Torta della Nonna

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It’s delicious!

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!My, what a delicious cake you make, Grandma!  Literally translated as “Grandmother’s cake,” the Torta della Nonna is a classic Italian dessert.  It’s rustic in the best way possible.  Like many Italian recipes, it’s simple to make.  But don’t let its’ simplicity fool you – a slice of Torta della Nonna is a delicious way to end the day!

Over the years, my wife and I have had the chance to travel to Italy several times.  Each time, we have come away even more enamored by this wonderful country.  You see, I have this strange obsession with Roman history.  I find the Roman empire to be absolutely fascinating – both its rise and its fall.  On our trips, I’ve drug Laura through more Roman ruins than she would care to admit.  And guess what?  There are more ruins to be seen!  Somewhere Laura just groaned.  I heard it.

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!I do my best to keep the ruins to a minimum, and Laura obligingly puts up with my strange passions.  Another passion that we both share?  Italian food and wine.  We joke that we ate our way across Italy years ago on our honeymoon.  We had more pizza, pasta and Italian bread dipped in olive oil than I can count.  But splurging a bit is the point of vacation, right?

Years ago, we were staying at a small hotel in Anacapri (on the upscale island of Capri).  We were sitting on the back terrace enjoying a cappuccino (or two) and flaky croissants.  I went back up to get another croissant, and that’s when I discovered one stuffed with vanilla custard.  I had no idea such a thing existed!  And clearly it made a lasting impact on me as I still remember that croissant 10 years later!

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!Torta della Nonna

After much googling and a few failed attempts in the kitchen, I figured out that the vanilla custard was essentially an Italian pastry cream.  It was light with a noticeable vanilla flavor, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve eaten it with a spoon.  So what’s the connection between that croissant and this Torta della Nonna?  Well, the Torta della Nonna is stuffed with a delicious Italian pastry cream.  I need to try my hand at making croissants again and stuffing them with this same pastry cream.  I’m fairly certain they will take me back to that hotel in Anacapri!

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!As noted above, the Torta della Nonna is a simple recipe, but the flavors are absolutely delicious.  Pair this with an espresso, a glass of wine or perhaps a sip of vin santo.  That’s my kind of way to end a meal!  While ‘torta’ translates to ‘cake,’ this dessert is more of a pie.  However, this double-crusted pie isn’t like a traditional pie you might find in the States.  The crust is of a shortbread variety, and it’s lightly flavored with lemon zest.  The filling…well, we’ve already covered the filling.  It’s delicious!

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!If you’re looking for a tasty Italian dessert recipe, then try your hand at the much beloved Torta della Nonna.  I particularly enjoy trying new recipes, and this one has earned a spot in my list of favorites.  I hope it lands on your list of favorites, too!  Cheers!

Did you make this Torta della Nonna at home?  Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog).  I’d love to see your version!

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!

Torta della Nonna

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 slices
Calories: 478kcal

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter cold
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lemon

For the Filling

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk divided
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon

For Topping

  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

For the Crust

  • Using a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt; pulse until well combined.
  • Cut butter into small cubes and add to the food processor; pulse until a crumbly mixture forms.
  • Add egg, egg yolks and lemon zest; pulse until dough comes together in a ball.
  • Flatten dough into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Note: Dough can be made the day before and refrigerated overnight.)

For the Filling

  • Using a medium heatproof bowl, add egg yolks, flour and sugar; whisk until well combined.
  • Add ¼ cup of milk; whisk until well combined. Set mixture aside.
  • Pour remaining milk (1¾ cups) until small saucepan. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest; stir until well combined.
  • Place saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
  • Once simmering, slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly while you pour.
  • Return mixture to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Continue cooking for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
  • Pour/press mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl; press plastic wrap to the surface of the custard. Let custard cool to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Remove pastry dough from refrigerator and divide into 3 equal pieces. Working on a well-floured surface, combine two of the pieces of dough and roll into a 12” circle.
  • Transfer/press dough into a 10” tart pan with removable bottom.
  • Transfer custard into tart pan.
  • Roll remaining piece of dough into a 10” circle and place on top of custard. Pinch top and bottom pieces of dough together and pinch off any excess.
  • Rinse the pine nuts in cold water. Sprinkle dampened pine nuts on top of the tart, pressing lightly with hand so that they stick to the dough.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, tent with foil and then continue baking for 10-12 more minutes, or until tart is golden brown.
  • Let tart cool to room temperature. Dust top lightly with powdered sugar before slicing and serving.

Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust.  It's delicious!

