This Italian Almond Cake recipe—called Torta Mantovana in Italian— is a traditional Tuscan dessert known throughout Italy. It’s considered a shallow cake (an inch or less tall). This Italian cake is soft and buttery with a hint of lemon and topped with toasted sliced almonds. It’s perfect if you’d like to eat breakfast like an Italian 😉 or simply as a dessert or snack.
Watch the Video Recipe!
Learn how to make this Italian Almond Cake recipe with this video, filmed in Italy:
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How to Make Italian Almond Cake: Tips
For the complete step-by-step recipe, check out the recipe card below!
Whipping Eggs for the Cake Batter
This cake is a classic Italian cake—simple with fresh ingredients. This is an easy cake, however it does require a fair amount of egg whipping. Use an electric mixer—preferably even a stand mixer—if you’ve got one.
Whip the eggs for a full 15 minutes, using the whisk attachment.
Once the eggs have started to turn pale (a few minutes) you need to add all of the granulated sugar a spoon at a time.
Once the sugar is added, we want to finish whipping the eggs until they reach ‘ribbon’ stage. The “ribbon stage” is a term used in baking to describe the consistency of whipped eggs (usually with sugar) that have been beaten to the point where they leave a trail or “ribbon” that sits on the surface for a moment before sinking back into the mixture when the whisk is lifted.
This stage is often reached after several minutes of beating, when the eggs have become pale (almost white), thick, and voluminous. The mixture should be able to hold its shape briefly, creating a “ribbon” that slowly dissolves back into the rest of the mixture.
Reaching the ribbon stage is crucial for certain recipes, such as sponge cakes or genoise, as it helps to incorporate air into the batter, resulting in a light, fluffy texture in the final product!
This almond cake is traditionally made with butter. However, you can exchange half or all of the butter with olive oil and still achieve a very tasty cake.
Lemon, Vanilla and Butter—Oh My!
Once the eggs are thoroughly whipped, it’s time to add the flavorings. We want to avoid knocking out all of that lovely air that we’ve added to the eggs. Drop the mixer to low speed. Add the lemon zest and vanilla… then slowly drizzle in the cool melted butter.
‘Fold’ in the Flour with the Stand Mixer!
It is not necessary to ‘fold’ in the dry ingredients for this cake. Instead, simply drop the stand mixer speed to low and add a spoon of flour at a time. Let the mixer incorporate that flour before adding the next spoonful. You can continue to use the whisk attachment for this job, or switch to the paddle attachment.
Why the Baking Powder?
This sponge cake gets much of its rise from whipped eggs. However, like a Genoise cake and many other sponge cakes, it contains butter. For this reason, we’ve included just a bit of baking powder with the flour.
When a cake recipe includes a significant amount of fat—such as butter or oil—the structure of the cake can become denser. This is because the fat can coat the flour proteins, inhibiting their ability to form a strong gluten network, making it more difficult for the cake to rise solely through the air incorporated during the creaming or egg whipping process.
Adding baking powder to a recipe that includes fat can help ensure that the cake rises properly. The baking powder provides an additional source of leavening, helping to create a lighter, fluffier texture even in the presence of fat.
In the case of a sponge cake, which traditionally relies on the air whipped into the eggs for leavening, adding fat can make the cake more tender and moist but can also make it denser. Including baking powder can help counteract this effect, ensuring that the cake rises properly and has a light, airy texture.
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Italian Almond Cake Recipe
- Cake Pan – 9"-10" (22 – 25 cm)
- 1 whole egg
- 4 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ⅛ cup flour all-purpose or cake
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 10 ½ tbsp butter melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tbsp lemon zest from 1-2 lemons
- 3 oz sliced almonds enough to cover top
- powdered sugar optional, for dusting top
Prepare the Flour Mix
- Combine the flour and the baking powder (sift together if possible).1 ½ tsp baking powder, 1 ⅛ cup flour
Melt and Cool Butter
- Melt the butter in a small pan or microwave. Then, let it cool. If you are looking to lighten up the cake by replacing half of the butter with olive oil, add the olive oil to the melted butter.10 ½ tbsp butter
Whip Eggs and Sugar (Whisk Attachment)
- Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer) fitted with the whisk attachment: Whip the eggs until they turn pale yellow (about 5 minutes).1 whole egg, 4 egg yolks
- Then, slowly add all of the sugar and continue to whip the eggs for another 10 minutes, for a total of 15 minutes. Start whipping on medium speed, slowly increasing to medium-high speed during the 15 minutes.¾ cup sugar
- Whip until the eggs reach 'ribbon' stage. The final whipped eggs should be pale and fluffy and leave a trail or "ribbon" that sits on the surface for a moment before sinking back into the mixture when the whisk is lifted.
Make the Cake Batter (Whisk or Paddle Attachment)
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Incorporate the vanilla extract and the lemon zest into the cake.1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 ½ tbsp lemon zest
- Slowly drizzle the butter into the whipped eggs, continuing to whip until well-incorporated. Add the butter a little at a time to avoid knocking too much air from the whipped eggs.
- With the mixer still on low speed, incorporate the flour into the cake batter a few spoons at a time. If the batter sinks under the weight of the flour you have added, you are adding too much at a time. Let the mixer incorporate the spoons of flour you've added before adding the next spoonfuls. Finish adding all of the flour in this way.
- Line a round 10" (25 cm) cake pan with parchment paper. We prefer a springform pan.
- Spread the batter into the cake pan.3 oz sliced almonds
- Level out the batter and spread the sliced almonds over the top of the cake.
Bake the Cake
- Bake the cake in a pre-heated 350° F (180° C) oven for 30-35 minutes. Or, bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Transfer the cake to a baking rack to cool. When the cake is cool, remove it from the pan and top with sifted powdered sugar (optional).powdered sugar