The origin of Esterhazy torta is not really identifiable, this is the reason why so many versions circulate in the different recipe collections. This Hungarian cake was invented in the 19th century by unknown confectioner(s). It’s only a presumption that the torta was named after Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy de Galántha (1786–1866), a member of the Esterházy dynasty and diplomat of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Legend makers chose him probably because he was said to be a big gourmet, and the famous Esterházy steak is also related to his name.
Uncertainty about the recipe is, if possible, much bigger, but there are a few cornerstones that serve as a guide to making a traditional Esterházy cake. The number of layers is 5 or 6, the cake layers don’t contain flour, they just consist of sugar, egg whites and ground walnuts or almond.
The filling is a cooked vanilla pastry cream combined with butter. It can be flavoured with rum, walnut liqueur or amaretto. Characteristics of the Esterházy cake is the spider web like decoration. The torte is iced with a fondant glaze and decorated with a chocolate striped pattern. Most of the recipes recommend to use white chocolate instead of fondant, which is time-consuming enough to prepare. (Let me point out that it’s not the end of the world if you can’t reproduce the required decoration, taste of the cake won’t change.)
For the cake:
- 7 egg whites
- 200 g (~7 oz) ground walnuts
- 200 g (~1 cup) sugar
- pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 3 egg yolks
- 300 ml (~1 1/4 cups) milk
- seeds of a vanilla bean
- 80 g (~1/2 cup) sugar
- 35 g (~1/4 cup) corn starch
- 1 tbsp rum
- 200 g (~7 oz) soft butter
For the topping:
- 100 g (~3,5 oz) white chocolate
- 40 g (~3 tbsp) butter
- 30 g (~1 oz) dark chocolate
- 30-40 g (~1-1 ,5 oz) ground walnuts
Line 2 or 3 (if you have) 24 cm/9″ springform cake pans with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F.
Put the egg whites and salt in a bowl, and start the mixer on low speed. As the whites turn opaque, start adding the sugar in small batches. Continue adding the sugar, and gradually increase the speed of the mixer. Whip until very stiff. Gently fold the ground walnuts into the meringue. Spoon 1/5-1/5 of the batter in each pan, spread evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Repeat the baking process until you have 5 cake layers. In between baking the layers always put the batter in the refrigerator.
Place three egg yolks in a sauce pan. Add vanilla seeds and sugar, and beat until sugar dissolves and the mixture ribbons. Beat in rum and corn starch, then gradually pour in milk and whisk until well combined. Over medium heat cook until the cream thickens. Let it cool. Once the custard is cool, add cubed, soft butter and beat until butter is fully incorporated. Take 2-3 tablespoons of this cream and save for later.
Assemble the cake. Put the first layer on a plate the torte will be served, and then spread one forth of the filling – 2. layer – filling – 3. layer – filling – 4. layer – filling – 5. layer. The last layer should be set with the even side up.
Break white chocolate into pieces and melt with butter. In a separate bowl melt the dark chocolate, too.
Pour the melted white chocolate over the top of the cake and spread evenly.
Scoop the dark chocolate into a smaller zip lock bag and cut off one corner tip of the bag. Keep the hole very small, you don’t want the chocolate oozing everywhere. Decorate the top of the torta with circles, then with a toothpick go across the lines in the other direction to make the “spider web” or something. (The decoration, however, depends on your handiness, if you find the spider web too difficult, choose whatever you can make easily.)
Spread the cream you left behind on the side of the cake and with hands glue the ground walnuts. Allow to stand in the fridge for a while before cutting.