This decadent Hungarian cake was invented in Budapest in the 1800s. It is named after a Hungarian prince, who was a member of the famous Esterházy dynasty and a diplomat of the Austrian Empire.
Although there are many versions of the cake today, traditionally it consisted of 5 or 6 layers of flourless almond meringue (now partly or entirely replaced by walnuts or hazelnuts); a rich, cognac and butter-infused pastry cream; rum-spiced apricot jam glaze; and a white glaze decorated with a characteristic chocolate spiderweb or chevron marbling pattern. It requires time and organization to prepare, but it is a beautiful and delicious dessert for a special or celebratory occasion. I prefer to eat the torte when it has had time to settle and ripen (on the second or even third day).
* Bake the flaked almonds at 175C (350F) for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and golden in color, stirring often.
Since the torte takes time and organization to prepare, a suggested timeline is included at the end of this recipe to guide you.
Measure out the ingredients for the nut meringue cake layers (dacquoise).
Using a pencil, draw six 15cm (6in) circles on two pieces of parchment paper (I used a bowl to guide my circle drawings). Flip over the pencil drawings on the parchment upside down on the two baking sheets. The circles will serve as your pattern for piping the batter and should be visible, but you don’t want the pencil marks to touch the batter directly. [Note: You will have enough batter to make slightly larger cake layers if you wish.]
Preheat the oven to 110C (230F).
In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on low until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, raise the speed to high, and beat until stiff peaks (about 4–5 minutes).
Gently fold the nut flour(s) into the egg whites with a rubber spatula, taking care not to deflate them by overfolding.
Immediately transfer the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a #5 plain tip. (Alternatively, you can carefully spread the batter using a rubber spatula, offset spatula or spoon.) Do not let the mixture sit or it will deflate and become watery. Pipe the batter using the circle patterns on the parchment as a guide. Be sure to make each disc the same in size and thickness. The batter will spread during baking.
Bake the nut meringue cake layers for about 2 hours, or until they feel very crispy and dry, but remain pale. Turn the oven off and let the meringues cool and dry for about 2 more hours in the oven, although it can take longer in some climates. Carefully peel the meringues from the parchment – they are fragile so take care. Use the meringues immediately or store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
When the cake layers are half way done cooling, make the light buttercream (crème mousseline)as per the recipe. Then pour the liquor into the cream and whip until combined. Don’t skip the liquor as it balances the sweetness of the dessert. Use the light buttercream (crème mousseline) soon after making.
Next, measure out the ingredients for the jam glaze. Gently heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan until barely warm. Take off the heat and whisk in the rum until smooth and combined.
Assemble the cake. Place a cake cardboard in a 18cm/7in springform pan or cake ring. You can also line the pan/ring with plastic wrap to make it easier to take out later. Cut the edges of the meringue layers using a small, sharp paring knife and a cutting board to ensure that all layers have an even round shape, if necessary. Place the first meringue layer inside the ring and spread 2–3 heaping tablespoons of the light buttercream (crème mousseline) into an even, thin layer. Repeat until you end up with 6 meringue and 5 cream layers. Finish with the most beautiful meringue layer on top, smooth side up. Do not cover the top layer with cream. Instead, spread a very thin layer of apricot jam evenly on top. Save about 200 grams (7 ounces or about 1 cup) of the light buttercream to finish the outside of the cake later on (see step 18). Use the diagram below to guide you when assembling the cake.
Place some plastic wrap over the top of the torte. Put a small baking sheet or cutting board over the covered torte and then something slightly heavy on the top (as a weight) to help even out the torte and get it to mesh together. Refrigerate for 60 minutes.
When the cake is almost done chilling, measure out the ingredients for the icing glaze.
To make the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar, the liquid and oil and stir until smooth in a heatproof bowl. Be sure to start with a small amount of liquid and gradually add more until the mixture is spreadable (but not runny). Heat the mixture over a saucepan of simmering water (i.e. a water bath, double boiler or bain-maire) for a minute or two until the mixture is of a spreadable consistency. If it is too runny, let the glaze stand for a few minutes to thicken. If it is too thick, add a small amount of liquid. The glaze should not be too runny or it will run off the cake.
Measure out the ingredients for the chocolate decoration and the nuts.
Melt the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (i.e. a water bath, double boiler or bain-maire) and then transfer to a piping bag or other plastic bag. Cut off a tiny bit of the edge/corner of the bag to act as the tip. Keep the hole very small, you don’t want the chocolate oozing everywhere.
Take the cake out of the refrigerator and remove the wrapping and pan/mold. Place the cake with the cake board on a decorating stand (use an inverted shallow bowl in lieu) over a piece of parchment paper. The parchment paper will collect any of the excess decorations.
Spread the leftover light buttercream (from step 11) on the side of the cake using an offset spatula to create an even outer-edge of cream. The cream will serve as the “glue” for the almond decoration. You may need to re-whip the light buttercream to ensure that it is light and airy for spreading.
Next, pour the glaze on top, moving the cake slightly to cover the top to the edges. Let the excess drip over the sides and onto the parchment paper — any dripped icing on the sides of the cake will not be noticeable in the final product. You may have leftover icing.
Immediately after the glaze, pipe a very thin chocolate line (like a spiral) on top, beginning from the center and spiraling to the edge of the cake (see diagram below). Using a small paring knife or a toothpick, run the tip from the center to the edge of the cake and then alternate from the edge to the center, creating about 12 lines for 12 slices of cake (6 lines from the edge to the center and 6 from the center to the edge). Alternatively, you can make a chevron marble pattern — thisvideo link should aid you in creating the chevron pattern.
Cover the sides of the cake with sliced almonds, using your hand to press them in the cream on the sides. The nuts will hide any imperfections! The decorated cake ends up being about 18½cm / 7¼in in size.
Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for about an hour before placing in the refrigerator in an airtight container and leaving it there for 18–24 hours until it is set. This is the sort of cake that gets better as times goes by — the crisp cake layers soften considerably from the cream over time. The torte also is much easier to slice when it has had time to rest.
When ready, serve. Given its richness, cut thin slices – the cake should serve 12.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3 days after first serving.