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Vignola's Secret Chocolate Cake

Torta Barozzi


Mention torta Barozzi in the town of Vignola, just outside of Modena, known for its moretta cherries, and the residents there will enter into an argument as to the ingredients that go into this sinfully delicious chocolate cake named after native son Jacopo Barozzi, a famous Renaissance architect credited with designing the spiral staircase among other accomplishments. The recipe was invented by Eugenio Gollini in 1897 in his pasticerria still in operation in Vignola and its ingredients have been a well kept secret all these years. This much we do know; it is a dense, flourless chocolate cake with run, coffee, and almonds. Being curious, and after much research, here is my interpretation of this dark-as-midnight cake. Some important points before you begin: Use high quality semisweet chocolate; beat the sugar and egg yolks very well; do not overbeat the egg whites; and most importantly, do not overbake the cake. It should remain moist and a bet wet when a cake skewer is inserted into the center. This cake delivers every taste sensation of a moist, fudgy texture, punctuated with the crunchiness of the ground almonds and a meringue-like top.

Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with butter, or cooking spray, dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess, and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside. Or line the pan with a sheet of dampened parchment paper, allowing the excess to overhang the sides.


Preheat the oven to 350F.

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted on a cookie sheet for 4 minutes in a 350 oven

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

4 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons rum or orange liquor, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (not commercial balsamic vinegar used for salads, but the much more expensive, artisinal version.)

1/4 cup coffee

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar or almond flavored confectioners' sugar


Grind the almonds to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over hot water.

Beat the yolks and sugar until lemon colored and very fluffy; stir in the almonds, chocolate mixture, rum and coffee. Set aside.

Beat the whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp.

Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Carefully run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.

Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the confectioners' sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.

Cut into thin wedges to serve.

This recipe is featured in show 1704 — Chocolate Cakes.


  1. Irena T's avatar

    Irena T

    Thank you, Mary Ann,I love your cooking.t.
  2. Bedelia von Paulhus's avatar

    Bedelia von Paulhus

    When you say l/4 cup of coffee, do you
    mean ground coffee that use to make coffee or
    1/4 cup of coffee that you have made. I want to
    make this Barozzi as I saw the movie last night.
  3. Mark Stevens's avatar

    Mark Stevens

    I have made this twice, using brewed coffee. I noticed that, while it raised fine in cooking, when cooled touching the top of the cake to check that it was completely cool the top collapsed. What am I doing wrong? I add confectioners sugar to the almonds to help me get almond powder.

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