5 Ingredients or Fewer

Torta Sbrisolona (Crumbly Cake)

January 31, 2018
2 Ratings
Photo by Liliana
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Torta Sbrisolona is a humble, traditional little cake originating from the city of Mantua, Northern Italy. As with many classic recipes, it was created from cucina povera (kitchens of the poor) with inexpensive ingredients. Originally a mix of hazelnuts, lard and cornflour, it was a delicious cake-like, unsweetened treat (sugar was a rare commodity to poor families). It became so popular it was even served to families of nobility. More expensive ingredients such as almonds, sugar and butter were then introduced to create a sweeter, richer version. The texture, however, remained the same. Crunchy, crumbly, almost cookie-like.

The classic way to make this cake is to mix everything by hand, ensuring the mix remains ‘crumbly’. I have made it both by hand and using a food processor (I like to speed up the process if I can) and both methods have given me similar results. —Liliana

What You'll Need
  • 130 grams almond meal
  • 130 grams caster sugar
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 130 grams polenta
  • finely grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 130 grams butter, room temperature, diced
  • icing sugar ( for dusting )
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C fan forced).
  2. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Put the almond meal, sugar, plain flour, polenta and lemon rind into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. If you don’t own a food processor just throw it all into a large bowl and give it a good stir.
  4. Add the egg yolks and diced butter and pulse until the mixture forms a crumbly dough. If doing this by hand, mix with a spatula (or use your hands).
  5. Tip the crumbly mixture out into your prepared cake tin. Smooth and press down with your hands to level the top. Once baked, the cake’s texture will end up being more or less crumbly depending on how much you compact it. I like to be able to slice the end result, so I really pack it in.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and firm. Remove and allow to sit for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Make sure you turn it out onto something flat or the base may bend and crack.
  7. Once cool, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Starmade
  • AntoniaJames
  • Liliana
I am an author, cook, traveller and proud Mama of two boys. I have published three books - 'Easy Home Cooking Italian Style', 'Food for Sharing Italian Style', and 'The Sweet Life - Easy Home Baking and Sweet Treats.' My books reflect my Italian heritage. I also write fiction and feature articles.

7 Reviews

Starmade February 2, 2018
I see butter in the instructions but not the ingredients; can you tell us how much? I'm intrigued by the concept and would love to taste it.
Liliana February 2, 2018
Hi there
I am so sorry the ingredient wasn't listed. I have been having some issues when posting recipes where information seems to disappear. I have contacted Food52 to find out why this is happening. I have edited the recipe. The amount if butter is 130g, room temperature, diced. It's a beautiful simple recipe - I hope you enjoy it!
Starmade February 2, 2018
thanks - I do see the butter now. I will definitely try it. I've found sometimes I don't see revisions to my own recipes right away but they appear if I just wait a few hours or overnight.
Liliana February 2, 2018
Thanks again. Have you ever noticed ingredients mysteriously disappearing? I have just double checked all my recipes and had to edit quite a few. I am very pedantic when I type them in so I'm concerned as to why they seem to disappear. Have you had a similar experience? I am relatively new to the site.
Starmade February 2, 2018
I've often noticed missing ingredients too, especially in the early days of publishing recipes here, though always wondered if I just forgot to add something or accidentally deleted it. Often I would notice it days or weeks later. Regardless, now I am more careful when I enter a recipe to publish, proofread, edit, publish, proofread, edit again. Sometimes I KNOW I've carefully readded something and it doesn't appear in the published version - that is when waiting a few hours or a day helps.
AntoniaJames February 2, 2018
Lovely! Thank you for posting this. I look forward to trying it. ;o)
Liliana February 2, 2018
Thanks Antonia. It is quite unusual in texture. The first time I made it I expected it to be 'softer', but it's very deliciously chewy. Let me know how you go!