Sbrisolona is a traditional dessert from Mantua, a city in Lombardy. The word “sbrisolona” comes from the Italian verb “sbriciolare,” which means to crumble or break into pieces (in the Mantuan dialect, “brisa” means “crumb”).
True to its name, sbrisolona has a crumbly texture and a rich, buttery flavor that make it a favorite treat across Italy.
Although there are many variations of sbrisolona, the authentic recipe has been passed down for generations and remains a cherished part of Mantua’s culinary tradition.
Made with simple ingredients such as “00” flour, cornmeal, sugar, butter and almonds, sbrisolona is a testament to the beauty of simplicity in cooking.
Almonds are the key ingredient of this dessert. According to tradition, they must be in their skins and roughly chopped. This gives the cake its rustic, crunchy appearance.
Sbrisolona is a simple and very quick recipe that, according to tradition, is made by mixing and then crumbling all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands. The mixture is then poured into a cake pan and baked in the oven.
The classic Torta Sbrisolona must be thin, with a rustic look and crumbly. It must be SO crumbly that it’s impossible to cut it; it’s better to break it with your hands, as is the tradition.
In this article, we will delve into the authentic Italian recipe for sbrisolona cake, exploring the history and cultural significance of this beloved dessert, as well as the techniques and ingredients needed to make it at home.
Whether you are an experienced pastry chef or new to the world of Italian cuisine, this recipe will guide you through the process of creating a delicious sbrisolona cake that will transport your taste buds straight to Lombardy!
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How to Make Authentic Sbrisolona Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 Min
- Cook Time: 40 Min
- Servings: 4
Doses for a 20 cm (8 inch) baking pan
- 100 g (1 cup) of “00” flour
- 100 g ( 3/4 cup) fine polenta or cornmeal
- 1 egg yolk
- 100 g (1 cup) of raw whole almonds
- 100 g (1 stick) of unsulted butter
- 1 medium organic lemon
- 3 g (3/4 teaspoon) of vanillina or 1 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100 g ( 1/2 cup) of granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon for decoration
- a pinch of salt
Step 1) – On a cutting board, chop the almonds coarsely with a knife. Keep about 6-8 whole for decoration. Set aside.
Step 2) – Pour the “00” flour and cornmeal into a large bowl.
Step 3) – Now add the chopped almonds. Then add the sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Finally, mix the ingredients so that all the dried ingredients are well combined.
Step 4) – At this point, add the grated zest of one medium organic lemon and the egg yolk.
Be careful to grate only the superficial yellow part. The white rind underneath can make the dough bitter.
Step 5) – Now add the cold butter. It’s best to use your hands at this step to better knead all the ingredients together.
Start crumbling with your hands to create a coarse crumbly dough.
Step 6) – You should get a dough that is NOT compact but crumbles easily.
Let’s put the dough in a 20 cm (8 inch) baking pan with the bottom lined with baking paper. Spread it out evenly, leveling it a bit but not compacting it too much.
Step 7) – Decorate the top with a handful of whole almonds and a tablespoon of sugar.
Step 8) – Bake in a preheated, ventilated oven at 180°C (356°F) for about 35-40 minutes. The cake should be nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.
Transfer the Sbrisolona cake to a serving plate and serve by breaking it with your hands, as is the Mantuan tradition!
How to Store Sbrisolona
You can store Sbrisolona at room temperature for about 10-12 days, preferably wrapped tightly in cling film or under a cake dome.
You can also freeze it for up to 2 months. Either already baked or with the raw dough already prepared.
How to Serve Sbrisolona Cake
Sbrisolona is a very simple cake with a delicate taste, suitable for any occasion.
It’s ideal for breakfast with coffee or cappuccino. But also as a snack with orange juice or a cup of tea.
If you serve it as a dessert, you can give it a more refined look by combining it with a small bowl of cream to dip it in, or by placing a spoonful of cream on the plate next to the slice of Sbrisolona cake. For example, Crema Pasticcera, Zabaglione cream or the more delicate Diplomat Cream.
