Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hazelnut Torte

Hazelnut Torte Photos by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 9 December 2011

The Hazelnut Torte is an extravaganza of hazelnuts, cream, coffee and chocolate and is probably my most favourite cake of all. The recipe has been my companion for many years and it was one of the first cakes that I really became besotted with.

It was in the 1980’s during my student years, well before husband and kids, I worked nights in a popular Newcastle restaurant, when the Hazelnut Torte first crossed my lips. Newcastle University was located close by and this cake was a favourite of students, coming in to buy it by the slice to take away. It was the most popular cake on the menu and it would frequently sell out.

The tortes were made by Mrs Rozen, an Austrian woman, who delivered frozen batches of the cakes to the restaurant each week. Her grey hair was tied in a bun and she always wore a full-length apron tied around her rotund girth. I held my breath as she teetered with her tower of tortes, while she negotiated the step into the restaurant.

After a particularly busy night, I was finally given a slice of the torte by the restaurants chef. I was instantly smitten and I pursued Mrs Rozen for the recipe. Looking back now, she probably thought I was quite mad, maybe a little obsessive. She refused to share it with me, saying it was a secret recipe from her home-town in Austria. Quite frankly it was a good little earner for her.

Many years later when I owned my own restaurant, I was determined to recreate the Hazelnut Torte, to produce the flavour just as I remembered it. I made numerous attempts and versions and had others test tasting to ensure its authenticity.  

This is a cake that everyone loves and I’ve had many requests for the recipe. It’s been a big seller in both of my restaurants and ticks the boxes for decadence, and it’s perfect for birthdays and special desserts.

The best thing about this cake is that it can be made in advance, frozen whole, thawed and the flavour improves. If you don’t want to freeze it, it tastes best if made the day before you need it, as the rum penetrates the cake and intensifies in flavour after it’s left overnight in the fridge. I usually make two at the time to have one on hand in the freezer. This is a truly memorable cake and another perfect cake for a festive celebration. Serves 12.

4 egg whites
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup self raising flour, sifted
¾ cup ground hazelnuts
2 tbsp melted butter, cooled
4 tbsp rum
15 whole hazelnuts, toasted

600mls pure cream (divided into 2 lots of 400mls and 200mls)
¼ cup castor sugar
2 tbsp castor sugar extra
2 tbsp dutch cocoa powder, sifted
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
4 tbsp brewed espresso coffee

Preheat the oven to 140C. Whip the egg whites till stiff, add castor sugar slowly to make a meringue mixture. Fold in the sifted flour, melted butter and ground hazelnuts. Mix lightly until just combined. Pour into two 23cm baking paper lined and greased cake tins and cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until just cooked but not coloured. Remove from the oven and when cooled slightly, remove paper and cool to room temperature. Brush both layers with rum.

Whip 200mls of cream with the 2 tbsp of the sugar and vanilla until very stiff. Place one cake layer on a serving plate, rum side up and cover the top surface with a layer of vanilla cream about ½ cm thickness.  Place the second cake layer on top, rum side down. 

Whip the remaining 400mls of cream with the ¼ cup of sugar, cocoa powder and coffee liquid until very stiff. Spread top and sides with the chocolate and coffee cream and dot the top with toasted hazelnuts. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. 

This cake can be frozen whole in a container and thawed with the lid off to alleviate the condensation dripping onto the cream.

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