Hazelnut cake from Piedmont
Torta di nocciole delle Langhe
This hazelnut cake from Langhe Roero in Piedmont was a challenge as there is neither flour nor butter and oil among the ingredients.
We have just returned from a trip to Langhe Roero in Piedmont, where the local tonda gentile IGP hazelnuts are almost as cherished as the white truffles and the Barolo wine. Hazelnut bushes dot the hilly landscape in intricate patterns with the striped vineyards, and we came across this hazelnut cake without flour or butter again and again. Most notoriously in Cortemilia, where a visit to the Canobbio bakery is a must. Their hazelnut cake is a speciality the father, Giuseppe Canobbio, makes after a recipe, he learned from his grandmother, and the entire house smells of roasted hazelnuts.
Papà Giuseppe did not share his inherited recipe in detail, but tastewise this hazelnut cake comes pretty close to the original. I was a bit shocked by the copious amounts of sugar and nuts used, but the result is delicious. A sweet, aromatic kind of sponge cake that was too brittle and crumbly to get top marks for appearances, but compensated in taste and texture.
280 g sugar
250 g hazelnuts
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
A pinch of salt
Whisk egg whites to a firm snow, as the Italians describe it.
Blend hazelnuts finely with sugar and a pinch of salt. (If you want to do it properly you have to roast the hazelnuts and rub off the brown skin first)
Mix sugar and hazelnuts with egg yolks.
Fold the mixture into the egg whites.
Grease a round baking pan (ø24 cm) before adding the cake mixture.
Bake at 170 C / 340 F for about 40 minutes.
You can serve hazelnut cake from Piedmont with warm zabaione custard, but at this point my family had used up our daily ration of sugar and eggs. Yoghurt could make a nice alternative, if you don’t like to eat the cake ‘dry’.