Torta alla Melagrana (Pomegranate Cake)

Pomegranate CakeA few months ago, Monica sent me a bunch of Italian cooking magazines from 15+ years ago that her mom had lying around. They all had such beautiful pictures and I don’t care what anyone says, the photo is what entices me to make something, especially a recipe I’ve never made, nor seen before and most certainly when said recipe is in another language. And with several photos of step by step instructions included, that was another plus. Since pomegranates are the new super food, they for sure must cancel out any sugar, butter, white flour and extra egg yolks in the recipe. So Torta alla Melegrana, adapted from a recipe in a 1997 issue of Finalmente Dolci magazine was my project.

Finalmente DolceFirst of all, I just want to say that even if Italian were my native language, I would have had difficulty with this recipe because of the way it was written. The very first rule of recipe writing is to list the ingredients in the order you use them. This must be an American thing because I still can’t figure out the way the ingredients were listed. But I had fun translating the recipe (Luciana, my Italian teacher would be so proud), converting the measurements (my brain got a workout) and reorganizing (because…well, I like things that way) .

Pomegranate CakeBut let’s move on to the pomegranates. Nowadays, a lot of stores sell containers of fresh pomegranate seeds which certainly saves a lot of time but the day I went to the grocery store, there were none. So I figured I’d just buy a few pomegranates because how difficult could it be to deseed them? Having no idea how to tell a ripe one, my impatient son, who was rushing me along in the store, googled “how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe”. said “pomegranates in the store are picked when ripe” and “they should feel heavy as if it’s very full of juice.” Seriously? That’s it? He tossed a few in the cart and kept moving.

Isn’t this a beautiful looking pomegranate photo below? Well, this is NOT what the ones I bought looked like. (However it is a photo I took of a gorgeous pomegranate in Israel – nice, huh?)

PomegranateWhen I got home and cut them, guess what? The seeds weren’t ripe and ruby red at all, more of a palish, washed out pink. The next step was to deseed them and again, the internet was supposed to be my friend. I read that to deseed them, you simply cut them in half, whack them with a big spoon and the seeds easily fall right out into the bowl. I even watched a couple of YouTube videos just to confirm this. And you know what?? Everyone lied! I  kept whacking those poor pomegranates with a huge metal spoon again and again until finally, finally three pasty pink hued seeds fell out. I ended up tearing the fruits apart and picking out each seed one by one until I finally had the amount I needed.

So I pass along to you my new found pomegranate knowledge and a spectacular recipe; no matter how you get your pomegranate seeds, this cake is worth it. The torta has a nice firm cakey type of bottom layer with a wonderful ricotta cheesecake filling speckled with (what should be) beautiful, crimson seeds. So don’t believe everything you read on the internet (except anything you read here, of course) and if you already have your pomegranate deseeding technique wired, let me know because I’d truly love to know the secret.

Pomegranate Cake

Torta alla Melagrana (Pomegranate Cake)
For the Crust
  • 1 ½ c./200 gr. flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ½ tsp/8 gr. baking powder (or ½ packet of Pane degli Angeli)
  • 1 T. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 T./80 g. butter, room temperature
For the Cream (to be added to the ricotta filling)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ T./20 g. sugar
  • 1 T./10 g. cornstarch
  • 1 c. milk
For the Ricotta Filling
  • 1 c./250 g. ricotta
  • 3 T./25 gr. Cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ⅓ c. /90 g. sugar
  • grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 T./60 g. butter, melted
  • the seeds from 2 pomegranates.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease an 8 inch pie plate.
To Prepare the Crust
  1. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, baking powder, and milk.
  2. Add the 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing well for 1-2 minutes until a ball forms and the ingredients are well mixed.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Mix well for 1 minute.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes. The dough will be soft. Gently push and roll the dough into a circle and place in pie plate.
To prepare the cream (which is added to the Ricotta filling):
  1. Put the yolk and sugar in a small saucepan. Mix well until creamy and yellow.
  2. Add the cornstarch and milk. Mix well, and over low heat, gently bring just to a boil, stirring constantly until thick.
  3. Remove from heat, let the cream cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the top.
To prepare the Ricotta filling
  1. In another bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, corn starch, egg yolk, sugar, grated lemon zest.
  2. Stir in the butter and mix well.
  3. Add the cream mixture, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the pomegranate seeds.
  5. Gently place the ricotta cream filling in the dough covered pie plate. Crimp or trim the edges to your preference.
  6. Bake 55-65 minutes until very lightly golden and not jiggly.
  7. Cool several hours before serving.