Monday, February 27, 2012

Lemon, Walnut and Chocolate Torte

This weekend we had a surprise birthday party for Heidi!  Its a unique occasion because Heidi only gets a birthday every four years, since her birthday is February 29th.  This year she will be 13... finally a teenager!

The kids came into town and we had planned to surprise her by going to see the Oscar-nominated movie, The Artist. Heidi had no idea that Emma and Rachel and Mary would be there!  Unfortunately the theater pulled the film two days before the Oscars (dumb move Southoint Cinemas), so we spent the afternoon having cocktails at Maggiano's and then shopping at Nordstrom's.


Cocktails and the Duke game...

And tipsy shopping at Nordstrom's!

Afterwards we returned to the Tiki for Seafood Lasagne and some birthday cake.

After a rich meal, this is the perfect dessert.  It's not too sweet and is very light.

This is an old recipe from Williams Sonoma.  I really love the flavor of this torte, light and delicate walnut cake spread with tangy lemon curd and robed in a dark chocolate ganache.  Very unusual and very elegant.

The cake uses flour that has been cut with cornstarch.  This is an old baker's trick to keep cakes very light and delicate.

This is not a difficult recipe, but does use a lot of bowls.  It's totally worth the effort if you want something special.

Happy Birthday Heidi!

Lemon, Walnut and Chocolate Torte
Serves 8

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp cold water

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.  Grease the sides of the pan and also the parchment paper.

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and walnuts in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl combine egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla.  Whisk until light and cream-colored.

In another bowl combine egg whites and water and with an electric mixer beat until frothy and light.  Slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar while beaters are running.  Beat until the whites form stiff peaks.

Layer the egg whites on top of the egg yolks, then sprinkle dry ingredients over top.  Gently fold ingredients together until well-combined.  Be careful not to deflate batter.  Batter should be very fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake 20-22 minutes until golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake or cake will be dry.

Let cake rest 1 minute before inverting onto a cooling rack.  Cool cake completely.

Lemon Curd:
1/3 cup sugar
grated peel of 1 lemon
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

Combine all ingredients in a glass microwave-proof bowl, whisk to combine.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Whisk to distribute heat and microwave again for 30 seconds.  Continue heating and whisking alternatively until curd thickens (about 3- 4 minutes total).  Cool curd completely in refrigerator before spreading on cake.

3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp orange liqueur

In a small saucepan heat cream over medium high heat until the cream just begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, whisking gently until chocolate is melted and ganache is glossy.  Whisk in orange liqueur.

Split cake into two layers with a sharp knife. Spread inside with cooled lemon curd.  Stack cakes atop one another.  Place cake, flat side up, on a large wire rack over a large bowl.  Pour ganache evenly over cake, allowing excess to collect in the bowl.  Refrigerate cake until ganache is firm.  Chill ganache drippings until firm, then pipe decoratively on top of cake.  Garnish with walnut halves.


  1. So is there no butter or oil in this cake?

  2. No, there is no butter or oil in this amazingly delicious cake! This is very much like a genoise, the swiss sponge cake, but with nuts.