My mini version of “Torta della nonna”, an Italian traditional sweet

Torta della nonna” or Grandma’s cake – it may be because of its reassuring name, which tastes of good and genuine that grandma’s cake is still a must today!

Torta della nonna is a timeless classic and an inevitable dessert on traditional tables, a perfect cake for Sunday lunch and not only.

Torta della nonna, mini tarts (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

This cake, with only a few but very tasty ingredients, has origins in Tuscany. In his memoirs Pellegrino Artusi, an Italian businessman and writer, best known as the author of the cookbook: La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, speaks of it as a “pleasant mess, a poor pastry” from which a “dessert with pine nuts and custard” is obtained.

One of the most accredited theses, which transfers the origin from Arezzo to Florence, wants the dessert to have been invented by the Florentine chef Guido Samorini. This, challenged by his patrons to invent a dessert different from those traditional, combined a shortcrust pastry with pine nuts and custard, immediately finding great success.

There are at least two versions of the grandmother’s cake: one open, which includes the pastry base and the cream directly garnished with pine nuts and icing sugar and the closed one, with a double layer of pastry one on the bottom and one on top and the custard in the center.

Torta della nonna, mini tarts (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

And because I’m never able to follow a recipe, I have adapted a little bit this Italian classic sweet and I’ve done a pâte sucrée (sweet dough) instead of shortcrust pastry with some small changes and I’ve kept it open but covered with a few strips of pastry.

Just some months ago I’ve always had difficulties in making my own pastry but after my first ever baking classes, I’m more confident so I’ve tried the sweet dough (pâte sucrée) that we’ve learned at the baking classes and the result I must admit was perfection for me.

Torta della nonna, mini tarts (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

Pâté SucréeWhat is it?

Pâte sucrée is a dough made from flour (starch and / or dried fruit and / or cocoa), fat, sugar and liquids, usually egg whites, or milk or water and it is of French origin. In fact, in France, pâté sucrée is much more used than shortcrust pastry. 

So pâté sucrée is a sweet and crumbly French pastry dough that is used to make classic French dessert tarts such as fruit tarts which often includes a layer of crème pâtissière or known as pastry cream.

This sweet dough (pâte sucrée) is a no-fuss tart pastry, a super versatile pastry that can be used with all of your favourite fruity or creamy fillings.

My mini version of “Torta della nonna”, an Italian traditional sweet
Torta della nonna is a timeless classic and an inevitable dessert on traditional tables, a perfect cake for Sunday lunch and not only.
Check out this recipe

What is the difference between pâté sucrée and shortcrust pastry?

Pâté sucrée is denser and stronger than shortcrust pastry and it doesn’t absorb much moisture after being baked. Perfect with fruits or creamy fillings that could release water or moisture!

Usually torta della nonna is a normal big tart, but because we’re only in 2 and I wanted to share it with my colleagues and neighbours, I wanted a smaller version of it so I’ve done mini tarts of 9 cm each (3.5 inches).

Never miss a recipe:

Now let’s start some baking:

INGREDIENTS for 6 mini tarts of  9 cm each (3.5 inches)

For the Sweet Dough (Pâté Sucrée) 

  • 115g unsalted Butter cut in small cubes
  • 200g flour
  • 50g sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2g salt 
  • 1 lemon zest
Torta della nonna, mini tarts – Pâté Sucrée ingredients (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

For the pastry cream:

  • 1/2 liter of milk
  • 75 g of flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 75 g of sugar
  • 1 lemon peel
Torta della nonna, mini tarts – Pastry cream ingredients (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

For decoration:

  • 30 g of pine nuts
  • icing sugar 

DIRECTIONS:

Sweet Dough (Pâté Sucrée) 

Using your finger tips rub the butter into flour, sugar and salt until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Work it as quick as you can otherwise the butter will get softer.

Add the egg and the lemon zest and mix with your fingers until just combined. Compress it with your hands to form a dough. 

