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
Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Once cool, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.
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.