Bologna, where I live is best know for its egg pasta and its many salt cured pork specialities, but when Paul asked me to kick off his new recipe posts with something local I thought I’d do something that most people will be able to make at home – not everyone has a pasta machine but everyone has an oven, and the ingredients for this ultra-delicious chocolate and almond cake are easy to find. And yes, it’s gluten free!
This verrrrrry rich low rise cake – don’t even think about the calorie count, OK? – is called Torta Barozzi or Barozzi Cake. It was invented in 1907 by Eugenio Gollini, and dedicated to the architect Jacopo Barozzi (1507-1573), who is known as “Il Vignola”. The recipe remained secret for many years, but the original is still served and sold at the Pasticceria Gollini under the Portico of Via Garibaldi in Vignola, near Modena, in the traditional rectangular packaging.
Yes, all this chocolate goes in!
Modena lies 39 kilometres west of Bologna and in the town of Ferrara, 44 kilometres to Bologna’s north, they make a very similar but not identical sweet which is called “La Tenerina” or “the little tender one”. The two cakes look very similar but taste a little different as the Tenerina has a little flour in it and no almonds. The Ferrara cake is better known and more popular in Bologna, perhaps because of an old rivalry between Modena and Bologna over who exactly first invented Tortellini!
I prefer the Torta Barozzi so that is the recipe I am sharing with you today. Make it – you can, it’s pretty straightforward! I whisked everything by hand because my best baker friend says that’s best but you can use an electric handwisk as we always do on my cooking classes!
Torta Barozzi – Modena Chocolate Almond Cake (for 8 persons)
100g almonds, a few bitter almonds if you can get them, 80g butter, 250g of 70% cocoa dark chocolate, 4 eggs, 150g sugar
Optional (I have given up using these, I really can’t see what they add to the final result!): 2 tbsp. Rum, 3 teaspoons of instant coffee powder
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a rectangular or 22 cm round container with butter and flour or with dampened and wrung out parchment paper.
- Toast the almonds very very slowly on top of the stove in a dry pan, or in the oven – they aren’t ready until they are toasted and dry all the way through to the middle and giving off a wonderful almond aroma.
- Leave to cool, grind the almonds with 50g of the sugar in a coffee mill or mini food processor), to a fairly fine powder – this is your “almond flour”.
- Melt the chocolate in a pan placed over a second pan of hot water (bagno maria – water bath) without letting it cook or fry. Let it cool to lukewarm.
- Separate the eggs and reserve the whites. Whisk the yolks with the rest of the sugar till the sugar has dissolved and the mix is pale and creamy. By hand is best but an electric whisk will do!
- Add the toasted almond “flour” first, then incorporate the melted butter, and then the melted chocolate. If using the optional ingredients, add the instant coffee last together with the Rum.
- Whisk the eggs to stiff peaks then gently and patiently fold together the thick chocolate mixture and the whisked egg whites. The final cake batter should be thick but pourable, not loose and liquid at all.
This why they call flexible spatula spoons “the miser’s tongue” in German!
- Pour the cake batter into the baking container – it should be no higher than the width of two fingers.
- Bake at 180° for 30 minutes and test for doneness with a toothpick. Lightly flecked is good and the Torta Barozzi should have a pale and dry thin crust resting lightly on a dark moist and tender, even slightly gooey centre.
- Turn out from the tin and leave to cool. Wrap in foil if not using at once, and serve cut into little squares or diamonds – this cake is rich, a little goes a long way!
- I like to sprinkle the finished squares with icing sugar and to decorate with red berries – raspberries, strawberries, woodland strawberries. When they are out of season I use Bologna sour cherries in syrup instead.