Oct 5, 2009

Hungarian Jancsi Torta

As I started writing about this, I wondered what the heck a Jancsi is. Dear readers, there is an answer to this question, but it's not a what, it's a who. And a romantic tale it is--all about a Gypsy violinist named Rigo Jancsi, who had a scandalous affair with the daughter of an American millionaire. According to the description of the Jancsi torta on wikipedia, Rose's version is not a strictly traditional rendering, because it's supposed to be a two-layer chocolate torte filled with apricot jam and covered with chocolate. But this version is quite delicious, and it's my belief that Rigo and Clara would like it even better, if they ever got around to stopping their hanky-panky long enough to test versions of cake.

This is a naturally gluten-free cake, and contains only eggs, chocolate, walnuts, and sugar, plus a little bit of cream and tartar for the egg whites. After making the passion fruit cake, I thought that this one was downright easy, with just a few ingredients and just a few steps.
First, the walnuts are toasted and rubbed in a dish towel to get rid of as much of the skin as possible.

If you wanted to skip any of the steps, you could probably skip the toasting and rubbing steps, but I didn't want to. The only way I could tell if it made a difference would be to bake two cakes at the same time, changing only those two steps. I'm probably not going to do that.
The walnuts and dark chocolate are ground in a food processor. I managed to get my hands on some Valrhona dark chocolate ("powerful and chocolatey").

The ground nuts and chocolate are mixed with part of the sugar and set aside.

The base for the batter consists only of eight egg yolks and about a cup of sugar. It's one of those miraculous transformations that comes from beating the hell out of egg yolks, so they change from bright yellow-orange globules to rich, thick, creamy batter

And then, once you add the walnuts and chocolate, it turns into a rich, creamy spotted batter.

Finally, you beat the egg whites into a meringue. Fortunately, the recipe calls for eight egg yolks and eight egg whites, so there are no leftover egg parts in the refrigerator, reminding you every time you open the door that you are being wasteful.

Meringue is so pretty, isn't it? The meringue is folded into the batter until the batter becomes airy and fluffy.

I have two cake strips wrapped around the springform pan. The pink one is Rose's, made of silicone; the gray one is from the King Arthur catalogue. It has to be soaked in water before using it, and it is inferior to Rose's, but I keep forgetting to order another one.
I sailed through this recipe with no problem at all. But when I poured the batter into the springform pan, it seemed to be an overly-bounteous amount. I checked the recipe. It said, "The batter will fill the pan half full." Hmmm. Well, I could either remove some batter or I could just see what happens. Oh, let's just see what happens, I said to myself.

Yikes! Looks what happens!
Well, I thought, maybe it will sink when I take it out of the oven.

Not so much.
It did sink in the middle eventually, but still had the crown around the edge.

I think my pan (a 9-inch springform pan, as specified) must either have been a little smaller than the standard pan, or the volume of egg whites was too great. Rose does give both weight and volume measurements for eggs, but I didn't bother this time. There seemed to be no harm done, however, although I did let the cake bake for the maximum amount of recommended time.
There are several options for serving the cake: topped with a chocolate ganache (this is the way Rigo and Clara ate it), topped with light whipped ganache, or topped with warmed sour cherry or apricot preserves. I went the sour cherry route, with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Jim volunteered to go to the grocery store for me, and he was very apprehensive about the sour cherry preserves. "What if they don't have sour cherry preserves?" I told him that they would; they'd just be expensive because they had the word "sour" in them. He looked at me like I was making that up, which I sort of was, but it turned out to be true.

He was a little bit grumbly when he came home and announced that this jar of sour cherry preserves cost over three times as much as a jar of Smucker's. But the taste was perfect with the torte--worth every penny.
This cake is one of the more interesting cakes I've made from the book--about as different from an American cake-mix-style cake as it's possible to be and still be in the same genre. It's very light and delicate, but still manages to contain the assertive flavors of chocolates and walnuts withouto being overwhelmed by them. It's the kind of food that want to savor, so you can enjoy all the contrasting flavors and textures. I'm sure it would be good with chocolate ganache too--how could it not be--but try the sour cherry preserves too.


June: "Moist and light. I think the combinations of nuts and chocolate do well to balance the whipped cream. The little bit of texture to the cherries makes it really nice."

David: "I think it was wonderful, but I can't tell you exactly why. The difference in temperatures, the difference in textures--it's got some nice combinations."

Jim: "Very light. I like the little bits of chocolate. This one's a winner."

. . . . . . . .
I'm really looking forward to checking out the blogs to see what other people did with this cake. I spent a few hours Saturday afternoon going through the blogs of the people who have signed up for this bake-through. We have some very talented cooks and bakers! Some have been doing blogs for years; some have just started. Some have baked incredible wedding cakes and teach baking classes; others, like me, have a more amateur status. We're from all over--England, Canada, Georgia, California, Colorado, et al. Welcome to all of you!
I will do another posting mid-week that will primarily be a place for you to ask each other questions, to brainstorm, and to offer advice. See you then.


