Many years ago when I first became interested in pastry and baking, I found a book at the library introducing me to Viennese Tortes and pastries. I was fascinated by them to the point I copied the entire book for my personal use. This was ages before the internet and the book was no longer on the market. A version of this Viennese Walnut and Chocolate Sponge Cake was in the book.
As with some early Viennese Tortes, bread crumbs or cracker crumbs finely ground would be used in place of flour. Another rendering of this cake was in my first book, “The New Pastry Cook”. It did use cracker crumbs. However, for this version I wanted to use a sponge which would accept a brandy soaking syrup. The original recipe for the cake in my book used only the cake and a coffee buttercream. I expanded upon that idea for this cake.
The recipe for the Viennese Walnut and Chocolate sponge cake is based on Bo Friberg’s Hazelnut-Chocolate Sponge in his book, “Professional Pastry Chef”. This is one of my go to books if I am stumped by something. The sheer volume of information in charts and graphs is astounding. There have been several updates to the book. I have Volume 4 which is over 1,000 pages. I love this recipe because it doesn’t require beating the egg yolks and whites separately. It uses whole eggs that are warmed over a double boiler so they can reach maximum volume. It is easy and as far as I can see, foolproof as long as you fold the dry ingredients quickly and gently.
His recipe calls for 14 eggs and as I suspected when I made it, my 5 quart mixer could barely hold the whipped eggs. They would fit in one of the newer 7 quart mixers. However, not wanting to purchase a new mixer for one recipe, I downsized it to fit the 5 quart. I also wanted the layers to be shorter than his were.
Also, unusual in this sponge cake recipe is the use of bread flour and cake flour. As Chef Friberg explains, the bread flour is strong enough to hold the voluminous amount of whipped eggs up. Whereas there is not enough protein in the cake flour alone to accomplish this. However cake flour is also used to tenderizes the layers. His recipe uses all bread flour but I used part cake flour in mine. In writing about this, he rather leaves the proportions up to the person making it as it can be altered depending upon what you are making.
At Christmas my mother made a cookie called Honey Diamonds. It uses chocolate along with these spices. It is one of my very most favorite combinations.
Although this recipe has several component parts, the spongecake layers, the apricot filling, brandy soaking syrup and coffee buttercream can all be made ahead, making assembly very easy. A word about dried apricots. Sulfur is often used when drying apricots so they retain a pleasing color. But even with sulfur some become dark as seen in this photo of two sulfured apricots from different packages.Those without sulfur can become brown. Contrary to the popular way of reconstituting the apricots, I don’t cover the pan when heating them so the sulfur can escape leaving a clean apricot flavor.
Removing the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake layers can have its difficulties since I don’t recommend spraying the entire parchment or the pan. Also, the layers are fairly thin. However, it becomes a cinch if you just follow the directions here.
There is also a ganache I haven’t used in this blog before. Way back in the day when cooking and baking were coming into their own, it was all the rage to make your own creme fraiche. I would dutifully heat 40% or heavy cream to room temperature along with a bit of buttermilk or sour cream, then leave it at room temperature overnight. The next morning, if all went well I had creme fraiche.
I came up with the recipe below to avoid having to make creme fraiche.. I can never get this done ahead of time so I just combined everything together and it works beautifully. It can be used at once without any set up time so I just love it.
It is important to bake all of the layers at once as this is a delicate cake and especially you don’t want the nuts and chocolate to sink to the bottom of the layers.
French buttercream that finishes this Viennese Tote is distinguished by the use of egg yolks as well as whites. A sugar syrup is used and it is flavored with coffee in this version. The combination of egg yolks and egg whites will whip into a foam that does not need to be stabilized as do egg whites alone.
I am going to start giving the weight of the batters so you will know how much to put in each pan should you want to use the layers thicker or thinner. I will also give you the height of the layers as I have called for them in the recipe I have made. I do this with the intent of making it easier for you to use the cakes in creations of your own.
Viennese Spiced Walnut and Chocolate Sponge Cake3/4 cup bread flour (105 grams or 3 2/3 ounces)
1/4 cake flour (30 grams or 1 ounces)
4 ounces walnuts (114 grams)
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate (60 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray the center only of four 9×2 inch pans with releasing spray. Line with parchment paper and spray the center only. Set aside.
Place the chocolate in the food processor and process until very finely cut. Place the cake flour in the food processor along with about half of the bread flour and nuts. Process until the nuts are extremely finely chopped. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Process to mix completely.
Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Heat over simmering water to a temperature of about 110 degrees, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and place on the mixer. Beat until cool and very light about 10 minutes.
It will be thick and form ribbons when allowed to fall from the whisk. Fold half of the flour mixture into the batter quickly. Fold the remaining flour mixture into the whites. Divide between the four prepared pans (230 grams or about 8 ounces each).
Cool completely before releasing.
To remove the parchment without tearing the sponge, release the edge of the layers with a flexible spatula. Turn upside down on a round. Remove the paper by pulling the parchment in front towards the center of the layer. Let the parchment fall back to the layer. Repeat with the back of the parchment pulling it towards the center. Then pick up the paper and throw it away. This will prevent the far edge from sticking to the paper and tearing off.
To Make Ahead: Freeze the layers individually. They may be stacked after frozen, wrapped well and frozen for several months.
Weight of batter – About 920 grams or 2 pounds
Height of 4 – 9″ layers – 3/4″ each
This may be made a week ahead and refrigerated.
This may be made a week ahead and refrigerated.
Coffee Flavored French Buttercream (click to see how to photographs)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened but not runny (225 grams or 8 ounces)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Place the eggs and yolk in the bowl of a 5 quart mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high until very light, very pale in color and foamy. Continue beating until the syrup is ready.
This small amount of syrup comes to temperature very quickly after it reaches 220 degrees so watch it so it does not go over 242 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Place the water in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and cream of tarter. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil. Wash down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water to prevent crystallization. Boil to 242 degrees.
Pour the syrup in slowly trying to stay between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Do not pour in too quickly or it will sink to the bottom of the bowl where it cannot be incorporated. Beat until completely cool.
When the base is cooled, add the butter a tablespoon or two at a time. Beat until incorporated. Do not add additional butter until the previous amount is completely mixed in. When all of the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla and continue beating to achieve a light texture.
Yields: 2 1/4 cups, 400 grams or 14 grams.
To Make Ahead: The buttercream can be frozen and reconstituted
Place one layer of sponge upside down on a cardboard round. Brush with 1/4 of the brandy soaking syrup. Spread half of the apricot filling over this layer. Place the second layer on top brush with soaking syrup and spread 2/3 of the ganache over this layer. Top with the third layer, brush with another 1/4 of the soaking syrup and spread with the remaining half of the apricot filling. Top with the last layer of the sponge and brush with the remaining syrup.
The torte will be easier to finish if it is partially frozen.
Undercoat the Viennese Torte with the Coffee Flavored French Buttercream. Chill to set up.
Overcoat the cake reserving some of the buttercream for decoration.
Fit a pastry bag with a #5 plain tip. Fill with the remaining ganache. Pipe lines about 3/4 inches horizontally across the top. Turn the cake one quarter and pipe lines on a diagonal the same distance apart.If you have breaks in the lines as I do here, pipe them in carefully. Finish the edge of the cake as desired. I have used a #5B tip and finished the edge of the Viennese Apricot Torte with a shell.Finish bottom edge the same way.