the bowl must not touch the water to obtain a silky-looking melted chocolate.
Torta tenerina variation/ suggestion
This dessert is delicious to eat on its own, however, there are a few ideas to turn your cake into something special. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve my torta tenerina.
Toppings - Serve a slice with whipping cream along with some freshly chopped fruits. More topping ideas such as cream Chantilly, mascarpone cream, Italian pastry cream, or melted chocolate with some chopped roasted nuts. Also, a favorite of mine is serving tenerina with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It will make a great after-dinner dessert.
Flavoring - You can add 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the melted chocolate. The coffee will enrich the taste of chocolate. Also, add a zest of an orange to the yolks and sugar before starting to beat it. Make sure to use unwaxed orange as it will be bitter otherwise.
Grown-up dessert - Add a splash, such as 10 gr, of your favorite liquor once the torta tenerina is out of the oven and still warm. My choice would be Bourbon, Rum, or any sweet wine.
Layer dessert - If you want to serve it as a birthday pie why not bake two torta tenerina? Spread on top of one tenerina a layer of your favorite jam or cream and place the other one on top. Add a final touch with a dust of cocoa powder. My favorite jam to spread on it: is orange, apricot, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or cherry.
San Valentine's dessert - looking for a special way to serve a dessert to your sweetheart? Add 1 teaspoon of chili powder to the batter and serve it with some mascarpone cream. If you like spicy food try my favorite spaghetti arrabbiata, it will make a delicious main course followed by my torta tenerina recipe.
Ingredients replace - In case you don't find the corn starch it can easily replace with potato starch in equal amounts.
Torta tenerina is quite delicate and to maintain that beautiful cracking pattern on top of the cake it shouldn't turn over. Otherwise, it will break. Use a 20 cm Ø spring-form pan as it will be much easier to remove the tenerina without breaking it.
Use a double boiler or small saucepan and a medium heatproof bowl to melt the chocolate properly. I like to use my Pyrex for this method. In case you don't own a heatproof bowl you can easily use a small saucepan and a slightly bigger saucepan where will place the chocolate and butter.
Baking paper for lining the base and the side of the springform pan. To keep the baking paper in place grease the pan with butter all over and then line the baking paper on it.
Frequently asked questions about the tenerina cake recipe
Yes, you can certainly double-batch it by baking it in two different pans, not in one pan. The reason is that it will not bake unevenly in the center. Also, the tenerina is meant to be a thin cake.
Bain-marie is a gentle heating technique useful to melt or keeps warm the food. It is ideal to use for melting delicate ingredients such as chocolate. It uses a pan or a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over a small pot filled with a few inches of water. Remember that the water in the small pot shouldn't touch the pan or the bowl.
Store the dessert in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or at room temperature for up to 3 days on a plate covered with some kitchen roll.
Yes, of course, place the slices of the pie into an airtight container and freezer for up to 3 months. Remove the slice from the freezer and let defrost it at room temperature, once need it.
Absolutely, it can be made in advance. It will taste better the next day as it will have time to settle down.
The authentic torta tenerina recipe is meant to be a thin cake, for this matter it doesn't use any raising agent. However, the small rise is given by the whipped white eggs, which is why is so important to fold them carefully into the batter mix from the bottom to the top.
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Torta tenerina recipe
- 1 Small saucepan and a Medium Bowl for the bain-marie
- 1 Stand Mixer alternatively, it can be done even with hand electric mixer
- 1 Baking paper foil
- 1 Cake tin 20 cm Ø springform
- 1 Spatula to fold the ingredients
- 200 gr dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa chopped in chunks
- 100 gr unsalted butter cut it into chunks
- 4 medium eggs at room temperature
- 1 pod vanilla seed
- 150 gr caster sugar
- 35 gr stiffed cornstarch
- 1 pinch salt for me Maldon salt
- 2 teaspoon cocoa powder
- Preheat the fan oven to 170°C, 350°F, 4 Gas Mark. Grease the tin and cover it with baking paper.
- Melt the chocolate and the butter in the bain-marie method*. Simmer at a lower heat until the mixture is melted. Stir often and set aside once done to cool it off.
- Separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Add the egg yolk, vanilla seeds, and sugar in a stand mixture. Whip on medium speed until the mixture is thick and pale.
- Whip the egg white in a stand mixer on medium speed until soft peaks.
- Fold carefully, the melted chocolate mixture in the whipped yolks with a spatula. Once is well combined, start adding a spoon at the time the whipped egg whites and carefully fold from the bottom to the top.
- Add the salt, and the cornstarch one spoon at a time in the batter and again fold gently until well combined.
- Pour the batter into the tin, level up the mixture with the back of the spoon, and bake for 25 minutes*. The cake is ready when the top is dry and slightly cracking, and the toothpick comes slightly wet.
- Once cooled off, remove it from the tin and dust the top with some cocoa powder.