Food || Dios Torte
I have a special treat for you all today. This is the first of hopefully more "heritage' cooking posts where we celebrate through food remembering our roots and our ancestors. Like the well-known saying you must know where you come from to know where you are going we can feel united to the past thru recipes and the the anecdotal stories connected to these. Well, my dear friend Suzy made this beautiful Hungarian four layer walnut and chocolate cake and I was lucky enough to capture the creation of this recipe that has been in her Hungarian family for generations. Here, she will share with you what this cake means to her and her family and how thru it she builds new traditions for her children. Nothing is more uniting than the making of and eating of divine food, especially if it is tied to higher meaning. Here is Suzy (follow her on instagram here. She needs to start a food blog for sure. I just love her writing style) with the really special and delicious Dios Torte.
Our family friend stopped by our cottage kitchen one early cool morning, telling my daughters they could come with him to gather their mother a present. He drove them to a line of hundred year old sentry walnut trees (Juglans regia) along the front drive of his land parcel, and since the first persistent fall rains had fallen for October, walnuts lay everywhere for the taking. My friend and my girls hurried to get to the walnuts first, before gray squirrels took their tithe of Mother Earth’s fruits.
My daughters harvested walnuts that damp fall morning, scrambling under trees and across the fallen leaves, gathering bucketfuls to bring home to me. We ate the walnuts straight from their shells. And then we transformed more of them into cake, my grandmother’s Hungarian walnut and milk chocolate butter cream torte.
When I was a small girl, as small as my daughters who bring me walnuts are now, my grandmother worked early in the mornings with me in her suburban Ohio kitchen. We worked when sun glowed through the southern window at the head of her kitchen table, covered in a wiped-clean white oilcloth. She and her husband and children, one of whom was my mother, were Hungarian immigrants who fled the fist of post WWII Communism’s dehumanization and deterministic restraint of life and livelihood. But since I was only her small granddaughter (among a few grandsons), in her bright kitchen I only ever witnessed her as the energetic and happy matriarch of her Hungarian home and family. She called to me, “Zsuzsika!”, and I would be at her side to bake fånk doughnuts, Hungarian pogacsa biscuits flavored by pork cracklings, sweetened poppy seed rolls, dark honey cookies, and her very best cake, a walnut torte, dios torta, (dee-osh tor-ta) which she presented on our birthdays, to visitors, and after Sunday dinners. Sometimes, for our First Communions or to babysit us kids when our parents got to travel blessedly alone-together, she arrived in our home with her walnut torte, layered in tin foil and cushioned by old towels, brought with her on the airplane.
This is the cake we baked together under my young eyes. We were fearlessly separating eggs; beating the yolks into the sunniest yellow found from nursery gift and book illustrations; folding in whipped whites with her strong and sure arm; her impervious fingers touching the baking cakes and feeling their spring-back; our laughing when she tossed a shot of palinka plum whiskey into her milk chocolate frosting. This walnut cake was a ribbon of memory and gratitude, a gift I did not know then.
Dios torta is a not a modern cake, full of quick sugar, convenience or fit for the pages of photo consumption. It is slow, old-fashioned, and built upon air and eggs, ground-up walnuts and memory, reliant upon one of the final workdays of harvest, when the shadows are longer and daylight and the year dwindle. It is the perfect cake to create from a gift of walnuts gathered by one’s own adored children, reproduced by the lasting gifts of care, time and patience passed down from one's adoring grandmother.
Here is the recipe for those of you who are intrigued. Please let us know if you make it!
- 10-11 room temperature eggs, separated
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups cake flour or a high quality (like King Arthur) unbleached AP flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups freshly ground walnuts
- 1 ¾ cups whole milk
- 2 whole eggs
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 4 ounces high quality milk chocolate
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1 ounce plum whiskey, or cognac or brandy
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Grease and flour two 9” round cake pans, and cut and place two 9” round waxed or parchment paper rounds on the bottom of the pans.
- Separate 10-11 large eggs. A couple of duck eggs substituted for the chicken eggs make magic in this cake.
- Beat the egg whites into very stiff peaks
- Beat the yolks with the vanilla, granulated sugar and powdered sugar, until the yolks are creamy, the color of cold butter, about 10 minutes.
- Sift the flour salt and baking powder.
- Fold the egg whites into the beaten egg yolks and sugar.
- Fold the sifted flour and the ground walnuts into the cake batter
- Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, and then raise the oven temperature to 325 degrees, baking for a total of about 60-70 minutes. A clean cake tester or toothpick and a good spring-back on the cake indicates the cake’s doneness.
- Beat together whole milk, 2 eggs, 3 ½ T of flour, and 3 ½ T of granulated sugar in a saucepan.
- Cook the mixture on medium heat into a pudding.
- Add 4 ounces of a good quality milk-chocolate bar and stir-in until melted. Cool the custard completely.
- Cut 1 pound of unsalted butter into a mixing bowl, and add to the custard
- Add a shot of cognac or brandy, ¼ cup of powdered sugar and just under ¼ cup of cocoa powder to the pudding.
- Mix the butter and pudding mixture into a cocoa butter-cream, until fluffy.
Either slice the cakes in half for four layers, or simply ice each cake for two layers of dios torta.
This cake is best served after being refrigerated and brought back into room temperature for a couple of hours.
I'm really excited about this post and hope that you enjoy it as well. Since it's the first time I do a post like this let me know your thoughts. Every so often, I would love to cover different dishes from different countries or cultures that have deep meaning to their families. Let me know if you want to collaborate. And isn't it always a plus when someone shares a trusted family recipe with you? It's as if they pass on a bit of their heart to you this way.
[photos by AC]