This food memory and Black Walnut Torte recipe comes from Laura and Peter Zeranski who are the co-authors of Polish cuisine cookbooks. From their book, Polish Classic Desserts, this amazing Black (Walnut) Torte was inspired by the wedding of Peter’s parents, right after World War II.
Peter’s mother and father dated when they were students in Warsaw before World War II. When the hostilities began, Peter’s dad joined the gallant Polish cavalry (to fight tanks on horseback), was inevitably and quickly captured by the Germans and was locked up for most of the war in a POW camp for military officers. Peter’s mom was active in the Warsaw underground and ultimately escaped to Czechoslovakia just before the fall of Warsaw. By pure kismet, after the war they ran into each other during a rainstorm on a muddy street in a displaced persons camp in Germany. The romance was rekindled and they eventually married. Having nothing but each other, Peter’s mother grew her own wedding bouquet and baked her own wedding cake. The recipe was given to Peter’s mother by her landlady and she baked the torte having never baked anything in her life.
Black Torte – Alina’s Wedding Cake – Czarny Tort
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups black walnuts, ground
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup flour, sifted
- 4 egg whites
- plain bread crumbs
- Using a standing mixer, beat the egg yolks for 3 minutes, add the sugar in small amounts while beating, and beat for 5 more minutes.
- Whip the egg whites until stiff.
- Combine walnuts with baking powder and flour.
- Fold the dry ingredients alternately with the whipped egg whites, a small amount at a time, and mix everything lightly.
- Divide the batter equally between two 9-inch, round cake pans which have been greased or buttered, and sprinkled with bread crumbs.
- Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each pan comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons strong instant coffee
- 1/2 cup powdered hot chocolate mix (dark is best)
- 1/2 cup black walnuts, chopped
- Whip the cream, add the coffee and mix.
- Add the chocolate powder and beat until stiff and spreadable.
- Spread between the layers, on the top and around the sides.
- Sprinkle the top with chopped nuts.
- Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Note: Black walnuts have a more intense flavor than the walnut varieties normally seen in grocery stores. If you don’t see black walnuts locally, they can be substituted with regular walnuts or easily purchased online.
Note: European tortes are usually served in small slices since they can be quite rich.
From Polish Classic Desserts by Laura and Peter Zeranski, © 2013 by Lorapeet Ventures, LLC, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. Photos: Laura and Peter Zeranski