This lovely Italian flourless chocolate cake is MY FAVORITE recipe of all time. When you take a bite, this Italian flourless chocolate cake just melts away in your mouth. It is light, airy, tender, and oh so rich in chocolate. This cake is simply divine!
I have been baking this recipe since 2011 and it is inspired by a recipe out of an Italian cookbook I enjoy using. When we visited Italy in 2016 to spend time with locals, I would ask if they had heard of this delicious Italian flourless chocolate cake, also known as Torta Tenerina. Sure enough, two of our three local hosts knew exactly what I was talking about and they each made it for me in the comfort of their home.
What I love about this recipe is that it is very simple and easy to make. It is also a great chocolate cake option for serving guests with a gluten allergy. You would never know this delicious chocolate cake has no flour – it just melts in your mouth. Though it is a light and decadent chocolate cake, it resembles a soft, fudgy brownie. So I enjoy adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top to balance the richness.
What is Torta Tenerina?
Torta Tenerina originated from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in the city of Ferrara – just north of Bologna. This flourless chocolate cake has been melting the hearts of Italians for over a century. You can find Torta Tenerina in restaurants and bakeries in Ferrara and the entire Emilia-Romagna region, but also across the country as this cake is an Italian favorite in every home.
Torta Tenerina translates to “tender cake” and when you make this recipe, you will see why. I cannot stress enough how divine this Italian flourless chocolate cake is. If Italians were to have their version of an American brownie – this would be it!
What makes the Torta Tenerina special is its unique texture. The top exterior layer has a crisp, macaron-like texture. So do not be alarmed when your beautiful cake cracks on top – that means you baked the cake to perfection! While the exterior has a crisp texture, the inside of the cake is dense and tender – like a fudgy brownie.
Italian Flourless Chocolate Cake Ingredients
There are 6 simple ingredients to make this decadent Italian flourless chocolate cake, but only one of them is absolutely important – the CHOCOLATE. Though any name brand chocolate will suffice, the better quality the chocolate, the better outcome you will have in this Italian flourless chocolate cake. After all, chocolate is the focus of this dessert.
You will want to use 70% chocolate. Depending on the brand you choose, some may say dark or bittersweet chocolate. Either one will do as long as it says 70%. However, if you cannot find chocolate that specifically says 70%, then buy a bag of bittersweet chocolate. With that said, I would stay in the 70 – 80% chocolate range.
- Unsalted butter
- 70% chocolate
- Eggs (separated)
How to Make the Ultimate Italian Flourless Chocolate Cake
The first step in making this ultimate Italian flourless chocolate cake is melting the unsalted butter and 70% chocolate together. I prefer to melt these ingredients together in a double boiler but if you are careful, you may use a microwave.
The second step is to whisk together the egg yolks and some sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and shows signs of early ribbon stage (read tips to understand what ribbon stage is).
Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture until it is just incorporated. Then add a pinch of salt and the cornstarch. The batter will be thick and paste-like.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together until it forms stiff peaks. Fold a small amount of egg whites into the chocolate batter. Then slowly fold the rest carefully, so you do not break the incorporated air.
Bake the chocolate batter into a lightly greased 9-inch springform cake pan for 30-35 minutes at 350°. The cake should be just set and firm in the center. Remove the cake from the springform pan and cool on a wire rack. The cake will collapse and the crust will crack on top, but that is exactly what you want to happen!
Tips and Tidbits
Here are a few tips and tidbits of the ingredients and methods used in my ultimate Italian flourless chocolate cake recipe.
What is 70% Chocolate?
The percentage of chocolate is very important because it tells you the number of cocoa beans used. For example, bittersweet chocolate has 70% cocoa beans and the other 30% contains other ingredients such as sugar. This is why bittersweet (or dark) chocolate is richer than semisweet or milk chocolate.
A common name brand that I prefer to use when baking is Ghirardelli. However, as a professional in the kitchen, my favorite brand of chocolate is Valrhona. So if you want to really elevate your dessert and make it sing, you can order a bag of Valrhona chocolate on Amazon.
What is Ribbon Stage?
The ribbon stage is a term to describe a method/or finished product of beating egg yolks and sugar together. The method incorporates air into the mixture while the sugar dissolves into the egg. This is important because it allows the egg to be tempered when heated without coagulating.
In addition to a change of color in the egg mixture, the ribbon stage is when you can lift a whisk over the mixture and the batter falls slowly forming a “ribbon” that holds its shape for a few minutes. Early ribbon stage would mean that the “ribbon” holds its shape for just a few seconds – it’s there but melts away into the mixture very quickly.
What is the Cornstarch For?
The cornstarch (or potato starch) has molecules that help bind ingredients together, which adds moisture and texture to gluten-free baked goods.
fun Fact: Italians use potato starch the way Americans use cornstarch. So this recipe originally used potato starch – the outcome is the same. With that said, if you have a recipe that needs potato starch, rest assure you may substitute for cornstarch.
- 7 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups (283g) 70% chocolate
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar (separated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9 in. springform pan.
- In a double boiler, melt the chocolate slowly by stirring constantly. Then add the butter in increments into the melted chocolate. This will create a silky smooth mixture - if the butter is added before the chocolate has melted, it will create separation in fatty solids.
- Whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture turns pale yellow and begins ribbon stage.
- Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture and mix thoroughly. Then add the cornstarch and a pinch of salt into the batter until combined. At this point, the batter will be thick and paste-like. Set aside.
- In another bowl, create a meringue by whisking together the egg whites with the remaining sugar until medium-stiff peaks form.
- Carefully fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture in three increments. You do not want to over mix or you will lose air in the batter.
- Pour cake batter into the greased springform pan. Level it out evenly. Then bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. You will know when the cake is finished baking when it feels firm to the touch.
- The Torta Tenerina in Italy is traditionally served at room temperature, but since it resembles a brownie texture I recommend serving it warm with a scoop of vanilla gelato (or ice cream).
- You can bake this Italian flourless chocolate cake in any springform cake pan size or cupcake pans. Just change the baking time accordingly.
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