Recipe: Torta di Pane, a Swiss Bread Cake

Torta di pane literally translated means “bread cake” in Italian. This dish can be found in the Swiss canton of Ticino. It’s perfect for those times when your leftover Zopf has turned a bit stale. Even the driest leftover bread can be transformed into a satisfyingly sweet cake.

This special bread cake has many variations, but you generally use leftover white bread as the base. For example, the cantonal bread for Ticino, Pane Ticinese, works well for this cake.

After moistening the bread in milk, you can add a variety of dried fruit (typically raisins, but you could substitute them for cranberries or currants) and nuts (e.g., almonds, pine nuts or walnuts). The addition of dried fruit helps to sweeten the cake, but you’ll often see sugar or honey also added to the mixture. Crumbled Amaretti biscuits can also add a nice flavor to the cake, if you have some on hand. Bakers will traditionally add an egg to help bind all these ingredients together.

An old recipe that works just as well today to help reduce food waste, Torta di Pane can be enjoyed at breakfast with some coffee or for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. I like this cake when it’s still warm, but I’ve read that it tastes better the next day, when the flavors have had more time to develop.

Recipe: Torta di Pane

Makes one round cake

Ingredients:

  • 250 g dry, stale bread (e.g. Zopf, Pane Ticinese, or Petits Pains au Lait, etc.)
  • 500 ml milk
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Nocino, Grappa or Kirsch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a generous tablespoon cocoa powder
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 50 g candied orange or lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 50 g raisins
  • a pinch of salt

Toppings: pine nuts, butter and powdered sugar

Instructions:

  1. First, start by soaking pieces of the stale bread in milk until it softens (e.g. overnight in the refrigerator).
  2. After the bread has fully softened and soaked up all the milk, mash the pieces of bread with your hands, a pair of forks or a pastry blender.
  3. To a large bowl, add the mushy bread mixture and all the remaining ingredients. Then, stir everything together in the bowl until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  4. Prepare a round cake pan with a diameter of about 20-23 cm (8-9 inches). Line the pan with parchment paper.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with pine nuts and add a few small pats of butter. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 ° C / 350 ° F for about 60-65 minutes.
  6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. Before serving, sprinkle the cake with some powdered sugar.

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