Culinary Institute of America Recipe
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Torta Della Nonna Con Pignoli

Grandma’s Cake with Pine Nuts

This dessert is quite popular all over Italy, and has been duplicated to the point that the commercially produced version has given a bad reputation to this wonderful and delicate dessert. The difference between them lies in the flavor of a fresh pastry cream flavored with lemon zest and pine nuts baked into the top layer. You will have about 16 ounces of dough left over, which may be used for cookies or for another tart.

From The Culinary Institute of America's cookbook, Italian Cooking at Home.

Torta della Nonna con pignoli dessert recipe by The Culinary Institute of America




Makes 1 cake, serves 8

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp lemon zest


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp almond flour (finely ground almonds)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp water, as needed, plus 1 tbsp


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or as needed to cover the cake
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for serving



  1. To make the filling, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Add the flour.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk, and then gradually add the milk to the egg-flour mixture, making sure it is well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, and remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Cool the cream on top of a bed of ice or in the refrigerator, covering the top directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.


  1. To make the dough, use a pastry cutter or two table knives to cut the butter into the flour, sugar, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest, working just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in 2 of the eggs and the vanilla, and knead gently until a workable dough forms; if necessary, add the 1 teaspoon water. Divide the dough into 3 pieces (two should be about 16 ounces each, and the third should be 12 ounces; reserve one of the 16-ounce pieces in the refrigerator or freezer for cookies or a tart).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Butter a 10- or 11-inch round springform pan. Press or roll one of the 16-ounce pieces of dough to fit into the pan. Spoon the filling into the tart shell, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the remaining dough piece into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Lay this over the filling and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.
  5. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash. Use a fork to make several slits on the top. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and bake until golden and the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before dusting with confectioners’ sugar, slicing, and serving.

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