Saturday, April 30, 2011

Russian* Apple Pie (or when desserts go wrong)

The Idea: I will not dwell much on this recipe or the result, but some times good intentions do not result in good outcomes. For our semi-regular "Ethnic" night, my family made Russian fare and while it was a great opportunity to make a recipe I found for "Russian Torte**" online, the 1350 calories per serving turned me off and I settled on something different- a simple, 4 ingredient dessert that had positive reviews.

The Recipe:
Russian Apple Pie on

No Granny Smith Apples available (unless I want to go to a high priced import shop) so the cheaply available Polish apples went in this version. No chance on blaming the apples for the negative result. I did sprinkle a bit of baking powder in the batter because I had my doubts as soon as I realized what was going into the batter that my result was going to basically be a thick pancake with apples in it. It reminded me of the times way back when when my sister and I used to have recipe free bake-offs which 9 times out of 10 resulted in thick, oven cooked pancakes since we were pretty clueless about what actually should go into cake batter... but back to this flop of a desert. At least I had some assistance from my trusty sous chef:
Lessons Learned:

  • I should have known better.

  • Stick to tortes.

  • In all fairness this was ok sprinkled with powdered sugar as a afternoon snack for kids. The recipe only has 1/2c sugar in the whole thing, so at least it is not too sweet. Or sweet at all.

What's Next:

My next post will be about an excellent light torte for a BBQ the next day, but I will keep the calorie laden Russian Torte Recipe in mind for future use. When I need to stock up on calories for a long winter or something.

*I cannot vouch for the authenticity of these recipes, so I hold no one accountable for this sad excuse for a "desert." :)

**I will be trying that one later, despite calorie count because I am well aware that is probably the average calorie count for a good sized piece of torte! I am not ignorant about where the cups of sugar and 100s of grams of butter go to...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marzipan covered Easter Egg Cake

The Idea:

Ever since I tasted a wedding cake covered in marzipan seven years ago, I have wanted to try it myself. So I figured what better time than Easter. I couldn't just do a simple princess cake in natural marzipan, I had to go all the way a make a big colored egg. I had planned on an egg shaped torte, but I miscalculated the batter and ended up with a single layer of cake topped with everything that I wanted to layer.

The recipes:

The cake was Poppy Seed Cake from

The frosting & decorations were Italian Buttercream topped with black currants and colored bulk purchase marzipan. Unfortunately I do not have a reference for the frosting recipe. Google and you will find something very similar.


The cake recipe seemed a bit heavy, so I whipped the egg whites and folded in at the end.

Lessons learned:

  • I really liked the result- the tart black currants unfrozen from last year's pick were a good contrast to the sweet marzipan and cake.

  • I will not be afraid of covering a cake in marzipan- it was quite easy to do following some online tutorials. (

  • That said, if I ever want pink marzipan, which was the color I was going for here) I will remember to add very little red food coloring. I freaked out a bit when I realized my undecorated cake looked like a giant stomach:

  • I definitely need more practice with my decorating gun. while happy with the end result, I was not all too certain of how the egg would look at the end. Maybe I will make a big batch of mashed potatoes and practice!

  • next time I use this cake recipe I will skip the sugar. The cake mix the recipe calls for was sweet enough. (Yes, I used cake mix even though it is against my principles of baking. Oh well.)

What next? A friend of mine had a birthday in May and I am debating on incorporating cheesecake into a torte. We will see if this works out and if he is game to let me deviate from his preferred birthday "order" the basic cheesecake! But after 3 cakes over 4 days I will take a break for a while. Although I do have a few ethnic dinners coming up. If anyone has any recommendations for a Russian torte recipe, let me know!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Martha's Lemon Meringue Cake

(My biggest fans:)The Idea:
I had some guests coming over for lunch and the weather had actually become something resembling warm, so I decided that it would be the ideal time to try out Martha Steward's Lemon Meringue Cake. All the benefits of a lemon meringue pie, but it resembles a torte- well, judging by assembly anyway.

The Recipe:
Martha Steward's Lemon Meringue Cake ( Alterations:
none this time. I figured I would make it just like Martha, she must know what she is talking about! Lessons Learned:

  • The cake recipe was very light. The result was delicious, but it was definitely a cake vs. a torte. I expect a rich, decadent intermingling of flavors; this was more a cake with a topping as the lemon curd filling was scant and gave good flavor, but none of the benefits of a layered dessert.

  • The meringue topping was definitely something other than frosting. It was a bit reminiscent of marshmallow fluff.

  • That said, this meringue topping would be an excellent addition if there was ever an occasion for a S'mores torte (a bit of a contradiction that may work).

  • The result left me craving more in the layers, so I would be tempted to make this recipe again, but add a bit of Italian meringue buttercream icing between the layers. But, since you bake the meringue on the cake, a butter rich frosting would melt.

  • Perhaps the Swiss meringue could be baked on to a top layer which was then added to a torte- none on the sides unfortunately, but you would not end up with a melted, buttery mess.

  • If you are craving a lemon meringue pie, skip this recipe and make the pie. If you insist o this recipe, make 1.5 or 2x the lemon curd.

