Esterházy Torta

Esterhazy Torta


Season 4 of The Great British Bake Off marches on, and we’re now up to Week 8 – Allergies! Mouthwatering.

Yes, this week the contestants have to contend with baking for three different types of food allergies/intolerances. Its a shame they’ve all been lumped together in a single week – it would have been much more embracing to have included them in the regular themed rounds rather than putting them all together because they’re ‘out of the ordinary’, but that’s just my opinion.


The Signature Bake consists of a loaf made from non-traditional flour (spelt, rye, potato, tapioca, etc), and the Showstopper Bake a “dairy-free novelty vegetable cake”. Mmmmm-MMM! Sounds positively revolting until you realise that what they’re actually after is the likes of Carrot Cake, Courgette Cake, Beetroot Chocolate Cake, etc. I’m not convinced about adding in the ‘novelty’ aspect is entirely warranted. ‘Novelty’ in my understanding involves slapping a bucket of fondant on the top and making it either look twee, or using it to try and turn the cake into something completely different altogether, like a VW Camper Van, or a newborn baby, or a shoe.

Anecdote Detour: Which reminds me, I used to be a big fan of Come Dine With Me, and remember one particular episode where the hostess of the day was making a chocolate dessert, and popped along to her local chocolate shop for a decoration to top it all off, and was very excited to buy…….a high-heeled shoe made entirely from chocolate. A SHOE! And then she proceeded to put it on top of her cake. A SHOE, PEOPLE!! In what universe do you look at a delectable chocolate bake and think, “Hmmm, it looks delicious, but you know what would just top it off?  A chocolate shoe!”

*slowly and patiently, in my ‘special’ soft voice* You put your feet in them and walk around the dirty streets  in them, and you want to put one on top of a dessert!??

*deep, calming breaths*

OK, back to the showstopper. Making the cake dairy free isn’t too tall an order, since most cakes of this type use oil for ease of mixing, but demanding it in the form of a novelty cake is disappointing. Quite apart from the added difficulty (vegetable cakes are especially moist and friable, and as such, not conducive to novelty cake construction), asking the bakers to cover their creations in fondant is tantamount to saying “Vegetable cakes are so revolting, we must make sure to cover them up completely so that their hideousness doth not offend our eyes.” Verily. How about letting a nice-tasting cake just look nice for a change? Can I get an A-men!??

If I were competing, I would make my Green Tomato Cake and make it look like a Carrot Cake.

What Larks! Such Novelty!

Chocolate Shoe.

All of which leads me round to this weeks recipe – Esterházy Torta!

What’s that? The link? Well, Esterházy Torta is made with a dacquoise, the Technical Challenge is a dacquoise, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, do keep up!

Esterházy Torta is thought to have been created for the nineteenth century Hungarian politician, patron of the arts and gourmand Prince Pál Antal Esterházy III (1786–1866). The prince also lent his name to Esterházy Rostélyos, a rich dish of steak braised with vegetables, cream and mustard.

Esterházy Torta is a gluten-free layer cake comprised of walnut meringue (dacquoise) sandwiched together with a walnut buttercream. A dacquoise is more usually made with either almonds or hazelnuts, however, the Esterházy dacquoise traditionally uses walnuts, perhaps as a nod to the black walnut trees that grow in the grounds of Esterháza, the rather isolated family palace at Fertőd.

This recipe uses the whites of 10 eggs, but only 5 yolks, so it’s ideal if you find yourself with a few whites to use up, without having to resort to plain meringues.

Esterházy Torta

10 egg-whites (about 400ml by volume)
300g caster sugar
300g walnuts

  • Draw five 20cm circles on baking parchment.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks.
  • Gradually whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, making sure it’s fully dissolved before adding more.
  • Once all the sugar has been incorporated, the meringue will be fairly stiff.
  • Blitz the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped.
  • Fold the chopped walnuts into the meringue.
  • Divide the mixture into five (I do it by weight) and spread smoothly inside the five parchment circles.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until firm on the outside, yet still soft in the middle. If you can fit all five in at once, then great. I bake 4 + 1.
  • When all discs are baked, return the baking trays to the oven, turn it off and leave the dacquoise to cool/dry.

Walnut Buttercream
5 large yolks
150g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250ml milk
1tbs dark rum
2 sheets gelatine
300g unsalted butter
50g walnuts – chopped finely

  • Mix the yolks with the sugar.
  • Put the sheets of gelatine to soak in cold water.
  • Heat the milk, vanilla and rum to almost boiling.
  • Pour the hot milk slowly onto the egg mixture, whilst whisking.
  • When fully incorporated, return the mixture to the pan and heat gently until thickened.
  • Remove from the heat and add the bloomed gelatine, stirring until it is dissolved.
  • Stir in the chopped walnuts.
  • Cover with cling film to cool.
  • Soften the butter by cutting it into 2cm cubes and dropping into blood-warm water for 10 minutes.
  • When the custard is just warm, pour it into a bowl and gradually whisk in the softened butter.

To Assemble the Torte

100g apricot jam
450g fondant [1]
1tbs cocoa [2]
100g walnuts – finely chopped

  • Choose the neatest disc of dacquoise and set aside.
  • Spread 150g of buttercream onto each of the remaining four discs and stack them one on top of the other. I prefer to turn them upside down and spread the buttercream on the flat side, just for a more even finish.
  • Lay the last layer, upside down, on top of the stack, cover the whole with cling-film and set a weight on top – a metal saucepan will do. You want to compact the layers and get the buttercream into all the nooks and crannies so that it will soften the dacquoise and make a smooth and level top for the final decoration. You can leave this as long as you like – overnight, or just 3-4 hours if you’re short of time.
  • Warm the apricot jam until smooth and runny. Don’t overheat it and let it boil, you want it just warm enough so that it spreads easily.
  • Spread the jam evenly across the top of the assembled cake.
  • Warm the fondant. Again, don’t overheat, you want to be able to spread it easily. add a few drops of water if it is very stiff.
  • Take about 100g of the warmed fondant and mix in the cocoa. Add a few drops of water if it is very stiff.
  • Spoon the chocolate mixture into a piping bag.
  • Spread the white fondant over the top of the jam and, whilst it is still wet, pipe concentric circles of the chocolate mixture onto it.
  • Drag a skewer alternately forwards and backwards through the icing to make the traditional ‘spider web’ pattern.
  • Spread the remaining buttercream over the sides of the assembled cake and press the chopped walnuts onto it.
  • Plonk a chocolate shoe on top (optional).

[1] If you prefer, you can use a combination of melted white/dark chocolate to make the spiderweb pattern, in which case the cocoa is redundant.
[2] See [1].

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