Pine Nut Cake - Pinolata
November 13, 2009
[Elaine] in cake, desserts, pine nuts


I love this cake because you can have it after dinner as a dessert or you can have it in the morning with coffee and it's great either way.  The traditional way to make this cake is very simple which is just mixing up the batter and pouring it into your pan.  But thanks to Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde in New York City, I use a different method.  He's a master at taking classic dishes and giving them a new twist and that is what he did with this cake.  In his terrific book, Urban Italian, he makes the usual batter but then he whips up a meringue and folds that into the batter. It makes for a wonderfully light cake.  He also adds lemon zest and juice to the cake, making it even more special.   He likes to slice this cake and makes an ice cream sandwich out of it, with chocolate ice cream!  Now there's an idea.  

This recipe makes 3 cakes.  I wrapped two up tightly and stuck them in the freezer for use over Thanksgiving - they will definitely come in handy.  I will just whip up some cream to serve with them. 

Since the meringue is made with just egg whites, you will have egg yolks left over.  You can either make gnocchi (which is what I did the next day) or you can make homemade pasta. 

Pine Nut Cake (Pinolata)



adapted from Urban Italian 

for a printer friendly recipe, click here

makes 3 9x5 cakes


for the cake batter:

for the meringue:



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve.

Prepare the batter

Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest together in a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment.  Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.

When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder.  Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next.  Turn the KitchenAid up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.

Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it's thoroughly incorporated.

As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula.  Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  


Prepare the meringue:

Beat the egg whites in the mixer with the whisk attachment at medium speed until they've formed a froth.

While the egg whites are still whisking, add the sugar in a slow stream.  Mix at medium for 20 seconds and then turn up the mixer to high and continue beating until the meringue forms stiff peaks, about 4 minutes.  

Finish the cake:

Fold a third of the meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well.  Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined.  Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 3 tablespoons for the top of the cakes.

Spray 3 9x5 loaf pans evenly on all sides with a nonstick coating.  Fill each loaf pan about two-thirds full with the batter.  Smooth and flatten the tops with the spatula.  Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with the reserved pine nuts.  

Bake the loaves on the middle rack until you can put a knife into each and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cake rack to cool completely.   You can wrap and freeze them if you wish.

You might also like Pignoli, Italian Pine Nut Cookies.  They are our favorite little cookie.

Article originally appeared on The Italian Dish (
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