This torta paradiso is a traditional Italian butter cake with a pillow soft, tender, light crumb and fine texture. It has a deliciously sweet crust and the flavors of lemon and vanilla. Topped with a blanket of powdered sugar, this Italian paradise cake can be eaten plain or dressed up with whipped cream and fresh seasonal fruit. Heavenly and delicious.
Torta paradiso - Italian paradise cake, or heavenly cake - is a delightfully light and airy cake with simple ingredients that combine to form a flavorful, finely textured crumb that almost melts in your mouth.
This cake comes from the city of Pavia in northern Italy, an area known for its fertile agriculture. It was brought to fame in 1878 by pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, even earning Vigoni a gold medal at the 1906 Milan International world fair. The cake is often referred to as Torta Vigoni. It has become a key part of the city's identity and is a typical product sold in bakeries to this day.
I made this cake three different times using different ingredients and ratios in order to land upon the perfect texture. Since it's made with butter, it won't ever have the ethereal fluffiness of an angel food cake, but it's still amazingly light and tender. My daughters called this last version "cloud cake." Success!
- Unsalted butter - Using unsalted butter allows you to control the total amount of salt in the recipe. With salted butter, brands use different amounts of salt, so you're never sure where you're starting with salt quantity. Make sure your butter is at room temperature.
- Granulated sugar - Granulated sugar provides sweetness and helps keep the cake moist. It also helps provides the beautiful golden color on the crust.
- Lemon - This recipe uses just the zest from one large lemon. Grate the zest directly into the mixing bowl to capture as much flavorful citrus oil as possible.
- Vanilla extract - for additional flavor.
- Eggs - Eggs provide fat and moisture, and help bind the cake together.
- Extra fine 00 flour - Italian extra fine 00 flour (also known as doppio zero, or double zero flour) is finely ground flour that resembles baby powder in texture. It is often made with Durham wheat, which has a less elastic gluten than other flours. This means that baked goods made with 00 flour (often pizza crust) have a less chewy texture. See substitutions for other options.
- Potato starch - Unmodified Potato starch is made from crushing raw potatoes and drying the liquid to extract the powder. In this recipe, it helps inhibit gluten formation, resulting in a cake with a more delicate texture. You can read more about potato starch and its uses here. Make sure to use potato starch, not potato flour. Potato flour is made from the whole potato, rather than just the liquid. It has a potato flavor and much more rustic consistency.
- Kosher salt - For added flavor.
- Baking powder - For leavening.
- Powdered sugar - Sifting powdered sugar onto the top of the baked (and cooled!) cake adds extra visual impact.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius, Gas mark 4) and line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23 centimeter) pan with parchment paper.
Step 2: Sift together the flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder and set aside.
Step 3: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle attachment frequently.
Step 4: Grate the zest of one whole lemon into the butter mixture. Add vanilla. Mix until incorporated.
Step 5: Add eggs one at a time, beating each lightly before adding to the bowl. Mix after each addition on medium speed until fully emulsified and blended. Scrape down the bowl between each addition.
Step 6: Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Step 7: Bake for 40-45 minutes, until gently domed, golden brown, and top springs back when lightly touched with a finger.
Step 8: Cool for 10 minutes, then remove springform sides and invert cake onto a platter. Remove springform base and parchment paper. Cool for 15 minutes. Invert back onto a rack to finish cooling.
Step 9: Once cool, fill a small sieve with powdered sugar and dust the top with a generous layer. Slice and serve plain with coffee, tea, or with whipped cream and fresh seasonal fruit alongside.
Hint: Sift powdered sugar over the cake before you transfer it to a serving platter. You'll have a much nicer presentation without the extra powdered sugar on the plate.
- Flour - If you cannot find Extra Fine 00 Flour, you can substitute the same amount of all purpose flour. I tested the recipe using each flour, and while the 00 flour creates a crumb that is extra fine, the all purpose flour version also baked up light and airy. Frankly, I think purchasing potato starch for this recipe is more important than having 00 flour.
