In our family this walnut torte is a staple for any special occasion. I have taken to making this for work potlucks as well, since it is naturally gluten free. The texture of the cake is tender and crumbly, and the fillings tend to hold it all together nicely. Following are some suggestions, tips and tricks to baking and assembling this Ukrainian tradition!
We use a zyliss cheese grinder for grinding the walnuts for this cake. We find it gives us the right consistency, which should be almost a walnut meal/flour. We have also made this torte using almonds or almond flour but it tends to be a bit drier.
Cut out a circle of parchment to cover the bottom of your springform pans. Use cooking spay to adhere it to the bottom of the pan. However, you should not grease the pan as your cake will grow far less if it is unable to grab a hold of the edge of the pan as it rises. This Easter I forgot this tip and ended up with a lot less growth (although they always sink after pulling them out of the oven) and uneven edges which makes more work later when you are trying to even out the layers.
When beating the egg yolks wait for them to become almost white before adding the sugar (first image above). Once the sugar has been added it will resemble the texture of warm marshmallow fluff (second image above – I highly recommend a stand mixture). Once your yolk mixture is finished and you are ready to switch to your whites, be sure to clean and dry the mixing bowl before reusing it.
While folding the egg whites and the egg yolk mixture together be sure to occasionally scrape across the bottom of the bowl, to get anything that may have settled. Once combined you may still see some small bits of egg white, don’t worry about it, it lends to the fluffiness of the cake.
Allow cakes to cool fully before removing from the spring form pans.
When you are cutting these in half to add more layers, my mom always recommends using your knuckle as a guide against the counter or table, it helps keep the same thickness as you cut and gives you more even layers.
You can fill this cake with almost anything, but typically you would use a jam or preserve, we also use the Solo canned poppy-seed filling. Have fun, experiment with different flavor profiles. This Easter, we decided on alternating layers of poppy-seed filling with a mixture of orange apricot marmalade.
When you trim off any uneven edges save them to help level out the cake. Using the straight edge of a knife you can look for dips or slopes in the cake as you assemble. When you find a dip in the cake, use the small pieces previously cut off to fill in the dip by lifting a layer of the cake and strategically placing pieces of cake in the low spots. Once you replace the layer and check with the knife, things should be much more flat!
We typically cover this with a rich thick frosting, you can decide on the flavor, but we almost always go for a coffee flavor. You can decorate with left over ground walnut, frosting, candies, nuts, whatever you have around and feel like being creative with!
- 12 eggs separated, room temperature
- 12 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ pound walnuts, finely ground
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Prepare two 9" springform pans with parchment lining the bottoms.
- Beat eggs yolk on high until creamy and light in color.
- Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time to yolks.
- Add vanilla and ground walnuts until combined.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
- Carefully fold egg yolk mixture into stiff egg whites slowly until just combined.
- Bake at 350°F for approximately 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Cakes will fall once removed from oven, this is normal.
- Cut cakes into multiple layers and fill with jams, poppy seeds, preserves or frosting.
- Ice the cake when assembled with your choice of frosting.