What next?

It being Easter weekend, I am sort of slacking and bringing a standard cheesecake to a friend's tomorrow, but for a Monday visit I am planing to attempt my first marzipan covered torte... it may be egg shaped though. ;)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Brazilian Contribution

The Idea:
We once again had a theme night with Brazil as the country. I came across this recipe which claimed to be Brazilian. not finding a torte recipe, I went with this Gingerbread Roulade with Lemon sauce.

The Recipe:
Gingerbread Roulade with Dulce de Leche Cream Filling

I had no candied ginger available and instead of creme fraiche, I used high quality plain yogurt

Lessons Learned:

  • Dulce de Leche may be a possible sweet topping/filling for a cake, but it is too runny for frosting.

  • not much else here to work with for future tortes.

  • If I were to make a roulade again, the batter must be spread very thinly on the cookie sheet. I hesitated to make it so thin, but as you can see, it turned out to be more of a tube than a roulade.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mango Pavlova (yeah, I know it is not a torte...)

The Idea: Copy-catting a friend of mine, I decided to have theme nights with food, etc. from different countries chosen by my children. This week they chose Australia. This was a bit tough, since very few items for "authentic" Australian/bush food are available close to me, but since a few Australian friends suggested making a pavlova for dessert, I decided to post the results. A pavlova is of course not a torte, but I may use elements of a pavlova and incorporate they into a torte since I was so thrilled with the results. The Recipe: I based my pavlova on "The Best Pavlova" recipe from (


  • The recipe said plain sugar, but I whirled it around in a food processor to make it extra fine- some Australian recipes insisted on caster sugar.

  • I used mango on top instead of strawberries, because around here this time of year there are few good, fresh fruits and my wonderful guests just happened to bring me 2 perfectly ripe mangoes (also a rarity around here!) This brought a wonderful desert up to another level in my opinion.

  • I used 4 egg whites to up the size a bit, but reduced sugar by 1/2, because I really think it is enough for meringues. It was the perfect sweetness.

  • I cooked it for 1 hour at 125 deg C, turned off the oven and left it in the oven for 30min, then opened the door for 30min.

  • I topped it with 400mL of whipping cream for no other reason than whipping cream comes in 200ml containers and I thought 200ml would be too little. The 1 1/4c would have been fine.

  • I did not pipe the meringue for the simple reason that I was feeling lazy.
Lessons Learned:

  • Serves 12 in this case meant 4 adults 3 kids- with 1 exception* everyone had seconds (and 3rds).

  • I will definitely make this again provided I have very good fruit to put on top. My standby bananas or pears would have been OK, but I think excellent fruit makes this dessert.

  • Make a higher "wall"to hold in the whipped cream/fruit. This is not very important, but it helps to keep it together a bit. Perhaps pulling out the piping bag would help here ;).

  • I have to put more thought into how I can incorporate this into a torte. Perhaps a light white/yellow or angel cake, layered with meringue, whipped cream fruit? It would almost not be worth it because this is simply so good by itself. I will have to ponder the possibilities over my next long run.
Next up: Easter. I am thinking of finally breaking out the imported marshmallows and trying my hand at home made fondant, or if I make my way over to the inconveniently located restaurant supply store I will buy marzipan by the kg and make a marzipan wrapped torte. I am thinking egg shaped and colored! *the one exception is my cute little nemesis goddaughter who is the only one who eats very little cake while my little monsters scarf them down. What do you bake for a child who eats very, very sensibly???

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maximum Amaretto

Recipes used:

Layer 2: Dogwood Blossom Wedding cake (1/4 recipe)

Frosting: an improvised Italian Meringue Buttercream with Amaretto

Soaked in Amaretto


  • For layer 2 I added an extra egg white and reduced sugar by 1/3 to make this layer fluffier and less sweet.

  • For layers 1&3 I replaced walnuts with almonds and did not use coffee or vanilla extract, but added almond extract and amaretto.

Lessons learned:

  • If you do not want kids to eat a cake, soak it in amaretto the day of serving :), ha, ha- 4 or 4 kids complained that this cake was too bitter where the amaretto was. The next day this was not an issue. Mind you I have no intention of plying children with alcohol.

  • If I were to soak cake with any alcohol in the future, I would do it over time the day before to have the cake absorb more.

  • note to self, start thinking about a rum torte.

  • Initially I made 1 layer of each recipe, then got nervous that it would be too small and baked another almondy layer. 2 layers would have been more than enough, as I am still eating this huge cake 5 days later. no complaints about this really, except that exercise has been increased to compensate for this.

  • That said I do not mind because this was one of the best tortes that I have ever made.

  • I will definitely be making Italian meringue buttercream in the future using more egg whites and less butter.

  • This frosting used approx. 1 1/2 cups of sugar vs. about 7 cups a buttercream recipe usually uses. This reduction puts me over the moon since the result is so much better. I have my doubts I will make a regular buttercream ever again- perhaps for a kiddie birthday cake or for decorating.

  • This frosting was a bit difficult to use for decorating. I could not get a smooth finish like with a sugary buttercream.