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How Could I Not Know About Torta Setteveli?
In Trapani, I selected an unknown dessert for my husband to try, which, in turn, became an epic quest. I knew about Cassata Siciliana, Cannoli, but Torta Setteveli – never. In 1997, a version of this sublime cake won the Gold Medal for Luigi Biasetto, Gianluca Mannori, and Cristian Beduschi at the Pastry World Cup in Lyon, France. And it has always been a sought-after Sicilian specialty for celebrations. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Charlene and I have sacrificed our waistlines and those of several of our nearest and dearest so that Robert could have a whole slice and not share – and you can make this lush cake. The Torta Setteveli is a five-hour project that is fun to do with a cooking bestie. It also can be made a day ahead of serving and probably tastes even better. We found the directions from A Food Lover’s Odyssy to be very helpful – but we felt that they needed some adjustment and streamlining.
You’ll Need A Torta Setteveli Road Map
We looked at several videos in Italian and English, and read through numerous recipes as well. There are variations in how you put together the layers of the torta setteveli. BUT the seven veils of flavors and textures are sacred. You will have two layers of a chocolate genoise (or sponge) made in a 9-inch or 10-inch spring form pan. You split these layers in two and paint each with a sugar syrup and then cover with food wrap to keep moist while you continue with the rest of the project. One of the split genoise layers is the base, and you spread the chocolate hazelnut crunch layer on top. You then spread a 1/2 inch layer of Hazelnut Bavarian Cream. The second genoise layer is added with another layer of the Hazelnut Bavarian cream. This is then topped with the chocolate mousse frosting – and we frosted the sides. It makes a nicer finish for the chocolate glaze, which is Setteveli’s glorious crowning drizzle.
Many of the recipes we saw said to use cornflakes in the Chocolate Praline Crunch part, except for some professional Sicilian ones which stated passionately “No Cornflakes!” You could use a wheat or rice flake cereal (so far the only ones that seem decent are the organic ones, but I am not a cold cereal fan) or you can make your own “croquant,” which Charlene unearthed in a German cookbook. That is a major improvement over the dreaded cornflakes. Once you see how easy it is, you’ll keep it on hand to sprinkle over other cakes, muffins and ice cream. You’ll never look back at Cornflakes.
The Game Plan of Part I
Two layers will be made from your chocolate genoise, two from the Hazelnut Bavarian Cream, and one will be the chocolate crunch and one the chocolate mousse (with the option of using it to frost the sides). The final layer for the Torta Setteveli will be the chocolate glaze. We have included all the recipes below after you read through Game Plan I and II.
Make the chocolate mousse and refrigerate.
Make the Hazelnut Bavarian Cream and allow it to set up in the refrigerator. You can refold it or mix it at low speed if it is too set when you are ready to spread the layers.
Make the genoise and the syrup. Allow both to cool. Slice the top crust off the genoise. This allows for an even-sided base and an exposed top, which makes it preferable for imbibing the layers with your sugar syrup). Once you have thickly slathered your syrup onto the layers, cover them so they don’t dry out.
Make your croquant to use in the Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch. If you are preparing it ahead, cover and refrigerate, but bring to room temperature (and spreading consistency) when you are ready to assemble the cake.
You can make the chocolate glaze mixture without the gelatin at this point. You will soften and add the gelatin before you create the glaze as the top layer. If your chocolate glaze mixture is too cool, simply reheat it a bit so that the softened gelatin sheets will dissolve into it.
The Game Plan Part II
We recommend that you use a springform pan to assemble the cake. It will help to keep the layers uniform and can be popped off right before you add the Chocolate Mousse layer to the top and side. If this is used, you can easily assemble the cake directly on your cake plate. If you are using a cake pan with a removable bottom, that base or a cake board will become the surface the cake is built on. You will put the first layer inside the cake pan and start building!
You should already have the first layer of Chocolae Genoise (imbibed with the sugar syrup) on your cake plate inside your cake ring or springform mold. Then spread the Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch on the base genoise layer inside the form. Freeze for a few minutes so that the crunch layer is not “tacky”or soft.
Now spread about one half of the Hazelnut Bavarian Cream on top of the Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch layer. It should take about 2 cups of the Bavarian Cream, and you should spread it right to the edge of the cake. Return the cake to the freezer for 30 minutes. You want the cake to be set enough so that you can add the second genoise layer without smooshing the Bavarian Cream down the sides of the cake. For future reference, “smooshing” is our technical baking term.
