Tuscan Torta Della Nonna Recipe

Torta della nonna may mean "grandmother's cake," but recipe developer Julie Kinnaird of Norr Table did not learn how to make this dish from her grandmother. Nor did she learn it in Tuscany, for that matter. Instead, she tells us that "as a young pastry chef, this dessert was one of my first assignments at Franco's Trattoria in Scottsdale, Arizona." Still, she did have the opportunity to travel to Tuscany at a later date, something that she says "allowed me to taste multiple iterations of the torte and refine my recipe."

One way in which Kinnaird's recipe differs from the traditional Tuscan one is that she likes to use orange liqueur instead of the typical lemon flavoring. As she sees it, "the pairing of orange with the vanilla and pine nuts is especially nice and a bit unexpected." She does say, though, that you can make a booze-free version by substituting a teaspoon of orange extract for the liqueur or else swapping it out for an equal amount of orange juice in combination with ½ teaspoon of orange zest.

Kinnaird admits that making this Tuscan-style torta della nonna "requires a bit of planning and time," but she feels that the end results are well worth the effort. She also notes that you can make both the dough and the filling the day before you put the torte together.

Gather the ingredients for the Tuscan torta della nonna

While this torte requires a bit of effort, the ingredients list isn't overly lengthy, nor is anything on it too hard to come by. The filling is made from milk, eggs, granulated sugar, flour, orange liqueur, and vanilla. Additional ingredients required for the shell include baking powder, salt, and butter, while you'll be topping the torte with pine nuts and confectioner's sugar.

Make the torte filling

Beat 4 egg yolks with ⅓ cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons flour until they thicken and the mixture looks pale yellow. Bring the milk to a simmer, then add it to the sugar and egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking as you do so. (You may need some dexterity to pull this part off.) Cook the mixture over low heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Cook it for another minute, continuing to stir — turn the heat down a bit if necessary, though, to keep the pan from boiling over. 

Take the filling off the heat and stir in the orange liqueur along with 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Pour it into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap down onto the surface. The reason for doing so, Kinnaird explains, is "to prevent a skin from forming while [the filling is] cooling and liquid is evaporating." Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Make the torte crust

Mix the rest of the flour and granulated sugar with the baking powder and salt. Add a few chunks of butter and beat them in, then keep adding the butter bit by bit until it's all been incorporated and you have a crumb-like mixture. Beat the whole egg, then add it to the butter mixture along with the remaining vanilla. Beat everything together until all of the ingredients form themselves into a dough.

Once you have your dough, pull it into two roughly even parts, then wrap each segment in plastic wrap. Put the dough into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble the torte

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch round pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper. Crumble one of the dough segments over the bottom, then pat the crust down until it covers the bottom of the pan and extends ½ inch up its sides.

Pour the filling into the crust, but don't let it reach all the way to the sides of the crust. Instead, leave a ½-inch border around the edges. Take the unused chunk of dough and roll it out into a 10-inch circle, then use this top crust to cover the filling. Crimp the edges shut to seal the torte. You should have one egg yolk left, so beat this together with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the mixture over the top of the torte. Cut some slits in the top crust so steam can get out as the torte cooks, then sprinkle the pine nuts over the top.

Bake and cool the torte

Bake the torte for 30 to 35 minutes. Once it's done, it will look golden brown. Let the cake pan sit on a rack undisturbed for 30 minutes to cool, then flip the pan over to remove the torte. Kinnaird suggests inverting it onto a plate or a second rack, then flipping it back over onto the original rack. Let it finish cooling all the way (this may take another 30 minutes), then sprinkle the confectioner's sugar over the top.

According to Kinnaird, "The torte is delicious served at room temperature or chilled." She also says you can eat it all on its own or else accompany it with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries. It will be good in the fridge for about 5 days, although you should keep it sealed in an airtight container for maximum shelf life.

Tuscan Torta Della Nonna Recipe
5 from 55 ratings
Torta della nonna - aka Grandmother's cake - is a Tuscan treat that contrasts a creamy custard filling with crisp, buttery pine nuts.
Prep Time
Cook Time
torte with powdered sugar topping
Total time: 4 hours
  • For the filling
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the torte shell and assembly
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar, for dusting
  1. To prepare the filling, heat the milk in a medium saucepan until it starts to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Place a medium glass bowl on a kitchen towel or mat to prevent slipping. Add the egg yolks, sugar, and flour to the bowl. Whisk until thick and pale yellow in color.
  3. Gradually add the hot milk to the egg mixture in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly.
  4. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Simmer and stir for one minute longer.
  5. Remove the pan from heat and add the orange liqueur and vanilla extract. Scrape the filling into a heat-proof bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and refrigerate until chilled (at least 2 hours, or overnight).
  6. To prepare the torte, coat the inside of a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
  7. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Add the small pieces of butter, a few at a time, with the mixer running on low until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until a dough forms.
  8. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  10. Crumble and press one half of the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and ½-inch up the sides. Spread the chilled filling over the center of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.
  11. Use a rolling pin to roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and carefully place it over the filling.
  12. Press the edges of the dough together to seal.
  13. Brush the top of the torte with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Use the tip of a sharp knife to make a few small slits in the dough to allow steam to escape while baking.
  14. Sprinkle the pine nuts evenly over the top.
  15. Bake the torta della nonna for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes.
  16. Invert the torte onto a plate or another rack, then back onto the first rack to cool completely.
  17. Dust the cooled torte with confectioner's sugar. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut into 8 slices. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Calories per Serving 389
Total Fat 17.5 g
Saturated Fat 9.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 166.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 49.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Total Sugars 27.1 g
Sodium 147.9 mg
Protein 6.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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