Torta Mantovana - Mantuan Cake



Mantovana is a town in Lombardia but surprisingly this cake is a specialty in Toscana. With a buttery, tight crumb this pairs perfectly with coffee or tea. Mantovana is usually topped with an arrangement of nuts (pine nuts and slivered almonds are a favorite) to add a satisfying crunch.  This recipe is one I am particularly proud of as I have perfected it over the years to create a traditional and light cake.




70 g egg whites
130 g yolks
100 g sugar
50 g sugar for egg whites
150g room temperature butter
lemon zest
1 vanilla bean
170g sifted AP flour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
pine nuts and almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 325℉
  2. Butter and flour an 8 inch cake mold
  3. Whip yolks and 100g sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla
  4. Add soft butter a little at a time.
  5. Incorporate flour, salt, and baking powder into the whipped yolks.
  6. In a separate bowl whip egg whites with 50g of sugar.
  7. Gently fold the beaten egg white mixture into the batter.  This is to light the texture.
  8. Pour into the prepared cake mold and sprinkle the nuts on the surface.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or golden brown, or till a tooth pick comes out clean.
  10. Let cool then remove from the mold.
  11. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

There are different methods for pan di Spagna depending on the final use.  This recipe, with both whole eggs and egg yolks, is particularly suitable to be soaked in syrup and/or liquor, without loosing the shape. Honey will give a nice color to the baked cake. A little addition of potato starch gives a more "melt in your mouth" texture. If you want to know more, please, keep reading.


A little history of the cake


Even in Italy, this torta is only really known by the ones from the city of Mantovana.  This cake only became popular thanks to two nuns traveling to Rome, who gave it as thank you gifts to people who they crossed paths with.

If you happen to be in Prato, you should definitely stop at “Biscottificio Mattei” to try their renowned Mantovana but if you cannot travel that far, do try this recipe that is truly a delightful rendition.