RECIPE: Italian Apricot Cake for Springtime

This recipe is a typical grandmother recipe – written on a scrap of paper, a list of ingredients like “2 cups flour plus” and “a little water” and that’s about it, with no directions whatsoever.

Known in my family as Torta di Barna, this was my grandma’s recipe that is named after the northern Italian town she was from.  Located about 5 miles west of Lake Como, Barna is very small – like 80 people small – so it’s no wonder that I couldn’t find any information online about this cake.

Like most Italian food, it’s a relatively simple recipe that uses basic ingredients that were likely to be stocked in the pantry at home.  My grandmother used to make this cake several times throughout the year, decorating the top with different designs like half moons or sunflowers.  And with hints of lemon in the crust and fragrant apricot preserves, it’s the perfect dessert for Easter or any other springtime occasion.


Torta di Barna Casalinga
Makes one 9-inch round cake

1 lemon, grated
1 cup of sugar
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 3/4 cups of flour, divided
1 jar of apricot preserves
1 tablespoon of water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare cake pan by buttering and then lightly dusting it with flour, shaking out any excess.
  2. Combine the lemon, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder and 2 cups of flour in the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix on medium speed until combined.
  3. Continue to mix, adding remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough comes together and can be molded by hand.  (Note: You may not need the full 3/4 cup of flour.)
  4. Meanwhile, combine apricot preserves and water in a saucepan and heat on low for 1 minute, or until the preserves are loosened and the water is fully incorporated.
  5. Roll out a small portion of the dough and cut it into strips or shapes to decorate the top of the cake.  (Tip: I use a small glass to cut out petals and a circle for the center of a flower.)
  6. Place remaining dough in the prepared pan and evenly press down to fill the bottom and sides of the pan.
  7. Pour apricot preserves into the middle of the crust and smooth out to form an even layer, pushing down the sides of the crust if necessary.  Decorate the top of the cake with dough shapes.
  8. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the edges of the crust begin to turn golden brown.  Be careful not to overcook or else the preserves may burn.
  9. Carefully remove the cake from oven (the preserves will be very hot), let cool completely and chill before cutting and serving.
The dough before your add the “plus” of flour

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