La chocolate tenerina cake is a typical sweet from FerraraItalian city in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is a quick and easy cake to prepare, delicious and also suitable for lactose intolerant people. Its characteristic is having a dry, almost crumbly exterior and a soft, moist heart that melts in the mouth. This characteristic has given rise to its name in the Ferrara dialect: taclenta cakeor sticky cake. Actually, it would be more correct to call it lovers' cake, and not because chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac ingredient, but rather because of the sweet story behind the torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara.

Tenerina cake original recipe from Ferrara: the history

The Ferrara tenerina cake is also called torta montenegrina in honour of Elena of Montenegro, at the registry office Jelena Petrović-Njegoš, daughter of Nicholas Ioften confused with the Tsars of Russia. Instead, it is a Serbian-Montenegrin royal family established when Montenegro became independent (1910)... not from Russia, but from the Ottoman (and therefore Turkish) Empire. Today, the Kingdom of Montenegro no longer exists, but in its place is left a small state facing the Adriatic Sea. However, returning to the torta tenerina, this is characterised by having a crust so crisp that it cracks and by its soft heart, characteristics of the beautiful Queen Elena of Montenegro, Queen Consort of Italy as the wife of Victor Emmanuel III, whom we could define as the last true king of Italy with his 46 years of reign, even though his son Umberto II succeeded him for 1 month before the Republic was proclaimed.

Victor Emmanuel III at the age of 25 refused any arranged marriage and his celibacy had now become the 'affair of Europe'. After several attempts to arrange it first with Princess Maud of Wales then with the future Queen of Norway, the choice fell on Elena of Montenegro who, although beautiful, was of low lineage although still interesting for opening/consolidating business with Eastern Europe. However, proposing her as a bride would have immediately deterred Victor Emmanuel III from taking an interest in her, so they arranged a seemingly chance meeting at La Fenice theatre on the occasion of the First International Art Exhibition in Venice (1895). However, it was only a year later, in Moscow, during the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II that the young man showed interest in her, to the point of telling an enthusiastic family that the 'love plot' had borne fruit. The wedding took place a few months later and was full of happiness, so much so that the tender cake was dedicated to Elena of Montenegro and her love.

Elena of Montenegro

Tenerina cake original recipe from Ferrara: the ingredients

The most disparate versions of this cake can be found online, even boasting grandmothers from Romagna who used potato starch instead of flour. I, who lived with a grandmother from Romagna for 20 years and had two grandmothers from Romagna and knew many, smile at this claim. In Romagna, the older generations did not even know of the existence of starch or cornflour! Besides, the fact that a grandmother from Romagna is used as a reference for this recipe from Emilia says it all... because Ferrara is in Emilia and not in Romagna as many people from other regions think (I think because of its isolated position off the Via Emilia axis). To prepare the torta tenerina ferrarese very few ingredients are needed:

  • chocolateThe ideal is to choose a dark chocolate, but not too dark... so a 55-65% dark chocolate is perfect.
  • butterchoose a butter from centrifuged cream and, for those with a sweet tooth, can try a French demi-sel. Those who are lactose intolerant can choose a lactose-free butter and the tender cake will still be delicious!
  • eggschoose extra-fresh medium eggs ideal for pasta and cakes. They are the ones in the yellow packets and have a nice deep yellow yolk.
  • flourChoose a good quality 00 flour to have a very light dough.
  • milkchoose a whole milk. Those who are lactose intolerant can choose a lactose-free milk, but not a vegetable milk so as not to alter the texture and taste of the tenerina cake.

Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara


45 minutes

10 minutes




Ingredients for 1 cake (about 8 servings)

  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 100 g butter
  • 50 g 00 flour
  • 25 g whole milk


      • 3 medium bowls
      • 1 electric whisk
      • 2 tablespoons
      • 1 22 cm diameter hinged mould
      • 1 saucepan
      • baking paper to taste

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara: procedure

      Step 1. Put a saucepan with 3/4 of water on the stove and place 1 bowl with the chocolate and butter in it and let it melt. Once ready, stir with a spoon and move the bowl to a work surface to cool.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 2. Separate the yolks from the egg whites in two separate bowls. Add half the sugar to both. Start with the yolks and sugar and whip them with an electric beater until light and fluffy (2 minutes at low speed).

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 3. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the egg yolk and sugar mixture and beat until blended (20-30 seconds on low speed). Add the milk (another 10 seconds on low speed) and finally the flour (another 20-30 seconds on low speed).

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 4. Wash the whisks with boiling water, then dry them. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until a firm mixture similar to whipped cream is obtained (3-4 minutes at maximum whisk speed).

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 5. Pour the beaten egg whites with the sugar into the bowl with all the other ingredients and stir with a spoon from the bottom upwards very gently to make the mixture airy and homogeneous.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 6. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 170 °C in static mode and prepare the mould. Open the mould and lay a sheet of baking paper on the base, then lay the side and close the hinge, keeping the paper as flat as possible. Trim off the excess paper, keeping a couple of cm to allow it to be removed more easily. Take a small knob of butter and spread it on the inside of the mould, using a spatula if necessary. The important thing is that the mould is evenly greased.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 7. Pour the mixture into the mould and, if necessary, level it with the spoon.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 8. When the oven is at the right temperature, bake at medium height and close the door. Leave 30 to 35 minutes, the time varies depending on the oven. So the first time it is baked it is best to keep 30 minutes and if it is not perfect you can possibly keep it a couple of minutes longer the second time you bake the cake. To check the baking you can do the toothpick test: at the edges it should come out well dry, while from the centre it should come out moist even if clean.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 9. Bake the cake without removing it from the mould for at least 10-15 minutes. The cake will be puffy at first, then it will deflate and the characteristic cracks will form. Absolutely do not add icing sugar to cover them: although some people also put it in local pastry shops, in Ferrara the original torta tenerina is served strictly with its characteristic cracks in sight! Those with icing sugar are most often the 'classic' chocolate cakes. Moreover, icing sugar alters the taste of this cake.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

      Step 10. It can be served on its own or with whipped cream, apricot or pumpkin jam and orange marmalade.

      Torta tenerina original recipe from Ferrara

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      Advice & Conservation

      • If you don't eat the cake immediately (warm is delicious), you can wait a couple of hours before removing it from the mould. Afterwards, it is best to place it in a bell jar over a paper towel, which absorbs the cake's moisture and keeps the edge crisp.
      • It can be stored for 3-4 days under a glass bell.

      Which wine goes with torta tenerina ricetta originale ferrarese?

      To generalise, when it comes to food and wine pairing, is always very complex, not least because the world of wine is so wide-ranging in itself that it is difficult to find unambiguous answers even within the same denomination, not to mention the variations between one winery and another and between one vintage and another. Nevertheless, one can identify some main threads to follow.

      In the case of torta tenerina ricetta originale ferrarese one should take into account its fatness and aromaticity, mainly due to the presence of chocolate. For this we recommend a red raisin wine with an intense aroma and tannins present, but smooth as a Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG. However, as it is not sweet despite the 150 g of sugar, if you are not a fan of dessert wines, you can also try it with a soft, low-tannin red wine such as a Barbera d'Alba DOC.

      [Taken from the book "Sommelier: the illustrated manual" p. 495]

      Chiara Bassi

      Writer, sommelier & gastronome

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