Walnut torte: dark in colour, light in texture. It has a satisfying layer of apricot jam and chocolate on top which alleviates the need for creamy fillings.
If you struggle to find a recipe for a decent, but gluten free birthday cake – search no more. This is the very thing.
Family recipe for a walnut torte
It vaguely resembles the special occasion torte that my Mum used to bake, though if you told her it was gluten free, she’d be nonplussed.
The sponge was flourless, made from walnuts processed from scratch: cracked from shells, toasted and ground in an old fashioned, manual nut and spice mill; if I’d been good, I was allowed to turn the handle.
She’d make two different fillings for it. One was mighty weird with ground walnuts cooked in sugar syrup, set with some egg whites. It was, as far as I remember, a cross between a praline and a croquant, but soft. I definitely must try something like this one day.
The other was really gorgeous almond buttercream on a custard base. This one I liked best and could never wait to be given the bowl to scrape out.
I won’t find out what the recipe for the complete torte was, it’s one of those sad things that bereavement brings. But the walnut sponge I present here is very close to my Mum’s, and on the plus side, the frostings were unbelievably heavy and rich.
Apricot jam and walnut base
This is the light touch version, sans buttercreams but with a lick of apricot jam inside and out, and grated dark chocolate on top: dainty, elegant and not nearly as filling as Mum’s original.
It isn’t difficult to make although you will, like me, probably have to grind your own walnuts because for some reason they aren’t easily bought in the UK ready-ground, unlike almonds. I think it’s due to their lower popularity in baking as well as the fact that they clump and turn into paste really easily.
If you can buy powdered walnuts in your neck of woods, you’ll have the job made much easier.
Making the batter involves separating eggs which in my books makes it a grown-up cake (as opposed to the 'beat the ingredients together and bake' kind of cake). The yolks with sugar form the base, with the nut mix beaten in, and then all of it is extremely gently folded into egg whites whisked to stiff peaks.
I personally like to bake one cake and slice it horizontally in half before filling: the rough crumb gels much better with whatever filling is spread on it. But for the ease of preparation divide the batter between two cake tins and bake them together.
The flourless sponge, by the way, has many variations. You can replace the walnuts with ground almonds, hazelnuts or even pistachios; the result will be great every time.