Torta Tenerina


This is another recipe that came about by chance and had me searching the internet – I had no luck finding a recipe for Tenerina cake in my books, despite having over 200 cookery books on my shelves! A couple of weeks ago my daughter-in-law had a birthday party at Ruben’s Refettorio and they had made a wonderful chocolate cake for her that was brought out after we’d eaten our pizzas, complete with lit candle for her to blow out and wish upon. The cake was wonderful – made by Igor’s wife, Lucy – and I’d never tasted such a light and delicate and fabulously chocolatey cake. Then a day or two later, my friend Lucia told me she’d been at .IT Wine Bar the previous evening and they’d made a Tenerina cake. Not knowing what this was, I searched the internet and pretty quickly decided this was the sort of cake we’d had at Ruben’s. I was keen to try making it myself.

A Torta Tenerina comes from Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna in the north of Italy. It was invented in 1900 for King Vittorio Emanuele III’s wife, Elena. It’s a wonderful soft cake: a light crust on the outside and incredibly light – and tender – within. Tenerina comes from the Italian word tenero, meaning tender; the -ina ending making it ‘very’ tender. It’s similar to a very light chocolate brownie – but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a brownie this light and soft.

It’s simple to make: melt 200g dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care to not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. When it has melted, slowly 125g butter which you’ve cut into pieces, and stir to melt the butter and combine. Leave to cool.


Now beat together 2 egg yolks with 100g caster sugar until thick and pale. Add the chocolate and butter mixture along with 1 tablespoon plain flour, beating well.


Whisk 2 egg whites with a pinch of salt until you reach the stiff peak stage. Add this to the chocolate mixture spoonful by spoonful, very carefully mixing in with a cutting motion to retain as much air as you can. Pour the mixture into a prepared 24cm cake tin which you’ve greased and lined the bottom of with parchment paper. Put the cake into a 180C/160 Fan oven for 25-30 minutes.


When it’s done it will have risen slightly – it’s quite a shallow cake – and there should be a slight crust but it will still feel wobbly. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in it, with the door ajar, to cool. Then remove it and transfer to a rack. Dust over some icing sugar and transfer to a plate.


I served it with a little creme fraiche and a few raspberries.


The cake was delicious and its delicacy makes it really special. It’s very rich and quite sweet so I liked having the slightly tart creme fraiche and raspberries to cut through the richness a bit. I was really pleased with my first attempt but felt I’d overcooked it slightly by about 5 minutes. When I checked it at 25 minutes it still seemed so wobbly still I didn’t think it was done and put the timer on for another 10 minutes. But actually, it was probably OK and left to cool in the oven would have be fine once served. Thus, although it was very light and very good it wasn’t quite as soft as I remember Lucy’s. But then I also have the perfect excuse to make it again soon in my search for perfection!!

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

4 thoughts on “Torta Tenerina

  1. So, I’m reading along… interested in the tenerina that you were talking about when… wait… daughter-in-law? What is she? Five? You totally don’t look like you are old enough to have a daughter-in-law!!
    Such an elegant dessert, don’t you think? I would think so…since it was created for Queen Elena.. I love to know the history of food. I must try this. I have so many recipes that I planned to try this weekend, but this one might have to be moved to the top of the list..

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