Classic German Baking is full of nostalgia and tradition from Luisa Weiss and her Berlin kitchen.
My assistant, Maja, introduced me to this delicate and unusual three-layer torte, which comes from the Lüneburg Heath in the western German state of Lower Saxony. Both buckwheat and lingonberries are native to the heath, and both have a faint and pleasing bitterness that is absolutely inspired when combined. The torte is also completely gluten-free.
To make the torte, you must first make a towering buckwheat sponge cake and slice it into thirds horizontally. Then you combine lingonberry preserves, which have a taste reminiscent of American cranberry sauce, only less biting and acidic, with whipped cream. The layers of cake are sandwiched back together with the gorgeously hued sweet-sour cream, and the cake is thickly enrobed in more whipped cream and smoothed out as flat as can be. (You can also decorate the top of the torte with rosettes of reserved whipped cream and lingonberries for a more bakery-style torte as in the photo.) When a piece is cut out, the gorgeous pink-and-buff-striped interior is revealed.
Maja prefers to eat the torte when it has had time to settle and ripen. She bakes the torte on one day, fills it with cream and preserves the next day, and serves it on the third day (refrigerating it in between). And indeed, the torte is much easier to slice when it has rested for at least a day. But I tried the torte several hours after it was freshly filled and frosted and again a couple of days later, and I confess I preferred it freshly made. The light and airy quality of the torte is precisely what I like about it. And although the amount of cream called for seems eye-popping, the astringent preserves keep the torte from becoming too rich or overwhelming.
1 9 inch torte
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line the bottom of a 9-inch/23cm springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.
- Place the egg yolks and the 3⁄4 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; turn the motor on to medium-high. Slowly add the hot water and beat for 5 minutes.
- In a separate, very clean bowl, whip the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until the egg whites hold stiff peaks.
- Mix the buckwheat flour and baking powder together and sift over the egg yolk mixture. Fold in until well combined. Then fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until no white streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and place the pan in the oven.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the pan from oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing the springform ring. Gently turn the cake upside down to remove the pan bottom and parchment paper. Turn the cake right-side up again.
- Place 11⁄2 cups/360ml whipping cream in a clean bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the lingonberry preserves, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons for a garnish.
- Slice the cake into thirds horizontally. Spread the bottom layer evenly with half of the lingonberry cream. Place the middle layer on top. Spread that layer with the remaining lingonberry cream. Top with the top layer.
- In a separate, clean bowl, whip the remaining 21⁄4 cups/540ml of cream with the 2 teaspoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Frost the top and sides of the torte with the whipped cream, reserving about 1 cup for the garnish.
- Place the reserved whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice to decorate the top of the torte (one suggestion is to pipe rosettes around the rim of the cake). Then use the reserved lingonberry preserves to garnish (by, for example, spooning a little bit on top of each piped rosette). Refrigerate the torte for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours before serving. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving it.
Reprinted with permission from Classic German Baking, by Luisa Weiss, copyright 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.