How to make it: Emiko Davies’ torta con i ciccioli di Nonna Maria (Granny Maria’s lard cake) recipe

This dense cake is enriched with lard and ciccioli, small pieces of fatty pork, to create an original and subtle sweet-savoury flavour.

By Emiko Davies
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:20 BST, Updated 17 Jan 2022, 09:56 GMT
Torta con i ciccioli di Nonna Maria (Granny Maria’s lard cake).

Torta con i ciccioli di Nonna Maria (Granny Maria’s lard cake).

Photograph by Getty Images

Nonna Maria was known for her no-nonsense baking, and this dense lard cake enriched with lard and ciccioli is a fine example. Ciccioli are small pieces of fatty pork, cooked slowly until all the fat has melted out of them; this is then drained off for making lard. Similar to pork scratchings, they’re either left plain or they’re spiced or salted. It may sound strange, but the sweet-savoury result is much like having pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon, though far subtler.

Serves: 8
Takes: 55 mins


200g white sugar
150g softened butter
60g softened lard
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
500g plain flour
60ml vin santo (or white wine, rum or Marsala)
zest of 1 lemon or orange
150g unseasoned ciccioli, finely chopped (optional)
icing sugar, to serve


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Cream together the sugar, butter and lard in a bowl. Add the whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, until well incorporated.
2. Mix in the flour and, once smooth, the wine, zest and ciccioli (if using), until just combined.
3. Spread out the mixture in a 23-26cm diameter round cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake for about 45 mins, or until deep golden brown on top and springy in the middle. Leave to cool, cut into slices and serve dusted with icing sugar.

Published in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food (UK)

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