Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Psychedelic Torte

We started off another year of daring baking just right -- with a yoga class, some delicious $4 toast, and a lovely hazelnut cake, called an Esterhazy Torte. I got started on the dacquoise layers on Friday night, which were pretty easy -- just a lot of egg whites, ground hazelnuts, a bit of flour and a bunch of sugar.


On Saturday, after enjoying our yoga and toast, we made the filling. We were commending ourselves on a job well done when I tasted it and... something was very much missing. Because it tasted... bad. Ah yes, we had forgotten to put the sugar in with the eggs. So we added it to the already mixed filling and tasted it, and it still tasted... pretty bad. So we added more sugar until it tasted good. Magical, wonderful, sugar.

Sara took on the task of layering together the cake -- 5 dacquoise layers plus filling in between each.

The dacquoise layers looked an awful lot like buckwheat pancakes. But they tasted deliciously of sugar and hazelnuts. Not that we were nibbling around the edges or anything.

They were dry out of the oven but a bit sticky the next day. I was worried that the parchment would stick and ruin them but it turned out fine.

I heated up the apricot jam and a little water in the microwave and glazed the top of the cake, and then spread some additional filling around the sides. 

Then came the icing... well, the attempt at the icing. The idea was to ice with white icing, make four concentric circles with melted chocolate, and then drag a knife along the chocolate to make the pretty Esterhazy web aka spider web design. We started off OK...

... but our overly liquidy white icing started to drip and drag the chocolate along with it.

And it just kept spreading and dripping, until our cake looked like a trippy version of the real thing. It reminded me of that famous Salvador Dali painting with a melting clock. At first we thought it maybe might look better -- or at least more interesting -- than what we were supposed to be doing.

We forged ahead and rolled the outside in hazelnuts.

Then we transferred it to a plate and it continued to look weirder and weirder.

But you know what? As strange and misshapen as it ultimately looked, it tasted just divine.

And after a night in the fridge, it tasted even better.

For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?



12 large egg whites
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
2-1⁄2 cups (9 oz) (250 gm) ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup (23⁄4 oz) (80 gm) plain (all purpose) flour


12 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
1-1/3 cups (101⁄2 oz) (300 gm) butter at room temperature
1-1⁄2 cups (5-1/3 oz)(150 gm) toasted ground hazelnuts


around 3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1-2/3 oz) (45 gm) apricot jam
1 teaspoon (5 ml) water


21⁄2 to 31⁄4 cups (10-2/3 to 14 oz) (300-400 gm) icing (powdered) (confectioners') sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sunflower oil
3-4 teaspoons (15-20 ml) lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons (60 ml) hot water


1⁄4 cup (13⁄4 oz) (50 gm) dark chocolate
1 teaspoon (5 ml) oil
3⁄4 cup (31⁄2 oz) (100 gm) roughly chopped hazelnuts



Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray in a cold oven, increase the temperature to moderate

180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, and bake until a nice aroma starts to come out of the oven and the nuts have become darker.

Continue until their skins almost turn black or dark brown and the hazelnut 'meat' becomes a caramel colour. You will need to watch the oven carefully since the nuts can easily burn. From time to time, just open the oven and carefully try one to see if the centre is nice and crispy, but be careful not to burn yourself. It should take about 15-25 minutes. This baking process brings out the aroma of the hazelnuts needed for the cake. (If you are using almonds instead of hazelnuts, they need to stay white. Hazelnuts are not good in this cake if their aroma is not present.)

Let them cool.

Set aside 3⁄4 cup (31⁄2 oz) (100 gm) toasted nuts and roughly chop them. These will go around the cake at the end.

The rest need to be ground. A grinding machine is best since a food processor might turn the hazelnuts into a creamy mush. If you are using a processor do it in short pulses so they do not have the consistency of peanut butter but of fine powder.

Divide the ground hazelnuts into 2 batches of 2-1⁄2 cups (9 oz) (250 gm) and 1-1⁄2 cups (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) for the sponge layers and the filling respectively.

