flourless walnut cake
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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.
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, ground walnuts in sugar syrup, with some egg whites involved too; 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.
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 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 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.
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.
flourless walnut cakeServings: 12-14Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- For the cake:
- 340g (3½ cup) walnut pieces
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground almonds
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 125g (½ cup) caster sugar
- For the filling and topping:
- a jar of apricot jam
- 50g (2 oz.) dark chocolate
1. Toast the walnuts in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are fragrant and darkened. Grind them to a fine powder in a food processor or a nut grinder. If they turn into a paste, don’t panic. Stir the baking powder into the ground nuts and keep to one side.
2. Butter and sprinkle with ground almonds a 23cm round cake tin; tip out excess of almond powder. Keep the tin in the fridge while you make the cake batter. Preheat the oven to 170C (no fan if available)/325F/gas 3.
3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the walnut mix.
4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with a balloon whisk until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the egg whites to the nut batter to loosen it up, then fold in the rest of the egg whites taking care not to deflate it much. Transfer it to the chilled cake tin and smooth the surface.
5. Bake for about 55-60 minutes until the top springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven and invert the tin onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely upside down.
6. When cold, unmould the cake and slice it horizontally using a wire cake cutter (an awfully nifty contraption) or a very sharp knife. Spread most of the apricot jam over the bottom half, replace the top half and press gently. Spread a thinner layer of the jam over the top and coarsely grate the chocolate over it.