How to make the Italian Caprese torta, the cake made by accident

— Season 3 of Cook like and Italian with Silvia Colloca airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on SBS Food, or stream it for free via SBS on Demand —

There’s a scrumptious chocolate-almond cake celebrated by the Italians of Naples for a serendipitous reason: its creation was a mistake.

The torta caprese, one of Italy’s most delicious desserts, is also considered “one of the happiest mistakes in history” (“uno dei pasticci più fortunati della storia”).

According to the story, the traditional torta from the Isle of Capri was first made by accident in the 1920s when a baker forgot to add flour to an almond cake. The result was a fluffy flourless cake with a rich chocolate flavor. A similar but much more controversial version of this story is that a woman from the Isle of Capri accidentally baked the cake for gangsters. She got so nervous baking a cake for the criminals that she forgot to add the flour.

Of course, no one knows if this story is actually true. Another competing account attributes the invention of the cake to Neapolitan chefs whom the Austrian wife of the King of Naples asked to make a Sacher cake (an Austrian chocolate cake). They didn’t end up making a dessert as per her request. Instead, they improvised using almonds.

“It has a rich, dense texture that will fill any chocolate-loving heart with joy.”

Regardless of the cake’s actual origins, one truth remains strong today: Italians are grateful for its invention, intentional or accidental.

Cook and host of the SBS series Cook like an Italian, Silvia Colloca, celebrates the “mistake cake” with her own version of the recipe without flour. She makes torta Caprese – a naturally gluten-free cake – in episode nine of series three.

“Torta Caprese is one of the easiest chocolate cakes in the world to make,” Colloca says as she bakes the cake for viewers. “It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most beloved [cakes] throughout Italy. It has a rich, dense texture that will fill any chocolate-loving heart with joy.

How to Master Torta Caprese

Colloca’s recipe for torta Caprese is like most. It contains a lot of eggs: six separate yolks and four whites to be exact.

Let’s not forget the inclusion of dark chocolate. While many recipes call for the chocolate to be melted with butter, Colloca sticks to a traditional Italian alternative: olive oil.

“There is no butter in this cake. If you think the combination of dark chocolate and olive oil is a little foreign to you, I just urge you to try it because it’s one of those combinations that once you try it , will surprise you in the most positive way. .”

Of course, the other recipe staple for this torta is almond flour (AKA – the flour substitute).

Co-owner and Head Chef at Sydney’s Capriccio Osteria & Bar, Nicole Bampton, tells SBS that she has been making torta Caprese for many years, ever since she was a young apprentice. More recently, she made the Capri cake for the restaurant’s regional dinners to celebrate the cuisine of Naples.

In her experience as a chef, she explains, the fineness of the almond flour is linked to the final quality of the cake. The higher the quality of the almond flour, the better the end result.

“You can make the almond flour yourself by mixing the almonds together very finely,” says Brampton. “But if you don’t have a really good food processor, the almonds won’t grind very well.

“In this case, you should buy already ground almond flour, it would be much better. Also, if you don’t know what you’re doing when mixing the almonds, you may be overdoing it. You can overwork the almonds, bring out the fats, and turn the almond flour into puree or almond butter.

Bampton also suggests that other nut flours can be used interchangeably with almond flour. “You can substitute almond flour for hazelnut flour if you like. The torta will still be traditional and turn out very well.

Size matters – the size of the cake pan that is

Another cooking tip to amp up your torta Caprese game is to pay attention to the size of cake pan you use while baking.

“I use a small cake pan because the only leavening agent in this cake is the eggs,” says Colloca. “There is no baking powder as such, which means it will only grow to a certain extent.

“If you use a large loaf tin, it will be quite flat, which isn’t really a problem. But if you want a thicker slice, you might want to fit the batter into the sides of a smaller cake pan.

After baking the cake, the torta should taste moist, delicious and decadent. Serve it with berries on the side and make sure you have left enough room for dessert.

“Let me tell you – it’s not a light cake,” she says. “It’s as rich and indulgent as it sounds. Sometimes it’s a cake but sometimes it’s the cake we need: a signature cake from the Isle of Capri.

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