The 'Tender Heart' Chocolate Cake That Honors Italian Royalty

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Italian history is fraught with political drama that puts any developed nation to shame. The country as we all know it today did not come into existence until 1871 when Rome was annexed from papal authority and made the capital of The Kingdom of Italy. The Kingdom had been declared a decade earlier, though Rome and Venice were still under the control of the papacy and Austria, respectively (via The Florentine). So, if you've ever wondered why each Italian region is so proud, unique, and individualistic, it's because the country wasn't unified under one flag for the majority of its history.

The unified Kingdom was short-lived, however. By the reign of King Victor Emmanuel III, who would subsequently be Italy's final monarch, the National WWII Museum reports the nation had seen the ravages of WWI, the rise of Fascism, the destruction of WWII, and the formation of the modern Republic of Italy. Long before any of this, however, there was a bright spot in the Kingdom. It took the form of Emmanuel's wife, Elena Petrovich of Montenegro. Their marriage and Elena herself were so beloved throughout Italy, that a decadent chocolate dessert was created and named in honor of her and Emmanuel's love.

A cake of many names

It's a cake that goes by many names: Torta Montenegrin, Torta Regina del Montenegro, Torta Tacolenta, etc. However, the name it is most recognized by is Torta Tenerina. Hailing from the village of Ferrara in the north-central region of Emilia Romagna, this Italian version of what is, essentially, a large chocolate brownie was given this name in reference both to its texture and the honored Queen Elena. In Italian, tenerina means "tender." Known throughout the Kingdom as a woman of a sweet demeanor with a tender heart, the Emilian people were paying tribute to Queen Elena in the form of a chocolate cake (via La Cucina Italiana and True Italian). 

The recipe for Torta Tenerina is deceptively simple for such a decadent dessert. What you end up with is a gloriously rich chocolate cake that is ever so slightly crispy on the outside and tender and gooey on the inside. "Great British Bake Off" champion, Giuseppe Dell'Anno, told People the cake is an absolute "heaven for chocolate lovers" and has an interior that is "delicate, and almost creamy." The proud Britalian even developed his own version of Torta Tenerina for his book "Giuseppe's Italian Bakes."