Rick Rodgers - cuisine americane

Hungarian Apricot Torte

4243_HungTorte.jpgFans of my book KAFFEEHAUS (or more specificially, Austro-Hungarian cooking), often ask me when a new edition is going to appear.  All i can say is...I'm working on it!  Until that day arrives, here is a torte in the Hungarian tradition worth bringing out a $500 bottle of aged Tokaji for.  That's what my friend Arto Szabos did last week.  He found a rare bottle of the Hungarian sweet wine tucked away in his house, and decided to open it.  Arto, whose late wife Ella was one my mentors when I was writing the book, asked me to provide a recipe that would go well with the wine.  His friend, Dee Lewis, made this Hungarian Apricot-Hazelnut Torte, which I created for an article on wine pairings in  Bon Appétit a few years ago.  And, as the picture proves, it turned out pretty well!  Make it for a special occasion...or a a special wine. 


Hungarian Torte with Creamy Hazelnut Buttercream

12 servings

The perfect cake for bringing out the apricot and hazelnut notes in a glass of Tokaji, with a melt-in-your-mouth frosting that won’t harden when chilled.

The desserts of Hungary are a delectable component of the Austro-Hungarian pastry tradition.  The essential differences between Central European sweets and their Franco-Italian counterparts are ingredients (think lots of ground nuts and poppy seeds) and influences (strudel dough is surely related to filo).  

To American bakers, any cake made with a lot of ground nuts or cake or cookie crumbs is considered a torte, even if it contains some flour.   In the Central European kitchen, a torte means a fancy cake, nuts or no nuts.  Because most of the torte recipes our relatives brought to America from the Austro-Hungarian Empire contained the flour substitutes, we think they are essential ingredients.  In the Old World, classic tortes were often made with ground nuts (which were always plentiful in nearby forests), or sometimes bread or cake crumbs (which conserved expensive flour products).  

Walnut torte is a recipe that every Hungarian knows, but some bakers use hazelnuts for a change of pace.  Our version, slathered with an unusual, pastry-cream based icing and apricot preserves, combines the best of the Old and New World kitchens. Most American kitchens lack a hand grinder, an indispensable utensil for getting the nuts to the proper fluffy texture, so I use a food processor to grind the nuts with flour as a modern alternative.  While Hungarian bakers consider leavening a cake with baking powder to be cheating (they use beaten eggs alone), I use it hearer to ensure a lighter crumb. 

A sip of authentic Hungarian Tokaji azsú, a botyrized sweet white wine (not to be confused with the tasty, but not equally noble Italian Tokai or Alsatian Tokay), reveals honeyed apricot and hazelnut notes. While there are manyvarieites of the white wine of the Tokaj region, including dry wines, Tokaji azsú is one that has become famous all over the world.  The relative sweetness is designated by the number of tubs (puttonyos) added to the base wine as a sweetener--you'll find the amount listed on the label.  A three puttonyos Tokaji would be drier than a five puttonyos bottle.  You'll find the number of puttonyos (usually from three to six) listed on the label.    



Softened butter and all-purpose flour, for the pan

 2/3 cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts* (or use 2/3 cup Bob's Red Mill hazelnut flour, available at Whole Foods and many supermarkets, or another brand)

2/3 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1 cup apricot preserves



1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts* 

I prefer toasted hazelnuts, and not hazelnut flour, here for depth of flavor and texture

2/3 cup milk

4 teaspoons cornstarch

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened



1/3 cup finely chopped toasted and skinned hazelnuts*

12 whole toasted and skinned hazelnuts*

3 dried apricots, cut into 12 slivers

FOR CAKE:  Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.  Butter 9-by-2 1/2-inch springform pan.  Line bottom of pan with parchment or waxed paper. Dust sides of pan with flour; tap out flour.  

Pulse hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, and salt 10 times until nuts are coarsely chopped.  (If using hazelnut flour, simply whisk dry ingredients together well.)  Process 30 seconds until nuts are ground into flour.  Set aside.

