My husband Tom and I recently hosted another couple for dinner at our home on a Friday night. I love entertaining and baking for friends, but the Friday evening schedule meant that I wouldn't have time to make a dessert the day of. So I selected a recipe from Classic German Baking that Luisa Weiss says needs to be made a day or two ahead to allow development of flavor and moisture: "Rüblitorte," or a carrot-nut torte.
The recipe headnote explains that this torte is nothing like a classic American carrot cake. It's made with more ground almonds than flour, flavored with cinnamon and citrus, and covered with a lemon glaze instead of cream cheese frosting. I had no idea how the end product would taste, but the charming cookbook photo of a white cake decorated with adorable little carrots sculpted from almond paste was enough to convince me that the recipe was worth a try.
To make the cake batter, you whip egg yolks with sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, and lemon zest; add grated carrots; and alternately fold in egg whites whipped with salt to stiff peaks and the dry ingredients (flour, ground almonds, and baking powder). There are so many carrots in this cake that they turned the batter a beautiful pastel shade of orange. I poured the batter into a buttered and floured 10-inch pan to bake. The cake had a fairly flat top and I let it cool completely in the pan before unmolding it.
While the cake was cooling, I made the carrots. They are supposed to be made from almond paste but I had some store-bought marzipan on hand and used that instead. I used soft gel paste to color the marzipan and sculpted the carrots and tops; my artistic skills are pitiful but fortunately forming a carrot shape doesn't require much talent. Then I covered the cake in a glaze made from fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar and and arranged the carrots on top. (You are also supposed to decorate the sides of the cake with toasted sliced almonds but I skipped that step because I had run out.) The glaze was mostly opaque but the glaze layer was thin and you could see the cake showing through in spots, especially around the edges of the top. After the glaze set firm, I stored the cake under a dome.
It was so nice to have a dessert made in advance of dinner, in contrast to my usual routine of rushing to finish up baking projects rights before our guests arrive. The torte was beautiful whole and equally attractive sliced; I loved the cute carrot on the field of bright white glaze atop each piece. The flavor of this torte was unexpected and delightful. It was strongly citrus-y with an especially nice zing from the glaze. The texture was dense from the almond flour, but not dry; I assume that the grated carrots help the cake retain moisture. The marzipan carrots were not just decorative, but also delicious.
Although this torte doesn't really require much effort, it's definitely a dessert that will impress. And while I love traditional American carrot cake, this German version is extraordinary.
Recipe: "Rüblitorte (Carrot-Nut Torte)" from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss.