Torta Caprese: The Authentic Recipe by Francesco Elmi
There is an increasing proliferation of versions of this Italian dessert, which is one of the most well known around the world. There is a white Caprese, one made with Amaretto liqueur, one with some flour added to it… This is the only classic authentic recipe.
Torta Caprese – The step by step recipe
250 gr butter at room temperature
250 gr chocolate, 66% cacao
250 gr sugar
250 gr almonds, not too finely grinded
120 gr egg yolks
220 gr egg whites
Icing sugar for dusting
1 shot glass of rum
1 vanilla pod
orange peel, grated
Melt the chocolate and mix with the butter.
Whip the egg yolks and the sugar, then add to the first mixture.
Add the almonds, the vanilla, the orange peel, the rum and, finally, the egg whites, whipped to foaminess with the salt.
Place into mould, buttered and floured
And bake at 180° C for approximately 35 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.
For 2 moulds, 24 cm in diameter
Recipes Editor and La Vita è Dolce Worldwide Tour Coordinator: Elena Ruocco.
Photos: Paolo Della Corte- FOOD REPUBLIC
Tales of a dolce born by mistake in a corner of Paradise
Let’s tell the truth! This cake could have been born anywhere, even outside Italy. None of its ingredients, to begin with, link it to the terroir of the famous island of Campania, except its name. Since long ago, but increasingly from the ‘50s of the last century on, Capri has been a winning brand name (if in doubt, ask the Ford Motor Company). If what we call today “Torta Caprese,” certainly one of the greatest icons of pasticceria italiana in the world, had been born in Tora e Piccilli, or Roccacannuccia (with due respect to both communities), for sure, it wouldn’t have been so famous and consequently so counterfeited around the world.
To a certain extent, Torta Caprese shares the destiny of another famous “caprese” dish, the ubiquitous salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. But there’s a difference; eating a caprese salad with ingredients produced in Capri (with the exception of the mozzarella, which is not produced on the island) may well be a unique gastronomic experience. Tomatoes, olive oil, vegetables, grown in the gardens of the blessed Mediterranean island are among the most tasteful gifts of this part of the world.
The reason for the fame of Torta Caprese is, firstly, to be found in its sublime flavour and then in the relative easiness of its preparation. But its success has also been prompted by other factors; the tom tom made by returning-home international tourists who tried Torta Caprese while visiting Capri, the attention of the media to whatever is done on the island and, last but not least, the number of restaurants opened around the world by Capri’s people who migrated during the past century. Establishments with the name Capri, Bella Capri, Luna caprese are part of the landscape of every cosmopolitan city.
The origins of Torta caprese, although recent, are not clear. There are different versions; none of them can be confirmed beyond reasonable doubts. However, they all have at least two points in common; firstly: it wasn’t born in any island home, so it has to be an invention of the local hospitality industry; secondly: regardless the fact that good cuisine is intrinsic to the life of any Caprese, this dessert was created for the island’s tourist market. “Rather than in restaurants, at the beginning, it was served in many of the island’s various Tea Rooms, since the beginning of the last century,” says GVCI associate Lello Sorrentino, owner and chef of Anacapri’s Brace & Padella Restaurant and former owner of the Luna Caprese in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Some people say that Torta Caprese is no more than a version of the Austrian Sachertorte,” adds Lello. Sachertorte, though, looks rather different; it contains flour and doesn’t have almonds in it. There is an Austrian connection, however, in the history of Torta Caprese. According to an unconfirmed tradition, it was in fact invented by two Austrian ladies who inherited the Strandpension in Marina Piccola from the eccentric German poet, August Weber, who had owned it at beginning of the 20th century. The birth date according to this version could be set between 1930 and 1950.
As in many other popular tales about the origin of dishes, this one has Torta Caprese born by mistake. The person who invented it was planning to do another recipe and added uncalled for ingredients or forgot to add called for ones; in this case flour was left out. Which recipe she or he intended to follow remains unknown. Invention by mistake – “uno dei pasticci più fortunati della storia (one of the luckiest mess-ups in history) – is also the leitmotiv of another version on the origin of Caprese. Once again, it is Lello Sorrentino who mentions the source; “It’s in a book written by Claudio Novelli on the lost documents of Capri’s Cuisine,” says the chef. The rather poetic title of the publication, in Italian, Giallaranci Mitili impazziti di Luce, is quite difficult to translate. Its author writes that the inventor of Torta Caprese was a man called Capocchiella (Little Head), in whose veins apparently pumped the blood of the Spanish painter Esteban Blasco. Capocchiella was a kitchen hand at the Fontelina, the Restaurant that still today overlooks the famous Faraglioni (one of the most unique views of the island) and when the sous pastry chef suddenly up and left, he was summoned as the replacement. Then, on “one day of an undetermined month in 1950”, while at dawn, he was making a “prosaic almond cake” he added cocoa to the almonds, mistaking it for flour.
The tale is rather picturesque but it’s quite improbable that a person, who worked in a kitchen, could confuse cocoa with flour, regardless of sleep deficit, unless he was almost blind and lacked his sense of smell. In any case, according to Novelli, Capocchiella baked the cake, fell asleep and was awoken by the smell of chocolate. The cake was served to the guests and it was a success. When asked what the name of the dessert was, with some embarrassment, Capocchiella answered “Torta Caprese.”
Finally there is another version of the origin of this dessert, according to which a certain Carmine Di Fiore, cooking in an unknown Capri’s restaurant, received an order for an almond and chocolate cake from three American gangsters. Apparently, he forgot to put flour in it, but the gangsters liked it and asked him for the recipe. That was the beginning of the success. “No one in Capri knows about this version,” says Lello Sorrentino. Bur what is certain is that at Capri’s restaurants today you rarely see Torta Caprese served without a ball of vanilla ice cream.
A paradise, but not for gourmet
No one goes to Capri to have the most memorable gourmet experience of his or her life. No, perhaps no one ever has. Norman Douglas, Thomas Mann, Pablo Neruda, Graham Greene, Grace Fields and all the other renowned visitors, including Armani and all the other famous fashion designers, went to and continue going to this small paradise for other reasons (sun, views, weather, lifestyle, etc.). This is not to say that they or anyone who visits Capri cannot enjoy some glorious meals on the island. The fact is that, despite the huge number of restaurants, pizzeria and trattoria, Capri’s gastronomic offer is quite ordinary, if not poor – particularly in the establishments that serve the hordes of touch and go – day tourists, many from cruise ships. You will hardly find the island’s restaurants mentioned, let alone rated in guides and/ or magazines. Of course, there are some exceptions, a few good places interested not only in tourism, and, certainly, in the five-star hotels you are guaranteed a decent meal (decency however doesn’t always inspire bills in Capri). Not to mention the fact that fresh fish, once one of the assets of the local cuisine, in most cases doesn’t come from the island or Campania and, sometimes, not even from the country. So, lucky is he or she who has friends on the island. It’s in the island homes where the genuine cuisine still survives, perhaps with ravioli alla caprese, totani e patate, delizia al limone, or an unforgettable home made torta caprese.
An intriguing yet authentic Torta Caprese in Tokyo by Andrea Tranchero (Armani Ristorante)
La Torta Caprese in Tokyo, Japan, is the fifth step of La Vita è Dolce. Andrea Tranchero, Executive Chef of the Armani Ristorante in Ginza, presents it in a very intriguing way with a Gelato al Babà e Limoncello, and decorates it with an Almond Crunch, Limoncello Jelly and Chocolate Sauce con Gelato al Babà e Limoncello.
Andrea Tranchero, represents the new generation of talented Italian chefs who have changed the history of Italian cuisine abroad, particularly in Asia. He is one of the faces of quality Italian cuisine in the Japanese capital city where he has worked in various deservingly well-reputed establishments: from Bice in the Four Seasons Hotel to Piazza Roma in the Hilton Bay Tokyo, from the Sadler to L’Estasi Restaurants in Roppongi. But Andrea has also enjoyed successful experiences in other great gastronomy capitals of the world; he was the executive chef of
Cicada in Los Angeles, California, and chef de cuisine at the Ristorante l’Enoteca in Paris, France. In Italy he has worked in various Michelin starred restaurants such as Al Sorriso of Soriso, Novara, Baia Benjamin in Ventimiglia, Imperia and the Sadler in Milan.
For La Vita è Dolce, Andrea has, in a very intriguing way, interpreted the classic Torta Caprese, which he presents with a Gelato al Babà e Limoncello, and decorates with an Almond Crunch, Limoncello Jelly and Chocolate Sauce. See Recipe below.
La Torta Caprese con Gelato al Babà e Limoncello
Click here for Torta Caprese
Gelatina al limoncello (Limoncello Gelatine)
Lemon marmalade gr.35
Croccante alle mandorle (Almond Crunch)
Almonds, sliced gr.65
Cacao bean gr.10
Gelato al babà (Babà Ice-cream)
Vanilla ice-cream gr.350
Babà n. 3
Salsa (Chocolate Sauce)
Chocolate, 66% gr. 130
Preparation of the Crunch: mix all the ingredients and spread them out on siliconed baking paper and bake for 7 minutes.
Preparation of the ice-cream: marinate the babà in the limoncello and the syrup, squeeze out any excess liquid, whip the ice-cream with a Pacojet and add the perfumed babà.
For the gelatine: bring all ingredients to a boil, add the limoncello and, at the end, the almond gelatine
Prepare the sauce bringing the milk and the glucose to a boil. Then add the chocolate, temper and serve warm.
Fifth step. La Torta Caprese and its secrets (VIDEO)
The fifth step of La Vita è Dolce worldwide tour is dedicated to Torta Caprese, a classic of Italian Pasticceria, born in Capri, one of the most famous Mediterranean Islands. Above the video with the recipe step by step by Executive Pastry Chef Francesco Elmi .
Pietro Rongoni´s Tiramisu
Last week the Tiramisu was celebrated, for the second time in this tour, in Moscow (Russia). Alessio Gini and Ezechiele Mattia Barbuto, of the newly open Piccolino restaurant prepared the Pietro Rongoni’s version of this classic dessert. Alessio and Ezechiele have been working for long time with Chef Rongoni, who has been in Russia for over 11 years.
His name in Moscow is synonymous not only with great Tiramisu but also of quality traditional Italian Cuisine, which he has always promoted in the five establishments in which he has worked. The Milan born chef has taught the secrets of Italian Cuisines to the Russians, plus he has formed a mob of talented young chefs (including Alessio and Ezechiele) who are now cooking everywhere in Moscow and Russia at large. “This makes me proud and I believe that is more important than economic success”, says Pietro.