Using  electric mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl until mixture is very pale and thick, about 5 minutes.  Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy.  On high speed, beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar to egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.  Stir 1/4 of egg whites into yolks to lighten.  Fold in remaining whites.  

Using wire sieve, sift half of flour mixture over eggs and fold in.  Sift in remaining flour mixture, adding any hazelnuts (or hazelnut flour) in sieve, and fold in.  Transfer 1 cup of batter to medium  bowl.  Add butter and vanilla and fold together.  Return mixture to remaining batter and fold together, being careful not to deflate batter.  

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake torte until top springs back when pressed in the center, about 30 minutes.  Transfer pan to rack.  Cool 10 minutes.  Run knife around pan sides to loosen torte.  Invert torte onto rack.  Peel off parchment.  Turn right side up onto rack and cool completely.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap; store at room temperature.)

FOR FILLING:  Bring preserves to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring often.  Simmer for 1 minute.  Rub preserves with solids through wire sieve into a small bowl.  Cool.  

FOR BUTTERCREAM:  Mix confectioner’s sugar and hazelnuts in processor.  Process until nuts are very finely ground, about 30 seconds.  Set aside.  

Pour milk into heavy small saucepan.  Sprinkle in cornstarch; whisk to dissolve cornstarch.  Add egg yolks and whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often.  Boil for 30 seconds, whisking until very thick and smooth.  Transfer to medium stainless steel bowl set in larger bowl of iced water.  Cool completely, stirring occasionally. 

Using electric mixer on high speed, beat in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  On medium-low speed, gradually beat in sugar mixture.  Return bowl of buttercream to iced water until chilled and firm enough to spread. 

FOR ASSEMBLY:  Trim off top of cake to level.  Cut cake horizontally into 2 equal layers.  Transfer 1 cake layer, cut side up, to 8-inch cardboard cake round or tart pan bottom. Spread apricot filling over.  Top with remaining cake layer.  

Transfer 2/3 cup buttercream to pastry bag fitted with 7/16-inch-diameter star pastry tip set aside.  Spread 1 cup remaining buttercream over top of cake.  Spread remaining frosting over sides of cake.  Press chopped hazelnuts onto sides of cake.  Pipe 12 large rosettes, equally spaced  around top edge of cake.  Place 1 hazelnut and 1 apicot sliver in each rosette.  Cover with cake dome; chill at least 1 hour.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead; keep refrigerated.)

*  To toast hazelnuts, spread nuts in single layer on baking sheet.  Bake in preheated 350° oven, stirring occasionally, until skins are peeling and nuts are toasted, about 12 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. To skin hazelnuts, in batches, rub nuts in kitchen towel to remove dark skins (don’t worry about removing every bit).  Cool skinned hazelnuts completely before using.  

Tags: apricots , hazelnuts , Hungarian desserts , tortes

Categories: Desserts

Lee Faber  | September 28, 2011 11:01 AM

Softened butter and all-purpose flour 2/3 cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts* (or use 2/3 cup Bob's Red Mill hazelnut flour, available at Whole Foods and many supermarkets, or another brand)

How much softened butter and all-purpose flour please? And is this in addition to the cake flour?

Karitas  | September 29, 2011 7:47 AM

The KAFFEHAUS book brings back many fun memories. . . . .I am so glad I have a copy!
Also, your torte sounds yummy and I will definitely try it as it's been ages since I made a torte from that region of the world.
Many thanks. Karitas

Jade Grande  | October 14, 2011 7:11 PM

I'm so glad to hear that you are working on a new edition of KAFFEEHAUS. I borrow if t from the library regularly and want to buy my own copy.
My daughter needs to produce something Austrian for the school Global Food Festival. What is a good choice for a 12 year old to make with her mom? Sacher Torte? Dobos Torte? Vienna Crescents?

Sasha (Global Table Adventure)  | October 19, 2011 3:04 PM

I'm so happy to hear you are working on a new edition - it'll be so fun to cook with. This torte looks amazing (I'm part Hungarian - it would be so fun to make for my mother, maybe over the holidays).