Looking for other Italian dessert recipes?  Check out some of these other favorites:

Featuring layers of white cake brushed with coffee and a hint of rum, this Tiramisu Cake is a new favorite in our house!Tiramisu Cake

These Italian Almond Cookies are packed with almond and citrus flavor!  With a light, chewy texture, these tasty cookies pair well with a glass dessert wine.  Cheers!Italian Almond Cookies

This classic Italian desserts takes a delicious twist with the addition of chopped Hazelnuts and Baci!  Chocolate Hazelnut Tiramisu is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays...or any day!Chocolate Hazelnut Tiramisu

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21 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oooh, this torta della nonna looks amazing with all that custard! Never thought to add lemon zest to the base… what a great idea! And lucky you for having traveled to Italy many times — again, on my bucket list to do one day…!

    1. The little touch of lemon zest makes such a huge difference here, Michelle! I don’t know what it is, but I always crave citrus around this time of the year. I suspect it’s the winter blues. Whatever the reason, I can say that this dessert was a tasty one for sure!

  2. 5 stars
    YESSSSS you’ve got too many of my favorite things in one dessert here David! (This happens quite frequently with the delicious desserts you create!). Wow, talk about one stunning cake. I can almost taste that delicious pastry cream. And a pine nut topping??? It seriously doesn’t get any more addicting. Yum!

    1. I love baking desserts! I’m with ya on this recipe, Shannon – the pastry cream is absolutely delicious, and I might’ve stolen a spoonful before it went into the final version. Oops. 🙂

  3. And what a wonderful cake this is, David. By the way, since like me you love ruins, check out Darius Arya. He’s based in Rome and does some fascinating work. A great presenter. He might even convert Laura…

    1. Darius Arya? I’m not familiar with him, but I’m opening a browser tab right now as a reminder to check him out a bit later. He’ll have a tall task to convert Laura, but maybe…just maybe… Thanks for the recommendation, Frank!

    1. 5 minutes daydreaming? That’s 5 minutes you could’ve spent making this dessert, Jeff…and then you would be that much closer to actually taking a bite! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    David! It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Italy, but torta della nonna is something I have been wanting to make ever since! You’re so right. simple + delicious is the best thing about it. It definitely has the della nonna vibe!

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice to travel back to Italy and get a slice of torta della nonna over there?? One day…one day… In the meantime, though, make this one at home! We really enjoyed this dessert – even Robbie nibbled on a piece, and he’s one of the pickiest eaters ever!

  5. 5 stars
    I seem to come across your recipes in Pinterest when I’m doing my recipe research at the weekends David and I saw this one and thought “wow delicious that’s getting pinned”! For as long as we can’t travel at least I can imagine myself being in Italy with this!

    1. Haha – funny how that works, right? I really appreciate you pinning and sharing this recipe, Neil! The lack of travel right now is really wearing me down…especially combined with the blanket of snow outside that’s been there for, oh, the last 2 months. One day, though. One day. 🙂 In the meantime, this dessert will totally channel Italian vibes into your house!

  6. 5 stars
    Oh, how I would love to go to Italy one day!! Until that time, I can always pretend I’m there through food and this dessert looks like the best place to start. It looks seriously good, David! Love how creamy it is and that cookie-like crust – oh, and the lemon! Oh my! Wish I had a slice for breakfast with a coffee. Now, that’s the way to start a Monday 😉

    1. One day we’ll get to travel again… In the meantime, though, this dessert totally deserves a spot on the menu. It would indeed be a great way to start a Monday. (Unfortunately, it’s all gone here. Guess I need to make another one!) Hope your Monday goes well, Dawn!

    1. You and me both, Marissa! This dessert totally gave us a good excuse to relive our Italy adventures. One day we’ll be able to travel again…one day… In the meantime, though, a good torta della nonna will have to do!

    1. Haha – thanks, Raymund! Not gonna lie – as soon as these pictures were taken, I scraped up that custard with a fork and had a little snack. 🙂

  7. Oh my goodness! Desserts like this torta della nonna are my weakness! I’m so glad you happened on that croissant stuffed with vanilla custard that lead you to this! Because THIS, my friend, is a thing of beauty! Last Friday, Lil S and I went to a French bakery called Collett’s (I used to work with the owner at another cafe during my college years) and we had a “tropezienne” which was like a brioche bun filled with bavarian cream (I think) and your torta della nonna is reminding me of that adventure! I so wish I had a slice of this to go with my coffee right now! Simply stunning!

    1. I remember you talking about your days working in a bakery! That must have been fun to stop by Collett’s. I’ve never heard of a tropezienne, but clearly I need to become acquainted as it sounds amazing. And, yes, a good mug of coffee makes everything better! 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    what a wonderful looking dessert. We are such fans of lemon and I love the pine nut and powdered sugar topping. We have a Nonna who makes amazing desserts.

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