Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Famous Torta Barozzi (recipe & video included)

It all started with a really cute, wonderfully sappy movie my husband and I watched years ago called "Just Desserts," starring Lauren Holly and Costas Mandylor. It was both a love story and a foodie film about two pastry chefs who teamed up for the Golden Whisk Dessert Competition and its $250,000 prize.

But the real star of the show was the dessert they made: the famous Torta Barozzi.

What makes it so famous? The recipe -- which was actually truly invented in real life by an Italian baker, Eugenio Gollini, back in 1897 and named after native son, Jacopo Barozzi (a famous Renaissance architect who designed the spiral staircase) -- contained some very hush-hush, secret ingredients. The recipe was then handed down from generation to generation.

Even though today we pretty much know the basic ingredients of this much-heralded cake, the original recipe, the ingredients' proportions, and the baking methods are still top secret, making the authentic Torta Barozzi available only at the family bakery in Vignola, Italy (just outside Modena).

As fate would have it, about seven years ago, my husband and I were going on a trip to Italy that would serendipitously take us straight through that town.

"Could we please, please, PLEASE stop and get some real Torta Barozzi at the Pasticceria Gollini while we're there?" I implored my husband.

Since I would be accommodating him by spending a day at the Ferrari Museum, I felt that was the least he could do for me! (Don't you agree?)

"Sure, honey," he said, half paying attention to me.

So I was very careful -- and very adamant -- to remind him of his promise as we wound our way through the back roads and roundabouts (i.e., notorious circles of roads that leave you both dizzy and exasperated) of Vignola on our way to Venice.

Many wrong turns and false directions later (we later learned there is both a Gollini FACTORY and a Gollini BAKERY), we finally arrived!

I walked straight into the bakery...tired, hot, and sweaty, but with the anticipation of a giddy child.

"Un pezzo di Torta Barozzi, ti prego," I said with a smile to the two nice ladies behind the counter. (Translated: "One slice of Torta Barozzi, if you please.")

Sorry about this fuzzy shot; my hands were trembling with anticipation!

I then took my treasured slice and went outside to sit on a bench. I took one bite, then another, and finally finished it all, cherishing every last crumb of that sinfully delicious cake.

When I returned back home to Cleveland, I was thrilled to find a copycat recipe online, which (although I know is not the original) comes pretty damn close.

The cake is not fancy. And it's not elaborate. But it's truly, genuinely delectable.

So for all you pastry lovers out there who particularly appreciate dense, flourless cakes made of rich, dark chocolate like I do, this one's for you!
(Note: Be sure to watch the video below for easy step-by-step instructions. Also, some important points before you begin. Be sure to use only high-quality chocolate; beat the sugar and egg yolks very well; do not overbeat the egg whites; and most importantly, do not overbake the cake. It should still be moist and a bit wet when a skewer is inserted into the center. As Mary Ann says, "This cake delivers every taste sensation of a moist, fudgy texture, punctuated with the crunchiness of ground almonds and a meringue-like top.")

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito

Unsweetened cocoa
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted on a cookie sheet for 4 minutes in a 350-degree oven
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rum or orange liquor, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (not commercial balsamic vinegar used for salads, but the much more expensive, artisinal version)
1/4 cup coffee
2 tablespoons powdered sugar or almond-flavored powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with butter or cooking spray. Dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess, and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside.
  3. Grind the toasted almonds to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.
  4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over hot water.
  5. Beat the yolks and sugar until lemon colored and very fluffy. Stir in the almonds, chocolate mixture, rum, and coffee. Set aside.
  6. Beat the whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Carefully run a knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.
  8. Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the powdered sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.
  9. Cut into thin wedges to serve.

Make the recipe,
then post a pic at


Cleveland Friends of Ballet Magnificat! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Oh, my! I feel like I have a key to a treasure! I have little experience in baking, none beyond basic brownies, cakes and cookies; yet, I'm up to the challenge. I think I'm going to give this a go. I'm too curious and not going to italy anytime soon, lol! Nice deal you made your husband. Prego!

Maria Isabella said...

You shouldn't have any trouble making this, Charlene. And the rewards are oh-so-worth-it! Let me know what you think when you take that first bite...

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the movie, Just Desserts. I never get tired looking at it, and I've often wondered what barozzi tastes like. It looks quite complicated, and I'm not sure I have the patience or the zip to tackle it. But it sure looks and sounds delicious.
Another chocoholic,
Marsha Hubler, author

Anonymous said...

I am watching the same movie. I googled "torta barozzi" to see if it was real, and ended up here! :)

Question: What kind of coffee? American or espresso?

Molte grazie!

Maria Isabella said...

I am so sorry for this extremely tardy response, Anonymous! Frankly, you can use either kind of coffee. Obviously, espresso will give you a much stronger taste. It all depends on how you and your guests like it. Let me know how it turns out!