Last updated on February 8th, 2024.
If you’re a chocolate lover, there’s a sweet treat that deserves a special place in your recipe repertoire – Torta Tenerina. Originating from Italy, this moist, decadent and flourless Italian chocolate cake is a delight for the senses. This cake is rich in chocolate flavors and has a smooth texture but is also as light as a cloud; it melts in your mouth.
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What is Torta Tenerina?
Torta Tenerina, or torta Montenegrin, is known as the “Tender Cake,” which hails from the beautiful city of Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Tenerina means small and tender, and it refers to the dense yet moist texture of the cake; it is also called Torta Tacolenta, meaning sticky cake, pointing at its moist and creamy center that might leave a sticky trail on your plate. Like the classic Torta Paradiso, this classic dessert is made with simple ingredients and characterized by its irresistibly soft and moist texture with a crispy light crust, making it a favorite Italian dessert among chocolate lovers.
Unlike this Ciambellone, this is a light and tender dessert cake perfect for special occasions. If you are a fan of Italian desserts, check out this Torta Caprese, this Italian Tiramisu, and this Chocolate Tiramisu.
To embark on your baking adventure, gather the following ingredients:
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can also use chopped dark chocolate, but I tested both options and found that the chocolate chips work best for this recipe.
- Unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces.
- Natural unsweetened cocoa powder. The traditional Tenerina cake calls for a small amount of cake flour, and many replace it with potato starch, making it a flourless chocolate cake. However, I replaced the potato starch with two tablespoons of cocoa powder, plus whole milk, to soak up the starches and prevent the cake from drying out. I love baking chocolate cakes with cocoa powder because it intensifies the chocolate flavors.
- Whole milk.
- Large eggs, at room temperature, separated.
- Sugar, divided
- Potato Starch. I do not recommend replacing it with corn starch. If you don’t have potato starch, skip it.
A note about the pan
It is best to use a springform pan or a pan with a removable bottom (I used an 8-inch). The cake is very tender, and inverting might cause it to collapse. If you are not concerned about presentation, you can use a regular eight, or nine-inch pan and slice it without removing it from the pan.
I made this cake using two separate large bowls, plus one medium bowl and a hand mixer.
How to Make Torta Tenerina (Italian Chocolate Cake)
- Melt the chocolate, cocoa powder, milk, and butter in a medium bowl on top of a double boiler.
- Whip the egg white while gradually adding half of the sugar until you have a thick, opaque meringue that creates soft ribbons when you lift the whisk. About 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until light in color and thick.
- While whipping, drizzle in the melted chocolate mixture and mix until blended.
- Fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture in three parts.
- Sift the potato starch over the mixture and gently fold.
- Pour the chocolate batter into your prepared springform cake pan and bake.
Tips and Serving Ideas
- Don’t stress about the meringue; the best way to know whether you have reached the right ribbon stage is to stop just when you feel it’s almost reaching stiff peaks. I have the complete post on How To Make Meringue.
- For an extra indulgence, serve your cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dollop of whipping cream, or fresh berries.
- Experiment with adding a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of espresso, or a hint of orange zest to enhance the chocolate flavor.
- Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before removing or slicing it. It will lose some height as it cools, and its top will crack.
- Since we do not invert the cake, removing any parchment paper you might use to line the bottom of the pan will be very hard. Grease the bottom of your pan with baker’s spray or butter.
- Whip the egg whites before the egg yolks. If the whisk has any fat in it, the egg whites won’t whip.
Storage and Bake Ahead
Torta Tenerina can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, covered with aluminum foil, or in a cake dome.
This recipe is not ideal for freezing whole, and it is best when fresh, so I recommend making it 3 hours ahead or the night before. Leftovers can be wrapped with plastic wrap, placed in a freeze bag, and frozen for up to four weeks. When ready, remove it from the freezer, unwrap it, and allow it to reach room temperature.
The key to this tender chocolate cake lies in the baking time. Too long, and you’ll end up with a dry cake, not enough, and the center will be raw. There are two ways to know if the cake is ready: the top is dull and crispy, and a toothpick comes out from the center of the cake with moist crumbs.
While dark chocolate is traditional, you can experiment with milk chocolate for a slightly sweeter version. I would use a combination of half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate.
As long as you don’t use any flour, this cake is gluten-free.
More Chocolate Recipes You Might Enjoy
Torta Tenerina Recipe
Tender and moist chocolate Italian cake
- 1 1/3 Cups Dark chocolate chips (200g)
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted butter (113g)
- 2 Tablespoons Unsweetened natural cocoa powder (10g)
- 4 Tablespoons Whole milk (60ml)
- 4 Large Eggs, separated
- 3/4 Cup Sugar (150g)
- 2 Tablespoons Potato starch (18g)
Preheat oven to 325F (160C), and grease the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan.
Melt the chocolate chips, butter, cocoa powder, and milk over a double boiler.
To make the double boiler, top a medium bowl over a saucepan filled with one inch of simmering water over low-medium heat. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add half of the sugar (70g) and whip to a medium peak. About 3-4 minutes.
In a separate large bowl, whip the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until pale yellow and thick.
Mix the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture with the mixer at medium speed.
Fold the whipped egg whites in three parts.
Sift the potato starch over the cake batter, then gently fold it.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 33-35 minutes if using an 8-inch pan, or 25-30 minutes if using a 9-inch pan.
The cake is ready when the top is dull, and a toothpick comes out from the center of the cake with moist crumbs.
Remove from the oven and let the cake to completely cool in the pan before transferring to a serving plate and slicing.
- My oven is different than yours, and you may need more or less time in the oven. Pay attention to the cake and not the timer. The cake is ready when the top is crispy and dull, AND a toothpick comes out from the center of the cake with a few moist crumbs.
- Don’t worry too much about the meringue; the key is to stop just when you sense it’s approaching stiff peaks to ensure you’ve reached the right ribbon stage.
- For an added treat, serve your cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, or fresh berries. Or, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.
- Experiment by incorporating a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of espresso, or a hint of orange zest to elevate the chocolate flavor.
- As we don’t invert the cake, removing any parchment paper used to line the bottom of the pan can be challenging. To ease this, grease the bottom of your pan with baker’s spray or butter.
- Whip the egg whites before the egg yolks or carefully clean the whisk. The egg whites won’t whip properly if the whisk has any fat.