Vasa's Cake

Serbian desserts are outside of my realm of experience. I've made my share of Greek goodies, so I know the intricacy of European baking. Recipes can take hours, even days, to prep, but there is a purpose to every step. The more complicated recipes make me the most proud. To put my time and energy into a high-maintenance dish and wind up with a totally new experience is a thrill.

As my fondness for birthday baking doesn't stop at cupcakes, when the birthday of a Serbian colleague came up, I decided to make this birthday bake off one from the Google results. It's always my goal to make these birthday dishes based on something I know a person likes. In this case, it's chocolate, plain and simple. The vasa cake recipe, with it's torte structure and pudding filling, sounded like it would be worth my while, so I dove in.



This recipe was actually pulled from a Serbian website and translated thanks to Google. There weren't actually many useful cake recipes, and seeing as how this recipe was written in Serbian, the choice was easy. Of course, some of it didn't covert as nicely ("add sugar with constant torture"), but I did the best I could converting weights to dry measurements and getting the quantities right.

Nuts are one of the main ingredients of this dish, and I used my food processor to grind up the walnuts as this required a fine, sandy consistency.


In my stand mixing bowl, I beat the egg whites until they formed peaks. Once the eggs began to get foamy, I started spooning in sugar, gradually mixing it in until stiff peaks were present.


I added the yolks one at a time into the mixture egg whites, then folded in the ground up nuts and flour. The mixture went into a parchment lined spring form pan and then in the oven for about 15 minutes.


They cake wound up lightly browned and, as you can see where I accidentally tore the top, light and airy upon coming out of the oven.


After a few minutes, though, the center sunk down while the sides remained standing against the side of the pan, creating a bowl. That was just what I needed for the next part, which was a chocolate pudding for the center. The recipe called for some fresh squeezed orange juice poured over it, and I sprinkled on a little orange oil as an alternative.

For this, I heated up some milk on medium-low heat. This next conversion was tough to understand because I wound up with a quantity of "5 stang" of dark chocolate. How many stangs are in an ounce? Yeah, I've got nothin. I figured I would call it a 1:1 ratio and used 5 ounces. Too much chocolate would be far better than too little.

I stirred the dark chocolate pieces into the milk mixture until it was smooth, then added powdered sugar and butter. In a separate bowl, I beat 4 the egg yolks with 4 tablespoons of sugar until I had a thick, ribbony mixture. I tempered the eggs by spooning in a small amount of the warm chocolate, gradually combining it all together. I stirred in the remaining ground nuts and then poured it into the crust. Then it was time to cool.


Once the cake was room temperature, it was time for the top layer. The recipe I was working with called for making a whipped egg white top with egg whites and hot water, but I botched that up by using way too hot of water. Instead, as a few other recipes described, I topped it all off with some homemade whipped cream and a few pretty little cherries. Cherries and chocolate are two peas in a pod, and there's nothing like some fresh fruit to top of the decor.


Did I mention this was intricate? The end result - even just the accomplishment of completing this unique dessert, was worth it. The pudding mixture was something totally unique. The nuts remained suspended in the pudding, not sinking to the bottom, and the texture was a mixture of creamy and crunchy that I'd never experienced anything like before.

The cake was a mixture of smooth cream from the top, soft in the center from the pudding, and then light and airy on the bottom. The walnuts and dark chocolate in the center gave this cake a rich flavor. While I'm sure the egg white topping would have made a great meringue, I have a special place in my heart for whipped cream and the topping did not disappoint. Sometimes, a fail turns into a win. Isn't that what experimentation is all about?

Vasa's Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

For the cake:
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground walnuts
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons orange oil

For the filling:
2 tablespoons hot milk
5 ounces dark chocolate
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
7 tablespoons butter
2 cups ground walnuts

For topping:
1/2 cup heavy cream
Powdered sugar, if desired

Instructions:

Heat oven to 390 degrees F. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites with the whisk attachment until they begin to foam, then begin spooning in sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix in yolks, one at a time, then fold in flour and ground walnuts. Place parchment paper in the bottom of a springform cake pan, then pour mixture in. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool. The inside will sink down into a bowl shape. Once cooled, sprinkle with orange oil. Gradually heat milk and in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in butter and powdered sugar. Stir in nuts, then pour over cake and set aside to cool. Make whipped cream by beating heavy cream until it is whipped; stir in powdered sugar if desired. Spread over the top of the cake.

adapted and translated from: vasa's cake

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