Torta Paradiso with Cream Cheese & Jam. Torta Paradiso is a classic Italian cake from the 19th century, with an unforgettable, paradisiac texture (hence, the name): soft, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth. Here the cake is filled with whipped cream cheese and raspberry apple jam and topped with fresh summer berries and mint. My Italian answer to a layered cake.
Song of the day: Paradise by Sade.
I remember seeing the same recipe book in the drawer of the antique kitchen cabinet in my parents’ place, since forever.
It was the Ricettario Bertolini (where Bertolini is the Italian major maker of the baking powder: lievito vanigliato) and it was small, like a pocketbook, with recipes, both sweet and savory, that required the addition of baking powder -of course. The recipes were alternated by the illustrated stories of Maria Rosa, a lovely girl with rosy cheeks and golden braids. In the kitchen, she was a marvel. I loved that recipe book, as a kid.
Brava brava Maria Rosa ogni cosa sai far tu, qui la vita è sempre rosa solo quando ci sei tu.
It was 1974, I was 6 years old, and that catchy commercial, in black and white on tv, got so imprinted in my mind that after years is still with me [unfortunately, in English, it doesn’t work the same, because Maria Rosa (rosa=pink): Well done Maria Rosa, everything you can do, here life is always “pink” only when you are there.]
Anyway, in that recipe book that we still have, among missing pages, stains, and smudges, there was a recipe for the Torta Paradiso. It is a very popular, classic, Italian cake from the 19th century, with an incredible texture, so soft, crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth that well deserves the epithet of ‘Paradise Cake’. We made it with my mother once when I was a teenager and I had started to take the reins of the home baking. I think you might guess why it wasn’t my mother’s favorite…yes, because of the amount of butter in it. The creaming of the butter and icing sugar is what makes the cake so special. The picture above shows the level of creaminess you need to achieve, by beating them for 15 minutes.
There are also eggs in this cake, that need to be incorporated gently; flour, of course, and potato starch, another frequent ingredient in Italian baking. It lends a softness to cakes, like no other. But the fluffy texture is not the only outstanding point of the Torta Paradiso. The flavors of lemon zest and vanilla bean are unforgettable and once you have a bite of this cake you’ll know why they call it Torta Paradiso.
Torta Paradiso is not quite just a “sponge cake”. Its texture is not spongy at all, but crumbly and soft, and in Italy, Torta Paradiso is mostly served as is, that means with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top. And needless to say, it is a cake we have at breakfast. There is also a kid’s snack made by Kinder, that is called Kinder Paradiso and you can find it in the chiller cabinets of the local supermarkets. It consists of two slices of the cake filled with a milk/honey cream, so delicious even grown-ups are crazy for it! When not done right, though, Torta Paradiso could be quite the opposite of a ‘paradise cake’, dry, sandy, and hard to swallow without the help of a liquid to gulp it down.
I didn’t follow Bertolini‘s recipe for this cake, but the recipe I found in an Italian magazine I purchased at FICO Eataly World in Bologna, a must-see destination for foodies that are planning a trip to Italy. As soon as I saw the Torta Paradiso I was transported back to my childhood and had to make it.
Back to the cake, Torta Paradiso has such a delicate texture that more often than not will deflate a bit in the center while baking. That’s why they suggest to invert it almost as soon as it comes out of the oven and leave it inverted, so the top is beautifully smooth, whether you want to just dust it with icing sugar or put berries on it like I did.
The combination of cream cheese and jam in the layer of this cake is heavenly. And with fresh seasonal organic berries on top, it is a true taste of summer. That is what I like in this cake that I do not like in other layered cakes, the freshness, and lightness of every forkful, that leaves you with an incredible taste in your mouth, and a smile from ear to hear, without that sense of heaviness and overly sweet.
If you’ve noticed from the Italian cakes I posted on the blog, or from other Italian cakes you find on the web, a dusting of icing/powdered sugar is always present. I don’t know what it is about it, but it feels like that is what every homebaked good should look like. No heavy frosting, or icing, just a sprinkle of “pixie dust” 🙂 .
This cake epitomizes Italian baking. Simple ingredients, minimal elaborate decoration, yet incredibly fresh, light, joyous flavors and textures that will give you nothing but the feeling that you are floating in Paradise!
Song of the day: Paradise by Sade.Print
Torta Paradiso with Cream Cheese & Jam. Torta Paradiso is a classic Italian cake with an unforgettable, paradisiac texture (hence, the name): soft, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth. Here the cake is filled with whipped cream cheese and raspberry apple jam and topped with fresh summer berries and mint. My Italian answer to a layered cake.
- 150 g icing (powdered) sugar
- 150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 80 g all-purpose flour (or 00 flour)
- 80 g potato starch
- 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks, organic, free-range, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 8 g aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 organic lemon, the zest
- pinch salt
For the filling
- 250 g organic cream cheese
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- jam (raspberry or whatever flavor you like. We used raspberry apple jam)
For the top
- 2 Tbsp icing (powdered) sugar
- fresh summer berries (we used blueberries and raspberries)
- a few small mint leaves
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, start whisking the butter then add half of the icing sugar at a time. Whisk for about 15 minutes, or until creamy white and soft. You could also use the handheld mixer for a good result.
- Add a pinch of salt, the vanilla bean seeds, the lemon zest.
- Continue mixing at low speed and slowly add the beaten eggs, a couple tablespoons at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous is incorporated. Remove bowl from stand mixer.
- In a medium bowl sift the flour, potato starch, and baking powder. Add it to the stand mixer bowl, one tablespoon at a time, incorporating it gently with a spatula, folding from the bottom up. The batter has to be foamy and soft.
- Preheat the oven to 340° F (170°C).
- Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 20 cm (9-inch) springform pan. Put a round parchment paper liner at the bottom of the pan, then add the mixture, leveling the top with a spatula.
- Place the springform pan in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, checking with a wood skewer or a cake tester.
- Take out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes in the pan on a rack, then remove the springform and invert on a plate. Let it cool completely.
- Whit a handheld mixer, whip the cream cheese, icing sugar, and the other half of the vanilla bean seeds.
- Cut the cake horizontally. Spread the whipped cream cheese as a first layer on the bottom of the cake. Add the jam and spread it evenly over the cream cheese.
- Top with the other half of the cake. Dust generously with icing sugar.
- Arrange berries and mint leaves on top, as you most like.
Have all the ingredients at room temperature, that will help the success of the cake.
When the cake is baking, don’t bump the stove or jump up and down in the kitchen, any vibration could deflate the cake, lol. The cake could deflate a bit, anyway, in the center. Let it cool for a few minutes, then invert it on a plate. The smooth bottom of the cake will become the top.
The cake lasts for a couple of days, in the fridge. I wrapped plastic wrap around it to keep it moist. If not, the edges will dry a little. The second day it was gone, so I don’t know about keeping it longer in the fridge. You can also use a glass dome cake stand.
You could use mascarpone/whipped cream instead of cream cheese.
You can replace the 00 flour (or all-purpose flour) with the same amount of rice flour.