Now you are ready to add the second Genoise layer, then another two cups of the Bavarian Cream, spreading it evenly to the edge of the cake as before. Return the cake to the freezer for about 30 minutes. You want the cake to set enough so that you can remove it from the form and spread the top and sides with the chocolate mousse without disturbing the Hazelnut Bavarian Cream. It sounds scary, but it’s not. Trust us! Once you have removed the cake ring (or springform mold) from the cake, cover the top and sides with the Chocolate Mousse. Return your cake to the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The Chocolate Mousse layer should be firm but not frozen.
Now is the time to pour on the Chocolate Glaze. If you have been assembling your Torta Setteveli on a cake round, you can set it on a cooling rack that has been placed in a sheet pan to catch the glaze that drips off the cake. If you have assembled your cake directly on a cake plate, you’ll probably want to clean up the edge of the cake plate with a damp cloth (or not). Start from the middle and work outward, allowing the glaze to fall over the sides in random drips. The gelatin in the glaze will set fairly quickly. When you are happy with the set of the glaze, return it to the refrigerator and allow the cake to chill for at least an hour.
This is the time to use your best quality ingredients. We recommend Valrhona, Cluizel or Cocoa Barry Cocoa Powder, For your chocolate, any of the mid-range bittersweets from Valrhona, Cluizel, Amedei or Slitti are excellent. Piedmont Hazelnuts are preferable in flavor to the domestic ones and we used India Tree Caster Sugar . A varied selection of these chocolates is available in some stores across the US. Contact them for store or online purchasing.
One more food note. We bake using a scale. Weights are so much more accurate than the US cup measures. We have tried to give approximate cup measures according to the information available on Google. But this would be a good time for you to invest in a scale. Digital is better than analog. And you can always do a random check with a set weight similar to what we advised in our much-read Thermapen post.
The Torta Setteveli, can be done a day ahead should you want to share it with some lucky friends for the coup de grâce at your dinner party. Speaking from experience, it will be difficult not to eat it for breakfast.
- 56.7gr (2oz or 4tbs) unsalted butter
- 170gr (6oz or 1/2 cup) caster sugar
- 100gr (3.5oz or 1 cup) blanched almonds in a medium fine grind
- In a 10-inch heavy bottomed skillet (we use cast iron or carbon steel) heat butter and sugar together over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to medium and add the almonds.
- Continue to stir until the nuts are browned lightly and evenly.
- Note: if the nuts are cooked too long or over too high heat, they will become dry, dark, and bitter.
- Spread the croquant on a buttered foil sheet or parchment to cool.
- Crumble the croquant so that it has the consistency of oatmeal flakes.
- You can add this to a chocolate sauce for ice cream, or even into an ice cream base. Use it to decorate the icing on a cake.
- It is such a handy item to have in your pantry, as it keeps for several months in an airtight container.
- 65gr (2.33 oz) or 3/8 cup dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
- 25gr (1oz) or 2tbs unsalted butter
- 80gr (2.75oz) a bit over 1/3 cup hazelnut paste
- 40gr (1.33oz) or 1/2 cup croquant or puffed rice cereal (not cornflakes)
- Melt the chocolate and the butter in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.
- Mix this until smooth and then add the hazelnut paste and croquant or puffed cereal. Set aside until you are ready to spread on top of the base layer of genoise..
- The chocolate crunch can be refrigerated, but must be at room temperature to spread.
- You can certainly use this crackly icing on cookies or bars as well. It is unusual and delicious. We used weights only when we bake, but we have tried get approximate American cup measurements here.
- 85gr (3oz) water
- 80gr (2.75oz) heavy cream
- 40gr (1.33oz) unsweetened alkalized or cocoa powder
- 120gr (4.25oz) caster sugar
- 4 gr (1/8oz) sheet gelatin (You may have to use a bit more if you use powdered gelatin)
- In a saucepan, bring to a boil the water, cream, cocoa powder and sugar, whisking constantly.
- Once boiling, keep whisking for around four minutes. Cool to 100F.
- Cut up your gelatin sheets and soak for a few minutes in cold water.
- Wring out before you mix it into the cocoa mixture.
