Torta di Amaretti

Macaroon Cake

This cake, a typical product of the sophisticated pastry shops of Milan, uses the small, crisp, commercially made amaretti both as a decoration and an ingredient in the cake batter. Though pastry shops produce many different types of macaroons, the crisp amaretti are usually purchased from a manufacturer for this type of dessert. Like pastry chefs in Italy, I use the Lazzaroni Amaretti di Saronno, which are easy to find in the United States.

Ingredients

    Cake Batter

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup amaretti (Italian macaroons), ground in a food processor (about 15)
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup blanched almonds, ground
  • cup all-purpose flour

    Syrup

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • cup water
  • ¼ cup white rum

    Amaretti Filling

  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup amaretti (about 15), ground in a food processor

Method

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, 2 inches deep, and line with a disk of parchment or wax paper, cut to fit.

For the cake batter, whip the egg yolks and ground amaretti, either with a hand mixer set at medium speed or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Continue whipping until very light, about 5 minutes. In a clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites with the salt until they are opaque and beginning to hold their shape. Increase the speed to maximum and whip in the sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping the egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Fold the yolks into the whites, then fold in the ground almonds. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in quickly but gently, using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake layer at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until it is well colored and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. For advance preparation, wrap the cake layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate several days or freeze up to 1 month.

For the syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cool and stir in the rum.

For the amaretti filling, bring the milk to a boil with half the sugar. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the salt and whisk in the remaining sugar. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture and whisk in smoothly. When the milk boils, whisk one-third of it into the yolk mixture. Return the remaining milk to a boil and whisk in the yolk mixture, continuing to whisk until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching, for 1 minute. Whisk in the vanilla. Scrape the pastry cream into a clean nonreactive bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. To finish the filling, beat the butter, either with a hand mixer set at medium speed or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle. Continue beating until the butter is very soft and light. Add the pastry cream all at once, then continue beating until smooth and light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the ground amaretti.

To assemble the torta, cut the cooled layer into 2 horizontal layers, using a sharp, serrated knife. Place one layer on a cardboard disk or a platter and moisten with half the syrup, using a brush. Spread the layer with one-third of the amaretti filling. Place the second layer on top of the filling and moisten with the remaining syrup. Spread the outside of the cake smoothly with another third of the filling. Press the crushed amaretti all over the outside of the cake so they adhere. Use the remaining filling to pipe a border around the top of the torta with a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch star tube (Ateco #1). Refrigerate the cake to allow the filling to set. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving. Dust with the confectioners’ sugar immediately before serving.

Crushed amaretti and confectioners’ sugar for finishing

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