Anonymous said...

Looks great! You're so lucky that you can just get American Spoon Foods at the store! Also, be sure you are freezing any extra egg whites when you have them---you're gonna need them for the angel food cakes.

evil cake lady said...

So sour=expensive? I like that!

I love all the cake history you like to give us; it makes the end product even more special. This torte looks delicious and I look forward to baking it. My new roommate is my GF buddy so she'll be looking forward to it, too!

So glad your cake didn't spill over the sides!

Sarah said...

Spoon Foods!!! We had those all the time when we lived in Michigan- they make everything yummy!! What a great torte!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

marie--you may have created a better recipe here! thanks for the full disclosure on the egg whites--these days the balance of white to yolk is greater and you definitely got more whites into the mix! but it looks great so maybe we need to revise the recipe to one more white. though if people don't weigh or measure it will surely go over the sides.
i'm so excited to learn that american spoon foods is now making sour cherry preserves.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

p.s. this cake oughta make people on gluten free diets feel utterly undeprived.

pps cute theory about the word sour but sour cherries actually they are more fragile, spoil much more quickly, and are much less available.

Marie said...

Freezing them is ok? I'd like that much better because I wouldn't see them as often or worry about them going bad.

I'm a sucker for obscure bits of knowledge, especially when they involve Gypsy violinists. I think you'll like this cake--it gives the chocolate oblivion cake a run for its money as best flourless cake (although its very different). I want Melinda to try it.

Sarah, I've ordered from Spoon Foods on-line before, so I was very happy to see that these familiar-looking jars were available at my neighborhood Kowalski's market.
I've been weighing the eggs faithfully, but the eggs I usually get are so close to the weights in the book that I've been just counting the eggs. Of course, I got a different brand of egg. Next time I'll weigh, but I'm not at all unhappy with how it turned out.
I know how scarce sour cherries are! I spent hours searching the farmers' market for them and ended up using bings for another recipe.

faithy said...

Hi Marie, whipped cream & sour cherry preserves look yummy too! I'm chocoholic, so i went with the ganache way! Btw, my cake also went up higher than the pan, but i did measure the eggyolks & eggwhites exactly..LOL! ..so actually it was less than 8 eggwhites..

where can i order Rose's silicone cake strips?

doughadear said...

I don't have the book yet but if I did I would be baking it today. It looks light and delicate and I imagine a real treat to eat. I love the story behind its name, so romantic. Panettone also has a sweet story of love behind its creation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can definitely freeze egg whites. I keep a screw top 2 cup container. When it is full in the freezer, I'm ready to make angel food. The only caveat is don't thaw and refreeze them if you plan to whip them.

HanaĆ¢ said...

Marie, your cake turned out beautiful. I've made the Oblivion Torte several times. This is the first flourless less-chocolaty I've ever seen. Looks gorgeous. Hopefully I'll be receiving the book soon so I can give this one a try.

I froze egg whites in zip loc bags (12 per bag) when I used Rose's Yellow Cake recipe to make a tiered wedding cake. A couple months ago I thawed some out in the fridge (overnight) to make Rose's Angel Food Cake (from the new book). No issues at all. Came out great.

Rozanne said...

Your cake looks great Marie. You picked a good first recipe :)

Unknown said...

Here's my entry, complete with step-by-step photos.


Marie - the batter filled my pan just as full as yours. Thankfully I didn't have any spill over. I used Black Walnuts because I love the way they pair with chocolate - I loved this cake and will happily make it again!

Thanks for hosting the bake off!

Marie said...

Here's a comment from Rose which was left on the Passionfruit cake posting, but I think it refers to the 9-inch springform pan used in the torta: "OK guys, I recognize that pan and I have one so I measured (from the inside) and it's only 2 1/2 inches high whereas the recipe says (meaning me) if your pan is not 3" high extend it with a parchment collar. Signed, yours truly, Sherlock Rose."

The sad thing is that I did read the directions and did measure the pan--from the outside. Yes, yes, I'll agree that it makes sense to measure it from the inside.

Marie said...

Maybe you measured from the outside too?
You can get Rose's pink silicone cake strips for about $11 apiece on amazon.com. I think they're available other places on the internet, but amazon has the best price.

It's a fun book because it's got some very challenging recipes in it--most of which I haven't tried yet--but also some fairly plain, fairly simple cakes. I know you're not afraid of a challenge, so I can't imagine that anything would daunt you!

Great to know that about the egg whites--I think the angel food cake recipe in this book calls for about 12 egg whites, so I'll start saving up.

Oh good--more verification of the frozen egg white practice. I'll just add my frozen egg white collection to my frozen buerre noisette collection.


Unknown said...

I was talking on the phone while making this cake so I didn't weigh the whites and yolks like I normally would have... I just used them straight out of the shell. I'm pretty sure that's why my springform was nearly 3/4 full when the cake went into the oven. Even so, I loved the cake and will happily make it again, maybe varying the nuts next time... almonds, or hazelnuts, or pistachios... mmmm.

