Technically, mohntorte — a wheat-free sponge-type poppy seed cake — is not a Christmas specialty, but I included it along with the two actual Christmas recipes from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking (Ten Speed Press, 2016; pp. 126–7) that I prepared for the holiday season last month. Of the three, I think it turned out by far the best, and it was a big hit when I brought it in to work. Here’s how I made it.
We start as always with the mise en place Clockwise from bottom left: 125 g granulated sugar, 50 g confectioner’s sugar, 2 tbl dark rum, 100 g redcurrant jelly, 210 g ground blue poppy seeds, 90 g each natural almonds and walnuts, 5 egg whites, 175 g unsalted “high-fat, European-style” butter (I used “Plugra” brand), 5 egg yolks, the zest of one lemon, and ⅛ tsp salt.
The nuts are chopped up very fine in the food processor as a part of the mise, as the ingredient list calls for them to be “as finely ground as possible without turning to paste”. Weiss’s notes to this recipe say that you can use all almonds or all walnuts rather than the 1:1 ratio indicated here; I had both in sufficient quantity so I used both.
Unusually for a sponge-type cake, this recipe starts with the creaming method. The butter and confectioner’s sugar are creamed together, and then the egg yolks are beaten in, one by one, followed by the lemon zest and rum, to form an emulsion.
The torte is baked in a nine-inch (23 cm) springform pan which has previously been prepared with a coating of butter along the sides and a parchment round on the bottom. The oven temperature is 350°F (180°C) and baking time is 50–55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
The mohntorte, like most sponge-type cakes, pulls well away from the edges of the pan by the time it’s finished baking. At this point it must cool for a short time in the pan, to allow enough of the egg protein structure to set to allow for safe depanning.
After removing the outer ring, the torte is inverted onto the cooling rack and the parchment round removed from the bottom. The cake is allowed to cool completely in this position; the bottom surface (with a few wrinkles preserved from the parchment) becomes the top of the cake as served.
Once fully cooled, the torte is torted — that is, split in half — and filled with the redcurrant jam, which has been heated to an even spreadable consistency. Confectioner’s sugar is sifted on top, and then the cake is set aside, tightly wrapped, for at least a day. It’s served with a dollop of what Weiss calls Schlagsahne, but most readers will know better as crème Chantilly — a simple vanilla-flavored, lightly whipped cream.
As I mentioned at the outset, this was a particularly popular cake. The poppy-seed flavor is an unusual one for the American palate, although it’s familiar to me from the Polish poppy-seed sweet bread makowiec that I’ve made a few times before. It was nice to have something to share with the gluten-free crowd at the office, although I also have a co-worker who’s allergic to almonds — can’t win ’em all. I would definitely make this cake again (although my New Year’s resolution for this year is to do all completely new recipes this year — no repeats — so that’s not going to happen soon).
I’m having a little trouble believing the sodium number here — unless there’s a huge amount of sodium in poppy seeds, I think think of what the other source could be. (An eighth of a teaspoon of salt is about a gram, but divide that by twelve and then adjust for the sodium content of salt, and it’s very clearly not that much.)
|Serving size: 1/12 torte|
|Servings per recipe: 12|
|Amount per serving|
|Calories 405||Calories from fat 264|
|% Daily Value|
|Total Fat 30g||45%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||48%|
|Trans Fat 0g|||
|Total Carbohydrate 28g||9%|
|Dietary fiber 5g||19%|