Are a torte and a cake the same? Sort of. Various sources on the internet report that tortes originated in central or eastern Europe; they are richer than a typical butter-and-flour-based cake, relying on ground nuts or breadcrumbs as a key ingredient. Some tortes are completely flourless, while others use just a small amount of flour.
This torte recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, that trusty volume tucked between a red and white plaid cover that my mom gave me more than 22 years ago. As with most BH&G recipes, this one turned out incredibly well – I delivered it to my dear friend Diana this morning and we had a slice together. The orange flavor really lifts the walnut, and the chocolate buttercream pairs beautifully with both. This is definitely a recipe I’ll make again.
For the torte
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 cups walnuts
For the buttercream
- 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- About 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
For the candied walnuts
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 8-inch baking tins. Combine flour, baking powder, and orange zest in a small bowl; set aside.
Place eggs and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add walnuts and process for about 1 minute, until nearly smooth. Add dry mixture and pulse to just combine.
Divide batter evenly between cake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool in tins about 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake bakes, make your candied walnuts: combine walnuts, sugar, and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar and butter caramelize and coat the walnuts. Pour onto a sheet of parchment and separate the nuts using two spatulas; allow to cool completely.
For buttercream, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until fully incorporated. Add vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon milk, beating on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add additional milk; you want a spreadable consistency, but the frosting shouldn’t be runny.
To frost, place one cake on your cake plate and cover with a layer of buttercream; top with the second cake and frost the top of that cake, leaving the sides bare. Place candied walnuts in the center. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes about 12 servings, depending on how big your slices are.