- This mixture needs to cool to around 90F before frosting the chocolate mousse layer of Setteveli.
- This is the one part that Charlene and I feel should be done at the last minute. Do it early and it will gel, and you'd have to reheat it over hot water to get it to spreading consistency.Reheating gelatin is pretty dicey and not that successful.
- 8 oz (237 mi) or 1 cup whole milk
- 8 oz (237ml) or 1 cup heavy cream
- 4oz ((113.33gr) hazelnut paste
- 3.2 oz (90 gr) caster sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2oz (12gr) sheet gelatin or powder
- 16oz (473ml) heavy cream whipped to soft peaks
- Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
- Heat milk, cream and hazelnut paste to scalding in a saucepan (bubbles appear around interior edge.
- Soften the gelatin in cold water.
- While milk is heating, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are pale and silky in texture.
- Temper the yolk mixture with some of the scalded milk and hazelnut paste and then pour in the rest, whisking constantly.
- You want the mixture ultimately to test out between 165 and 175F. So reheat if your custard is not within that temperature range.
- Strain this into a smaller bowl that will sit in the ice water bath.
- Squeeze out the water from the softened gelatin and stir that in before the mixture cools down.
- Once your bavarian mixture has cooled down, you can fold in the whipped cream. Allow this to set up in your refrigerator or freezer.
- It should be a spreadable but somewhat stiff consistency.
- 150gr (5.3oz) heavy cream
- 150gr (5.3oz) chocolate in the mid 60 percentage range
- 250gr(8.75oz) heavy cream whipped to soft peaks and kept cool
- If the the chocolate is not in pistole or chip form, chop and place in a bowl
- In a saucepan,heat the first portion of cream until the edges bubble and it is scalding hot.
- Pour this immediately into the bowl of chocolate, whisking gently to thoroughly to completely blend until smooth.
- Your ganache should be around 90F when you fold it into the whipped cream. I
- f there is a major temperaturedisparity between the whipped cream and the ganache, you may have a granular texture in the final mixture.
- I have whisked it in a mixer over low speed to correct this.
- You can frost any cake or bar cookie with this whipped ganache.
- It just needs to be refrigerated.
- 130gr(4 2/3oz) all purpose flour
- 30gr (1oz)unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
- 20gr (2/3oz) potato or corn starch
- 6 large eggs at room temperature
- 180gr (6 1/3oz) caster sugar
- 30gr (1oz) melted butter
- 100gr (3.53oz) caster sugar
- 100gr (3.75oz) water
- 1/2 tbs rum or other liqueur can be used as an optional flavoring.
- Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
- The springform will also be used to gradually build your cake..
- Make your sugar syrup and refrigerate
- Boil the sugar and water together until clear, add liqueur if desired. .
- Sift the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder in a bowl.
- Whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl over simmering water until they are about 80F and double in volume.
- Transfer to your mixer, using the whisk attachment, and whip until almost triple in volume. It should fall back in a ribbon when lifted.
- Ladle about half the flour mixture around the sides of the egg mixture and fold it in in with a spatula, forming a "J" pattern
- Fold in the remaining flour mixture the same way until no streaks of flour are showing through.and then fold in the melted butter
- Pour into springform pan and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes
- Poke a narrow knife or skewer to make sure that the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool and then remove from pan and then cool thoroughly on rack.
- Split, and brush with syrup and cover with both cling wrap to keep moist. .
- 250 grams (8.75oz) or 1.25 cups caster sugar
- 75 grams (2.66oz) or 2/3 cup water
- 450 grams (15.75oz) or 3 cups whole peeled hazelnuts
- 1-1 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut or walnut oil (or vegetable oil)
- Caramelize the sugar and water in a saucepan until it is a light amber color.
- Temperature should be around 340F
- Once you reach the light amber stage, remove from heat and stir in hazelnuts.
- You will have to work quickly to mix in the nuts.
- Make sure each nut is coated completely in the caramel.
- Pour onto a silpat or parchment paper and cool completely
- Once cooled, break into pieces and fill into a food processor.
- You may have to work in batches, depending on the size of your processor.
- Process until you have with a little oil until it is just creamy, like peanut butter.
- We used this for the Setteveli but it can be added to any mousse or as a flavoring to an ice cream base. Mix some into pastry cream for profieroles or eclairs.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.