Northern Italy's Sandy Cake Uses Potato Flakes For Its Iconic Texture

The northern Italian region of Veneto, most famously home to Venice, is culinarily known for bringing the world Prosecco, asiago cheese, and white asparagus. However, where the sweet-toothed among us are concerned, the region is most loved for a traditional cake called torta sabbiosa, or sandy cake. The name is actually, ironically, a bit of a misnomer, because the cake's iconic texture is far from grainy or sandy. It is soft, light, and pillowy all thanks to one seemingly unusual ingredient for a cake: potato flakes.

Also known as instant mashed potatoes, good-quality potato flakes consist of nothing more than dehydrated potatoes that have previously been cooked and mashed. When you add them to boiling water, they reform into a yielding, cloud-like bed of mashed potatoes. This is what gives the torta sabbiosa its distinctive fluffy interior. As the cake bakes in the oven, the moisture from the other ingredients helps to fully rehydrate the potatoes enough to make the cake super soft and delicate.

Despite its northern origins, torta sabbiosa has become a favorite treat up and down the length of Italy. And don't think for a second that the Italians just eat this cake for dessert. Torta sabbiosa can be eaten as a sweet midday snack, or even as an accompaniment to coffee during breakfast. With that motivation in mind, shall we learn how to make one?

How to make torta sabbiosa

Torta sabbiosa doesn't take too long to make, and the ingredients can be found in the average grocery store, if not already in your kitchen. The simple cake is typically made with potato flakes or potato flour, butter, eggs, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Some recipes include almond flour or wheat flour. And variations of the dish also add a little bit of citrus zest to the batter. 

When the cake is baked, the end result is sweet enough that just a little garnish of powdered sugar will more than suffice for a topping. However, because of its relatively neutral flavor, torta sabbiosa can be paired with virtually any kind of accompaniment, from berries, fruit syrups, and preserves, to sweetened whipped cream, vanilla custard, or dollops of thick mascarpone. Whatever you choose to do, you will enjoy this light, sweet, smooth cake so much that you'll definitely be making it over and over again.