Almond Cake alla Mantovana
Torta Mantovana

serves: 8 servings

This traditional almond cake is named for the historic city of Mantova (perhaps better known to most English speakers as Mantua, the city to which Romeo is exiled in Romeo and Juliet). The torta is delightful equally for dessert and for breakfast. In the evening, I like to serve it with poached fruit (prunes poached in rum are perfect) and a dollop of whipped cream. Of course, I make sure there's some left over, so I can enjoy it again in the morning, with my caffè.

ingredients
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1⅓ sticks softened butter, plus more for the cake pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3½ ounces whole blanched almonds, toasted
1¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons milk

recommended equipment
Standing electric mixer with the paddle attachment;

directions


Arrange a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, add the bread crumbs, and swirl them around to coat the insides well, tapping out the excess. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse the almonds in a food-processor bowl until finely ground but not pasty, about twelve quick pulses. In the mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Drop in the egg and yolks, one at a time, mixing well on medium speed, then scraping down the bowl. Once all the eggs are in, add the lemon zest and almond extract, and beat on high speed for a minute or so, until very light.

On low speed, spoon in half the flour mix, and beat just to incorporate. Beat in the milk, then the remaining flour mix. Scrape the bowl, and beat briefly until smooth. Finally, mix in the ground almonds for a few seconds to distribute them evenly through the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it in an even layer.

Bake the torta for about 1 hour, rotating the pan after 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and dry (it's okay if a few moist crumbs stick to it). Let the cake cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan with a paring knife, then open the spring and remove the side ring.

Cool the cake thoroughly before serving. Wrap well to keep fresh for 2 to 3 days. (In the morning, I like to warm a slice of torta to enjoy with my cappuccino.)