This cake is Hungarian in origin, but it’s also popular in parts of northern Serbia that were under Austro-Hungarian rule until the turn of the twentieth century. It’s commonly called Madjarska Palacinka Torta or Hungarian Pancake Torte. Our mothers and grandmothers would typically bake it for Sunday lunch because it’s so quick to make. The layers are somewhere between a pancake and a crêpe, and are sandwiched with various fillings. Almost always, there are walnuts, the most popular nut in the western Balkans. As my aunt used to say: “It isn’t a cake if it doesn’t have walnuts.”
For the raspberry jam
18 ounces (500 g) raspberries
2 1/2 cups (500 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the filling
3 ounces (85 g) walnuts, toasted and cold
3 ounces (85 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped and cold
For the cake
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups (135 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups (175 g) cake flour
1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/3 cup (75 ml) canola oil
1 2/3 cups (390 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (195 ml) half-and-half
Unsalted butter, melted
1 pint (250 g) raspberries
Edible flowers (optional)
For the raspberry jam
Place a small plate in the freezer.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed pan, combine half of the raspberries with the sugar over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Continue boiling, while stirring and gradually lowering the heat, as the jam starts to thicken. After about 1 5 minutes, add the remaining raspberries. Mix well and cook, stirring constantly, for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the jam is ready.
To test the jam, spoon a small dollop onto the frozen plate. It should hold its shape and wrinkle lightly when you run your finger through it.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the jam cool to warm. Stir in the lemon juice and use an immersion blender to slightly purée the jam. Spoon the raspberry jam into
a piping bag and set aside.
For the filling
In a food processor, pulse the cold walnuts and chocolate together until finely ground. Be careful not to over-process as this may melt the chocolate or release the oils in the walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the cake
Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, about half of the confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of salt at medium speed until a meringue with soft peaks forms.
Sift the cake and all-purpose flours together into a medium bowl.
In a clean bowl, use the mixer to whip the egg yolks with the remaining confectioners’ sugar until they triple in volume. Add the maple syrup, followed by the canola oil, and mix until combined. With the mixer running, add the milk, followed by the half-and-half, in a slow steady stream. Add the flour mixture and mix until the batter is smooth with no visible lumps.
Using a whisk, gently fold the meringue into the batter in 3 additions then switch to a spatula to reach the sides and bottom of the bowl. Make sure the meringue is well incorporated with no chunks of egg white.
Arrange a platter or cake stand, the walnut-chocolate mixture, and the piping bag filled with jam next to the stove, so you can assemble the cake as you work.
Heat a 9-inch (23 cm) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet lightly with melted butter and pour in about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the batter. It should spread on its own and cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook, without flipping, until the bottom of the crêpe is lightly browned and bubbles appear on top—the top will look creamy and just set. Carefully shimmy the crêpe out of the skillet and onto your platter or cake stand then sprinkle generously with some of the walnut-chocolate mixture and evenly pipe about 1/3 cup (75 ml) of jam on top. Continue to cook crêpes and layer with the walnut-chocolate mixture and jam— you should be able to make about 9 crêpes. For the very last layer, flip the crêpe so the browned side that was in contact with the skillet is on top and do not add the walnut-chocolate mixture or jam.
Scatter the raspberries and edible flowers, if using, on top of the cake, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve warm.
More about A Place at the Table: The book is produced in collaboration with the Vilcek Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of immigrant contributions in America and fostering appreciation of the arts and sciences. The publication of the book follows the Vilcek Foundation's prestigious 2019 chef awards this spring, which only happen every 5 years. The winner of the Vilcek Prize in Culinary Arts this year was just announced and it was Marcus Samuelsson.
Recipe excerpted from A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation's Top Foreign-Born Chefs (Prestel, Sept 24, 2019, $40/hardcover) by Gabrielle Langholtz, Rick Kinsel.
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