Torta della Nonna (literally Grandmother’s Cake in Italian) is a classic treat of the Italian pastry tradition! A simple and healthy dessert of incomparable goodness!
The authentic Torta della Nonna recipe is made with a sweet shortcrust pastry case filled with pastry cream, topped with pine nuts and finally dusted with powdered sugar!
Imagine the mouthwatering contrast of the double texture: crumbly on the outside and creamy on the inside. A pure delight!
The name of this cake, Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake), immediately calls to mind Sunday family lunches and fresh, wholesome ingredients.
This Italian custard tart recipe is a perfect dessert for important occasions but also for your children’s snack because it’s healthy and nutritious.
Torta della Nonna is a simple and delicious Italian tart, suitable for those who want to make a rustic but refined dessert. Few common ingredients make it special and delicious, thanks to their balanced mix.
We don’t know the reason for its name, but we like to imagine that it was invented by an Italian grandmother with lots of love.
Follow our step-by-step recipe and you’ll make a delicious and authentic Italian Torta della Nonna!
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How to Make Torta della Nonna Recipe: Ingredients
- Prep Time: 30 Min + about 40 minutes to cool in the refrigerator both the sweet shortcrust pastry (pasta frolla) and the pastry cream.
- Cook Time: 45 Min
- Servings: 6
These are the doses for about 500 g (1,1 pound) of Pasta Frolla for a tart pan of about 22 cm ( 9 inch) in diameter.
For the Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Shortcrust Pastry):
- 250 g (2 cups) of all purpose flour + more for the working surface
- 100 g (1/2 cup) of granulated sugar
- 120 g (1 stick) of unsalted cold butter
- 1 whole medium egg at room temperature
- 1 medium egg yolk at room temperature
- 1/6 teaspoon of fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- grated zest of half a lemon
For the Pastry Cream
- 4 medium egg yolks
- 100 g (1/2 cup) of granulated sugar
- 40 g (1/3 cup) of all purpose flour
- 500 ml (2 cups) of whole fresh milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean or zest of half lemon
- 80 g (2,8 oz) of pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons of powered sugar
Torta della Nonna recipe is basically made of two main preparations: sweet shortcrust pastry and pastry cream.
You can make these recipes the day before as the shortcrust pastry must be rolled out when it’s cold, so the longer it stays in the refrigerator the better.
Pastry cream must also be cold, so it can be stored in the fridge.
That said, lat’s see first thing first how to make shortcrust pastry, then how to make pastry cream.
How to Make Pasta frolla For Torta della Nonna Recipe
Step 1) – Place the flour on a work surface and make a hole in the center. Pour the sugar, lemon zest (optional), salt and eggs at room temperature.
Step 2) – Mix then add the cold butter. Knead quickly until the dough is homogeneous and non-sticky.
Step 3) – Form a loaf, cover it with cling film and let it cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
For more details, tips, methods and informations about Italian shortcrust pastry/pasta frolla, read our more detailed recipe: Pasta Frolla Recipe (Italian Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)
How to Make Pastry Cream for Torta della Nonna Recipe
Step 1) – In a saucepan mix the egg yolks with the sugar, using a wooden spoon. Then add the sifted flour a little bit at a time.
Step 2) – Keep stirring for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is blended. Then set aside.
Step 3) – Heat the milk and bring it almost to a boil. Then remove it from the heat and start pouring slowly into the mixture of sugar, eggs and flour.
It’s very important to mix constantly. Put on low heat and cook, always stirring, for another 3-4 minutes.
Step 4) – When the cream is well thickened, immediately pour it into a bowl. Cover the cream with cling film and let it cool in the fridge. To shorten the cooling time, you can place the bowl with the cream into another bowl full of ice.
For more details, tips, information and variants about Crema Pasticcera, read our more detailed recipe: Italian Pastry Cream Recipe.
How to Make Torta della Nonna (Italian Grandma’s Cake)
Step 1) – Prepare a round baking pan covered with baking paper. For these doses we used a tart pan of about 22 cm ( 9 inch)
Let’s remove the shortcrust pastry loaf from the refrigerator and divide it into two parts. One part a little larger than the other (about 2/3 – 1/3 ).