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, 1 hour. 

Tips: Depending on the size of the egg, if the dough is too soft you may need to add a little bit of flour or if is too hard you may need to add a little bit of cold water. 

Pastry cream

Put the milk in a saucepan and add the lemon peel. When the milk is hot, remove it from the heat and remove the lemon peel.

In the meantime, put the yolks in a bowl, add the sugar and mix with a whisk until light in color. Sift the flour, gradually add it to the mixture of yolks and sugar and mix carefully until completely homogenous.

Gradually pour the warm milk over the mixture and mix with a whisk until smooth. Put the liquid mixture obtained back in the pan and boil the cream on low heat for about 10 minutes or until you get a creamy composition (if you have a food thermometer, the temperature of the final cream should be 82°C). It is very important to stir the cream continuously during boiling, in order to get a silky cream, without lumps.

Once ready pour the cream into a bowl and immediately cover the surface of the cream with food-grade plastic wrap (the foil is placed directly over the cream).

Let the cream cool completely.

Tips: Cover the surface of the cream immediately once ready with food-grade plastic wrap placing the foil directly over the cream in order to avoid the crust formation on top of it.

Assembly: 

Once both your pastry and cream are completely cooled, cut the pastry in 7 parts, 6 equal in size for the tarts and one bigger for the strips. One at the time roll out each part to have a thickness of about 4mm (a bit over 1/8 inch) and line the moulds previously greased and poke some holes with a fork. 

The 7th part keep it for the strips that goes on top of the cream.

Take the cream and add it into the moulds.

Take the remaining pastry, always roll it out to a thickness of 4mm, then cut into strips.

Apply the strips to the surface of the tarts and add the pine nuts.

This is the open version of the grandmother’s cake, if you want to prepare the more classic one instead of making strips of pastry, with the leftover pastry roll out a disk (smaller than the one previously obtained) and cover the surface, making sure to seal the edge well, then, as before, cover the entire surface with the pine nuts.

Bake in a static oven at 200°C for 30-40 minutes. 

Leave it to cool completely and, before serving, sprinkle the surface of torta della nonna with icing sugar.

Tips: To prevent the pine nuts from burning during cooking, soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes. For an easier life and manageability, I’ve used 3.5 inches mini tart pans with removable bottom.

So here are my mini tarts torta della nonna Italian sweets.

Torta della nonna, mini tarts (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)
Torta della nonna, mini tarts (Photo credit: Popsicle Society)

Enjoy it!

My mini version of “Torta della nonna”, an Italian traditional sweet

Torta della nonna is a timeless classic and an inevitable dessert on traditional tables, a perfect cake for Sunday lunch and not only.
Prep Time 50 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Resting Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

For the Sweet Dough (Pâté Sucrée):

  • 115 g Unsalted Butter cut in small cubes
  • 200 g Flour
  • 50 g Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 pinches Salt
  • 1 lemon zest

For the pastry cream:

  • ½ l Milk
  • 75 g Flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 75 g Sugar
  • 1 lemon peel

For decoration:

  • 30 g Pine nuts
  • Icing sugar

Instructions
 

Sweet Dough (Pâté Sucrée) 

  • Using your finger tips rub the butter into flour, sugar and salt until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Work it as quick as you can otherwise the butter will get softer.
  • Add the egg and the lemon zest and mix with your fingers until just combined. Compress it with your hands to form a dough. 
    Making Pâté Sucrée sweet dough
  • Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, 1 hour. 
    Pâté Sucrée sweet dough

