Bringing the best Food & Wine for you

The Porcini Time
Stacks Image 457

It’s easy to be lazy about making cakes in Italy; the bars and pasticcerias always have a tantalizing selection on display, and the coffee bars are generally buzzing with locals having their morning espresso and brioche, or tourists treating themselves to a torta di frutta and cappuccino.

However, one of the culinary experts on our course,
A Taste of Tuscan Arts is medieval historian and creative cook, Ilaria Sabbatini, who loves baking cakes!
Her husband, professional photographer Marcantonio Lunardi made this video of
Ilaria’s Cake – her version of a torta Mantovana.


1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
170 g. sugar
170 g. flour
150 g. butter
1/2 vanilla bean
1 pinch of salt
1 apple

Whip the egg in a bowl, and add the egg yolks a little at a time.
Add the sugar, mixing well, then a pinch of salt and the seeds of half a vanilla bean. (You can beat the vanilla, or you can remove the seeds with a utility knife). The natural vanilla is better but you can also use a sachet of vanilla powder.
Whip the mixture until you have a uniform texture.
Sift the flour and add a little at a time.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the melted butter to the mixture.
Grease a cake tin and sprinkle with flour.
Pour the mixture into the tin.
Wash and peel the apple then cut into thin slices.
Arrange the apple slices on the mixture without pressing.
If required you can also add a few pine nuts.
Bake in an oven at 200 ° for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar

This simple recipe dates from the nineteenth century, where some say it originated in Prato after two nuns from Mantua gave it to a local baker as a ‘thank you’ for his hospitality. Others look to the book, Science in the Kitchen & The Art of Eating Well, by Pelegrino Artusi. His book had a profound influence on Italian home cooking and has been in print continuously since 1894.
Stacks Image 458
Artusi, a passionate cook and celebrated host spent his youth in Bologna and then moved to Florence where he lived until 1911. Perhaps he took a version of this recipe with him from Mantova.

Whatever the history of this recipe, the cake is fun to make - you can experiment with various fillings – and is a delicious standby for that special occasion.

Stacks Image 459
Written by