Marie said...

Great photos! Your cake looks absolutely beautiful. I think black walnuts are one of those foods you don't feel neutral about because their flavor is so distinct. I'm not a fan myself, but I can see that if you like them, this cake would be perfect for their flavor.

jini said...

well marie you are truly off and running. i haven't baked a cake as yet, but i will, really.
i am packing and off to see the grandbaby in the morning. :)
talk soon.

faithy said...

Hi Marie, i did measure my pan from the inside and because it was only 2-1/2 inches high, i lined with with parchment ..i followed Rose's instruction to the tee..lol! I can see it went above the pan..but because i had the higher parchment paper around it, i wasn't worried. :)

I didn't have the baking strip, so i lined my pan with wet papertowel & foil. I'll go order Rose's silicone strip now..:))

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

sorry--have to get used to the wonderful new site! yes i meant to add the comment about pan size to the jancsi torta and not the passion one. i do wish companies would standardize those pans!!!

Marie said...

You're going to see a beautiful new granddaughter instead of baking a cake? Woman, where are your priorities?

Clever of you to do the correct measurements! Rose will be pleased to know that someone, somewhere, follows her directions. Also a clever makeshift baking strip--are you a scientist?

I think they'll standardize cake pans about the time they standardize women's dress and shoe sizes.

Unknown said...

Marie - Rose give instructions to make your own bake strips using foil and paper towels in The Cake Bible. Some bakers even use wet strips of old bath towels, no foil. The set their cake pans on a sheet pan and wrap the wet strips around the cake pans. I haven't tried it, but several have told me it works wonderfully. I guess I'm too afraid of them catching on fire. I'll have to give Rose's silicone strips a try sometime.

Vicki said...

This cake looks like something from an artisan bakery which I would order with a latte!

hector said...

the cake reads and looks like cake a superb tasty and interesting version of an otherwise flourless plain chocolate or sponge cake!

i wonder if it will work with sugar free chocolate (i would think so), but unsure if the eggs would whip well or if the cake texture will hold if using a sugar substitute instead of sugar? my good friend is diabetic and celiac!

hector said...

Just had a chance to read all your wonderful comments, Patrincia: you will ENJOY Rose's silicone strips and I think Rose should have bundled them with the book... The strips could hold your fallen book in place -)

I have just added links on my website to amazon.com with my favorite equipment, including the strips!

Jenn said...

If you guys are going to get Rose's silicone strips, you better order it fast. I ordered 2 at the end of September from Amazon, the estimated delivery date is the 2nd week of November - which means I won't get it until mid-November - with the free shipping.

PAM said...

Great post and pictures. I love that this recipe is gluten free as so many are requesting it these days. I freeze my egg whites all the time and they work perfectly after thawing. Can't wait to get started baking and posting as soon as I get my book.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

i signed the 10 book plates last night so the books are going out today!

Jenn said...

Oh wow... freshly signed books. Thanks a lot Rose!

Marie said...

I'm always afraid of fires or explosions in the kitchen, so the idea of baking with paper towels or old towels is a little scary. I admire people who improvise.

Yes, a latte would be the way to go!

My first reaction was, why would you want to use sugar-free chocolate! But then I saw you were just being a good friend, so all is forgiven. The cake does have sugar in it, however. I've never tried baking with a sugar substitute, and hope I don't have to, but if you're going to do it, this might be the recipe.

I guess they're selling like hotcakes!

Sugar Chef,
Check your mailbox later this week.

Melinda said...

Hello Marie and all the Heavenly Bakers! Your first bake together looks so good and a great success. I really wanted to make this cake as I am following a low flour diet. (I made up a term called gluten ethical. I eat good cakes only!)
I have been ill with a nasty chest infection so wasn't alive to bake cakes in time for your debut. I might have a go this weekend so check my blog.
So fun to read all your different ideas and experiences with the recipe. I actually just bought a 9 inch x 3 inch high pan about 2 weeks ago. It's kismet! I was saying to myself when I bought it..."dad blasted 9x3...I probably will never use this cake pan again!" Little did I know!
I always have to use homemade baking strips because here in England they don't exist yet. My homemade ones work really well and I am getting really good at making them up. Mine have never burst into flames, Marie! But your turbo-flash Wolf oven might be powerful enough to do it! I love the look of the silicone bands...nifty, neat and quick!
I am going to go check out all the bakes so I can oogle over your cakes! Cheers all

Marie said...

I'm so glad you're back in the land of the living. And that you're gluten ethical, not strictly gluten free. If we were all gluten ethical and sugar ethical, none of would be obese.
It is definitely kismet--why else would you buy a 9 x 3-inch pan; clearly you're intended to bake this cake. I'll check your blog later, and hope to see the high and handsome Jancsi torta rising from your blog.

PAM said...

I got my book today. WooHoo!! and Rose signed it to me "Pam" that's my real name. I will treasure it forever and will get busy on those Barcelona Brownie Bars. Thanks Marie and Rose.