John  | December 31, 2011 10:13 AM


Happy New Year! Glad to hear you're working on a new edition! I've been trying to track down a copy of your book without breaking my wallet. So far just been borrowing from the library as another person said. I'll be the first person in line for the new edition! Keep up the great work!


John  | January 5, 2012 12:57 AM


Happy New Year to you as well! Your Orange-Chocolate Yule log desert was a hit, thank you for sharing that recipe!

As for your question about the reprint, personally I would prefer the hard copy. I wouldn't be able to show off my 'Desert Bible' in my kitchen if it was in digital format ;). If you are going to release it digitally, Kindle is definitely the way to go.

Please keep us updated on the revision!


Liza  | January 15, 2012 10:36 PM

Hello Rick -

I do hope you come out with the new edition soon! My vote is for a hardcover edition, but I'll still keep an eye out for the OOP version, just in case. I've read many wonderful reviews on your recipes. My husband and I visited Cafe Sperl quite a few years ago, but never got the opportunity to sample the Sperl Torte.

All the best!
- Liza

John  | April 8, 2012 3:42 AM

Got any updates for us about the new edition? :)


John  | April 10, 2012 8:11 PM


Thank you for the update! Sorry to hear the process is a pain, I hope everything gets resolved without too many headaches! This book is all that I would want for Christmas!

On a tangent but still an Austrian-Hungarian thought process , I was wondering if you could help answer a question for me. Is plunderteig the correct dough for Beigli? My family makes nut rolls and the recipe calls for a sweet yeast dough, however it is nothing like the plunderteig recipe. I bought some ground poppy seeds to make some poppy seed rolls and was going to try making them with the plunderteig dough.


John  | July 24, 2012 7:40 PM

Sorry for my late response!

You were right. I ended up making poppy seed danishes, but it was delicious anyways :). You think Ellas would mind sharing their Beigli dough recipe? Should definitely make it into the book!

Hope your summer is going well!


John  | August 5, 2012 12:00 PM

My apologies, how embarrassing! I totally overlooked the recipe because of the name 'roulade'. I was able to find a used copy of your 1st edition the other day and picked it up. Are there any recipe modifications in the newer editions? Thanks again for giving us this treasure!


Sarah  | October 7, 2012 8:18 AM

Hi Rick,

I'm a huge fan of yours and have a cherished copy of Kaffeehaus, so I was thrilled to hear that you are working on a new edition. I'm old school and prefer hardcover over softcover (and I'm not really a fan of e-cookbooks, but I'll read novels on an e-reader).

If you need any beta testers / proofreaders for the updated edition, say the word! I'm in publishing, but not cookbook publishing, unfortunately...still happy to lend a hand if I can.



John  | December 16, 2012 1:28 PM


Merry Christmas to you! I just wanted to let you know I tried making the beigli with poppy seeds, instead of the walnuts and I had a problem. I don't know if its because I ground the poppy seeds myself, but there wasn't enough liquid to keep the poppy seed filling moist. It absorbed all of the water/sugar/lemon zest/honey mixture. I boiled some milk and added it to it but it still didn't seem as moist as the walnut mixture. I was also wondering how you felt about using dried apricots or apricot preserves in replacement of the candied orange rind. I don't feel that the candied orange rind added much flavor to the filling, and it has high fructose corn syrup.


P.S. Is that new edition still in the works?

John  | December 17, 2012 2:43 PM


I think I caught my error. I substituted the 2 1/4 cup of walnuts for whole poppy seeds. I did grind them at 1/4 cup intervals in a coffee grinder but I failed to measure the poppy seeds after they were ground! The poppy seeds obviously expand almost double their size after they are ground. I can't believe I didn't catch that! I will be making more poppy seeds rolls soon and will report back on my results. I will substitute the candied orange peel for dried apricots or apricot preserves. BTW the dough recipe you have works better than my family's, just don't tell them that ;).

Happy Holidays and keep up the good work!

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