- Potato starch - In a pinch, if you cannot source potato starch, you can substitute the same amount of corn starch. However, after testing the recipe with both corn starch and potato starch, I was impressed by the lighter taste and finer texture of the version with potato starch. The corn starch version had a bit of chalkiness and was somewhat heavier. If you have access to an array of specialty flours (such as Bob's Red Mill) at your grocery store, you should be able to find unmodified potato starch.
If you'd like to put a spin on this Italian paradise cake, try one of the following variations!
- Torta Paradiso Kinder- Beloved by kids, this milk cream filled version imitates a famous commercial snack made by Kinder. Bake the cake as instructed, but do not add powdered sugar to top. When cool, use a long bread knife to slice horizontally into two layers. Beat ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (200 mL) heavy whipping cream to firm peaks. Add 3 Tablespoons (45 mL) sweetened condensed milk and 1 Tablespoon (7.5 grams) powdered sugar. Beat just until incorporated. Spread bottom layer of cake with whipped cream and top with second layer. Place in refrigerator to chill for an hour prior to serving. Dust with powdered sugar before slicing.
- Orange - replace the lemon zest with freshly grated orange zest.
- Nutella - Before adding powdered sugar, slice cake in half horizontally and spread the interior with a generous portion of Nutella. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. (If you like Nutella, you won't want to miss these homemade Nutella biscuits!)
- I use a 9" (23cm) nonstick springform pan for this recipe. It's also great for cheesecakes like Strawberry Eton mess cheesecake and chocolate orange cheesecake.
- Parchment paper for lining the base and sides of the springform pan. One roll of this 15 inch x 164 foot (38 centimeter x 50 meter) non-stick paper lasts a LONG time! If you can purchase it in the store at Costco, the price is often a bit better.
Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
To freeze, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, remove cake from container, unwrap plastic wrap, and place on a baking rack to defrost at room temperature.
Do not over beat the cake batter! Over mixing can introduce too many air bubbles into the finished cake. It also risks overdeveloping the gluten, which can lead to a chewy, dense cake texture.
Torta ParadisoPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 113 grams (4 ounces, 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 large lemon (for zest only)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 180 grams (1½ cups) Extra fine 00 flour (see ingredient notes for details)
- 96 grams (½ cup) potato starch (Can substitute with corn starch - see ingredient notes for more details)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- powdered sugar, for dusting on cooled cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177° Celsius, Gas mark 4) with rack in center of oven.
- Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. In order to get the paper to stick to the sides, grease the sides lightly with butter and press the parchment against the pan. (Don't skip this step, especially the sides, as the cake will stick and will not have a tidy outer edge).
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder. Set aside.180 grams (1½ cups) Extra fine 00 flour, 96 grams (½ cup) potato starch, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter. Beat at medium speed until light and airy. Add sugar and cream on medium-high speed until very light in color and texture, approximately 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle attachment several times.113 grams (4 ounces, 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- Grate the lemon zest directly into the butter mixture. Add vanilla. Mix until incorporated.1 large lemon (for zest only), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Crack one egg into a small bowl and beat it lightly. Add to butter mixture and mix on medium low speed until mixture is fully emulsified and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs, beating each egg separately and adding to bowl one at a time. Scrape down bowl between each addition.4 large eggs, room temperature
- Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- Pour batter into prepared springform pan. Use a spatula to level the cake. Spin the pan back and forth a few times on the counter and rap it firmly twice to remove any large air bubbles from the batter.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is domed, golden brown, and springs back when pressed gently with a fingertip. (If indentations remain, bake a few more minutes).
- Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then loosen springform and remove outer ring. Carefully place a platter upside down on the cake and flip it over. Remove springform base and parchment paper. Let cool upside down 15 minutes. Place back onto rack right side up to finish cooling.
- Once cake is fully cooled, place powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve and dust entire cake with a generous layer. Transfer cake to a serving platter. Serve plain with coffee or tea, or dress up with whipped cream and fresh fruit.powdered sugar, for dusting on cooled cake
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