Pastry cream

  • Put the milk in a saucepan and add the lemon peel. When the milk is hot, remove it from the heat and remove the lemon peel.
    Milk with lemon peel
  • In the meantime, put the yolks in a bowl, add the sugar and mix with a whisk until light in color. Sift the flour, gradually add it to the mixture of yolks and sugar and mix carefully until completely homogenous.
    Making pastry cream
  • Gradually pour the warm milk over the mixture and mix with a whisk until smooth. Put the liquid mixture obtained back in the pan and boil the cream on low heat for about 10 minutes or until you get a creamy composition (if you have a food thermometer, the temperature of the final cream should be 82°C). It is very important to stir the cream continuously during boiling, in order to get a silky cream, without lumps.
    Making pastry cream
  • Once ready pour the cream into a bowl and immediately cover the surface of the cream with food-grade plastic wrap (the foil is placed directly over the cream).
    Let the cream cool completely.
    Pastry cream covered with cling film

Assembly: 

  • Once both your pastry and cream are completely cooled, cut the pastry in 7 parts, 6 equal in size for the tarts and one bigger for the strips. One at the time roll out each part to have a thickness of about 4mm (a bit over 1/8 inch) and line the moulds previously greased and poke some holes with a fork. 
    The 7th part keep it for the strips that goes on top of the cream.
  • Take the cream and add it into the moulds.
  • Take the remaining pastry, always roll it out to a thickness of 4mm, then cut into strips.
  • Apply the strips to the surface of the tarts and add the pine nuts.
  • Bake in a static oven at 200°C for 30-40 minutes. 
  • Leave it to cool completely and, before serving, sprinkle the surface of torta della nonna with icing sugar.

Notes

Tips:
  1. Depending on the size of the egg, if the dough is too soft you may need to add a little bit of flour or if is too hard you may need to add a little bit of cold water. 
  2. Cover the surface of the cream immediately once ready with food-grade plastic wrap placing the foil directly over the cream in order to avoid the crust formation on top of it.
  3. To prevent the pine nuts from burning during cooking, soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes.
  4. For an easier life and manageability, I’ve used 3.5 inches mini tart pans with removable bottom.
Keyword mini tarts with cream, torta della nonna

It may take a little longer to do them but are absolutely delicious.

That crumbly crust tart goes perfectly well with the cream and the toasted pine nuts.

Wish you all a wonderful weekend!

And if you’re in the mood for some other easy but delicious homemade sweets, you may like also:

Happy baking! And always remember to have fun in the kitchen!

Popsicle Society
Popsicle Society

I love traveling, cooking and enjoying this beautiful world. 
I’m a life lover! Simple as that!

70 thoughts

  1. You explain it so simply and straight-forward that I feel like I would be able to make it, even though this recipe looks complicated. My mouth is watering… I want to try this! 😋

      1. I am not sure where to get those mini pastry pans from, so I might have to settle for a regular-sized one. I do plan on making this dessert one day, minus the pine nuts/tree nuts (my husband is allergic). This dessert closely resembles pie which he is a fan of 🙂

      2. I bought them online but I guess can find them in any store that has kitchen & baking utensils 😘 but the regular sized one is just perfect as well 😉 I’m sorry to hear that he’s allergic to pine nuts! It will be delicious also with the cream and the pastry only ☺️😋

    1. Thank you very much Suni! I’m glad you like it! Not always easy to take step by step pictures especially when I’m with my hands in the dough 😆 but I try my best ☺️😉

    1. Thank you very much Rory! Very appreciated! Honestly thinking about it! Maybe not from a stall for now but at least starting from home! Project under consideration for now 😉☺️ you know how Singapore is…better check all the rules before starting something 😉

  2. 😍😍yummy yummy, I should try this biscuit. I’ve tried the one with wheat floor. oops wheat flour 😜 We started to.make cakes, and cakes are coming good 😸😁 good that we have improved… gotta try one of your dishes soon…

      1. Why🙄😳 Here comes something heavy targeting my head… Cake was made by Nisha and her brother…😂 I am the one that had tasted, I still did a part of tasting 😋😁 Yes we do enjoy eating and baking 😍🥰

  3. You can tell you went to a baking class. These look so professional again and I love that tip with the rolling pin. I will try that next time when I am making pastry

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