Flour a pastry board and roll out the larger piece of dough with a rolling pin until it is about 4 mm (1/6 inch) thick.
Store the smaller dough wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
Step 2) – Arrange the rolled out shortcrust pastry on the cake pan.
With a knife, or by pressing the edge of the cake pan with a rolling pin, remove the excess dough. This is the base of your custard tart.
Prick the bottom with a fork so it does not puff up during baking.
Step 3) – Now take the pastry cream set aside and mix it to make it creamy all over again.
Pour it into the pastry case. Finally level it with a spoon to spread it evenly.
Step 4) – Retrieve the remaining shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator. Roll it out with a rolling pin to create another disc of pastry of the same thickness. Then place it on top of the custard.
As before, discard the excess pastry and use your fingers to seal the edges of the tart.. Then gently prick the surface with a fork, again to keep it from puffing up during baking.
Bake and Serve
Step 5) – Sprinkle the entire surface of the tart with the pine nuts.
Bake in a static oven at 170°C (338°F) for about 45 minutes, until the pine nuts are well toasted.
Step 6) – Once finished baking, let the tart cool. Top with plenty of powdered sugar before serving.
Here is your Torta della Nonna, with a crumbly shell and a creamy heart!
Although Grandma’s pie contains custard, it can be stored at room temperature because the pastry cream was baked.
Actually, we do not recommend storing it in the refrigerator because the pastry would lose its crispness and the custard would solidify too much.
However, in summer, when it is very hot, it is better to store it in cool places.
This cake will keep up to 3-4 days, possibly covered by a glass cake dome, at room temperature.
Torta della Nonna: Some Variants
The version of Torta della Nonna that we have shown you is the authentic and original one, made from two layers of shortcrust pastry with pastry cream in the center.
However, there is a version of Italian Grandma’s Cake made only with a pastry case, filled with custard. Finally, pine nuts and powdered sugar are placed on top directly over the crema pasticcera.
La Torta del Nonno
There is also a variant with chocolate shortcrust pastry and almonds instead of pine nuts on top, which someone playfully called La Torta del Nonno (The Grandfather’s Cake)!
The Real Feature of Torta della Nonna: The Pine Nuts
Pasta Frolla and Pastry Cream are a classic in the Italian confectionary industry.
The real specialty of Torta della Nonna are the pine nuts that give the pie its characteristic flavor and aroma.
Without pine nuts this cake would be nothing more than an ordinary tart with custard.
Pine nuts are widely used in Italian cuisine because they add flavor, aroma and crispiness to many dishes, both sweet and savory.
These delicious seeds, which grow in the pine cone of a particular species of pine tree, are now very common on the tables of Italian families.
Pine nuts are rich in nutritional properties and particularly energetic.
When making Torta della Nonna, pine nuts are added raw. During cooking, the pine nuts are toasted.
They become golden and crunchy and give off an unmistakable scent similar to that of roasted hazelnuts.
This is what makes Torta della Nonna special and gives it its distinctive and unique flavor!
Torta della Nonna: Origins
Torta della Nonna is a traditional dessert from Tuscany.
Arezzo and Florence dispute the origins of this cake.
Florentines claim that the creation of this cake came about as a bet by chef and restaurateur Guido Samorini.
In his restaurant called “San Lorenzo,” some customers were tired of the few desserts that the typical cuisine offered and asked him for a surprise for the following week.
The chef then presented the customers with his new creation, simple but really tasty, which they liked very much.
The other version, probably more reliable, attributes the birth of the recipe to the city of Arezzo in the late 1800s.
Testifying to this is Pellegrino Artusi, who mentions it in his work “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” (“Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”) a brief excerpt of which we quote:
“Ho trovato la torta di pinoli e crema pasticcera un piacevole pasticcio, un semplice pasticcino….”
(“I found the pine nut and custard tart a pleasant pasty, a simple pastry…”)
Grandma’s Cake web story