HAZELNUT LAYERS (Dacquoise layers)

With an electric mixer beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar and vanilla sugar for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add in the hazelnuts mixed with the flour and beat until just combined.

Cut baking paper into five squares large enough to draw a circle of 10 inch (25cm) in diameter on the squares.

Turn the paper over and place one piece onto an up-side down oven tray and delicately spoon inside the circle one-fifth of the beaten egg white mixture.

Place the tray into an preheated moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 (no fan) oven and bake for 14 minutes. It will look soft but that is how we want them. Your finger should not stick to the layer when you touch it.

Take the layer out together with the paper and place on an even surface

Cool the oven tray and repeat with the next 4 layers. It is important that the up-side down oven tray is cool when you start to bake the layers.

If you have a 10 inch (25cm) diameter spring form pan with a removable bottom just cut out five pieces of baking paper to fit the bottom and spoon the mixture in the pan.

Make sure to cool the bottom of the pan after removing each layer and before placing the egg white mixture for the next layer into it.

Place all the layers next to each other.


The filling is cooked in a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler just take two pots so that the smaller one fits perfectly in the larger one and there is no gap between them.

Fill the larger pot with about 1-inch (2 cm) water place on the stove and bring the water to a slow boil, the water should not touch the smaller pot bottom.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer in the smaller pot for 30 seconds. Place the smaller pot into the larger one and cook for 14-15 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes for a short while with a wooden spoon always scraping the sides and the bottom. Stir constantly, near the end.

Let the filling cool.

Beat the cooked yolks for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.

Beat the room temperature butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy then beat into the cooked yolks.

Add in the ground hazelnuts and beat again until combined.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the filling to spread around the torte at the end.

Divide the rest of the filling into 4 cups.

Line a large tray with some baking paper.

Remove the baking paper from one of the dacquoise and place it onto the tray, spread one quantity of filing evenly over the dacquoise, then place another layer on the top.

Repeat, making sure that the last layer is placed bottom-side-up (do not place filling on this surface) which will make it easier to obtain a smooth looking finish.

Place some baking paper over the torte. Press a bit with your hands to even it out, put another tray over the torte and now place something heavy on the top to allow the torte to level up. A pan half-filled with water will be fine.

Place the whole torte with the pot in the fridge for one hour.


Heat the apricot jam and water on the stove.

Remove the top baking paper from the torte and spread the jam on top of it. We want a very thin layer, just barely covering the torte.

Place the torte back in the fridge for 30 minutes for the jam to cool.

When the 30 minutes is up, spread the 2 tablespoons of reserved hazelnut filling around the cake.


By hand mix the powdered (icing) (confectioners') sugar, oil, lemon juice while adding teaspoon by teaspoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy, but not runny. Mix vigorously for a couple of minutes. The sugar should be lemony.

With a hot wet large knife quickly spread the icing over the apricot layer.

You will need around 21⁄2 to 31⁄4 cups of powdered sugar but it is better to have more than less, since when you start spreading you cannot go back. You will have some left over icing. If it is a bit uneven just turn on the hair dryer and heat the icing so it will smooth out a bit.


Before starting with the icing have the chocolate ready since it needs to go onto the soft icing in order to get the web.

Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of oil, place in a pipping bag, or a plastic bag with a cut in the corner that will act as the tip.

Draw four (4) concentric circles onto the cake, then with a knife (not the sharp side) or a wooden skewer run six (6) lines at 30 degree angle to the cake to get the decoration (see pictures for more details). Each line should be in a different direction. One running away from you and the next one running to you.

Press the remaining crushed hazelnuts around the cake to complete the decoration.

Let rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours before tasting. This cake that gets better as times goes by. We usually enjoy ours for 7 days.


Jelena Jovanovic said...

I like the title and your spirit! And I am enormously happy that you found it tasteful:) The best Dali cake ever:)

liana said...

Aha, so yours is psychedelic, mine was like the Pisa Tower with all the icing and the spider web pouring on one side ... Anyway, it tasted good and we had a good laught!