It’s possible, with the same method, to make mini versions of the Sbrisolona cake. So you can make small single-portion using special molds of about 8 cm (about 3 inch). Big Sbrisolona cookies in short!
Some Tips and Tricks for the Best Torta Sbrisolona
As we said, this is a very simple cake to make, but there are still some important tricks to observe in order to get the authentic great result.
Can I Use Blanched Almonds?
The authentic recipe for Sbrisolona cake requires the almonds to be in their skins. Therefore, do not use blanched almonds, but only raw whole almonds with their skins.
They must also not be finely ground, but only coarsely chopped.
Both of these characteristics give the cake a rustic look and a crunchy texture. Many people actually use whole almonds.
Can I Use Room Temperature Butter?
The butter must be cold. You must work it with your fingertips, trying to mix it well with the flours, but without heating it too much, as is the case with Italian sweet shortcrust pastry.
If the butter melts too much and the dough is not sandy, put it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then crumble it into the pan.
If you want a very crumbly Sbrisolona, increase the baking time by 5-6 minutes in the lower part of the oven.
Cover with aluminum foil to prevent the surface from browning too much and burning the almonds on top.
Torta Sbrisolona Variants
We have given you the classic version of the Sbrisolona cake. A very simple recipe in which the scent and taste of almonds are the undisputed protagonists.
Like all ancient and homemade popular recipes, this one has spread in many variations and every family has its own recipe and secret.
For example, in ancient times, lard, which was readily available, was used instead of butter. Today, the version with butter prevails, or you can opt for a half dose of lard and half of butter.
Sbrisolona with Hazelnuts
If you prefer, you can use hazelnuts instead of almonds.
In fact, it seems that the oldest version of Sbrisolona was the one with hazelnuts, but later the version with almonds became widespread and popular.
Sbrisolona with Rum
The Sbrisolona cake can also be flavored in different ways, according to taste.
For example, you can use orange zest instead of lemon zest, or a few drops of rum instead of the vanilla.
Sbrisolona with Nutella
In addition, you can enrich the recipe and create filled versions.
For example, if you want to make Sbrisolona with chocolate (Nutella), just put half of the dough in the baking pan, make a layer of Nutella and cover with the rest of the dough.
You can make Sbrisolona with jam or custard in the same way.
Sbrisolona with Apples
Sbrisolona can also be filled with fresh fruit. Apples and thinly sliced berries are the most suitable.
There is also a savory version of Sbrisolona.
The preparation and the ingredients are the same. The only difference is that instead of sugar, you add 150 g ( 3 / 5 cup) of grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Savory Sbrisolona is perfect as an appetizer with cold cuts, cheese or grilled vegetables.
The History of Sbrisolona Cake
Torta Sbrisolona has a very special history, which has its roots in the 16th century.
Its origins are linked to the peasant world, but what made this preparation aristocratic was its entry into the court of the Gonzaga family, one of the most famous families of the Italian Renaissance.
The ancient recipe of sbrisolona only required the use of corn flour and hazelnuts, combined with lard. These were the typical ingredients of the peasant diet, which allowed a simple but very nutritious preparation.
It was ideal to have enough energy to work in the fields in the morning.
In addition to being very filling, this dessert could be kept for a long time, and its remarkable popularity is mainly due to this aspect.
From Popular Cuisine to the Gonzaga Court
Despite its humble origins, Torta Sbrisolona became an example of haute patisserie at the Gonzaga court.
This success was due to the intervention of Bartolomeo Stefani, a cook at the ducal court.
He modified and sweetened the basic recipe. In particular, he replaced the hazelnuts with almonds and enriched the dough with vanilla, sugar and lemon.
Bartolomeo Stefani attracted the attention of the Gonzaga family, who began to consider the dessert a true delicacy.
Over time, butter replaced lard, which was considered unworthy of the aristocratic table! Later, the yellow flour (cormeal) was mixed with white flour.