The Torta Paradiso first came into existence in Enrico Vigoni’s pastry shop in the late nineteenth century. The story goes that Vigoni experimented long and hard before finding the recipe and, when an aristocratic lady tasted it, she instinctively exclaimed: “This cake is paradise!”
Whether or not the legend is true hardly matters, for Enrico Vigoni had managed to make the most brilliant use of ingredients readily available in the Pavese countryside – sugar, eggs, flour, butter, and potato starch – and had created a cake that was simple and that could be kept for a couple of months. The flavour was perfect for the customs and tastes of the day and the fact that it could be kept for a long time – in an age with no good storage methods or preservatives – made the Torta Paradiso an overnight success, and it could be shipped without problem. Thus it was that it became a symbol of Pavia and a classic of Italian pastry-making.
It crumbles in the mouth, with a delicate taste of lemon, and despite the butter, it is also very light, making the perfect accompaniment for tea or a glass of sweet wine, such as a moscato or a passito. (Enrico Magenes