The question that I’ve always had about this torte is why Egyptian? Of all the nations and culinary influences that we have in Romania, the Egyptian haven’t yet been involved apart from giving us this cake. I have this feeling that it might have come via our neighbouring country: Croatia, sailing on the Mediterranean and the Adriatic sea.
One answer could be that the Egyptian torte involves luxury saffron custard and hazelnuts, making it an exotic cake for a country that doesn’t natively grow either of those ingredients. Another reason why it is called Egyptian could be its golden layers of beautiful custard, that make you think of rich Pharaohs and temples.
To be honest, I think we find more opulence in Russia’s churches and palaces, than in Egypt, but for some reason this name stuck to the cake. However, we do have a Russian torte, too: it’s called Medovik and it is made with honey, sour cream and condensed milk.
Back to Egypt, this is how we make our luxurious cake:
- 8 egg whites (keep the yolks for the custard)
- 8tbsp caster sugar
- 5 tbsp flour
- 160 ground walnuts
- half a tsp of salt
- 8 yolks
- 10 tbsp caster sugar
- 400 ml full fat milk
- 2 1/2 tsp flour
- 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 170 gr butter
- 300 ml double cream
- 100 ml creme fraiche
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 7 tsp caster sugar
- 150g whole almonds
100g – salty peanuts, chopped
Make the layers:
Beat the egg whites with a little salt to a soft foam. Add the sugar and beat until you have a stiff meringue. Gently fold in the chopped walnuts and the flour.
Divide the mixture into 4 and spread each quantity on 4 round baking sheets, 22cm diameter. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Leave to cool completely (aprox 20 minutes) but don’t try to peel off the baking paper. We will do this later, when we assemble the cake.
Make the custard cream:
Beat together the sugar, egg yolks, flour and cornstarch to light golden colour. Heat the milk with the saffron, but avoid boiling it. Gradually and while you keep stirring, add the hot milk to the egg mixture. Transfer to a pan on medium heat cooker ring and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
Leave aside to cool.
In the meantime, beat the butter with the sugar and the vanilla essence. When the custard is cold, gently fold the butter mix into the custard.
Put in the fridge until ready to use.
Make the cream:
Whisk together the creme fraiche with the double cream and the 2 tablespoons of sugar until you have a thick cream but not too stiff. Put in the fridge until ready to use.
Put the sugar in a pan and wait until it browns. There is no need to stir it, just stay calm and resist the temptation to do it. When is caramelised, quickly put in all the almonds and stir for 1 second. Pour the whole mixture on a baking sheet and spread to a thin layer. Leave to cool.
When cold, break it into big pieces and put them in a food processor to grind to a coarse texture.
Assemble the cake:
Put the first cake layer on a big plate. Take generous quantities of custard and spread evenly. However, keep in mind that you need to have equal qualities of custard between all 4 layers. On top of the first layer of custard, spread a thin layer on cream. It needs to be less cream then custard. On top of the cream, sprinkle a layer of the nougat powder.
At this stage, add the second layer of cake and repeat all of the above.
On top of the forth layer, when it comes to put the cream on, spread all the cream around the sides of the cake. You should have enough to cover it.
Sprinkle the salted peanuts on top and all around the cake, or just on top, depends on your preference.
Put in the fridge overnight, so don’t panic if the cream gets quite soft when you work with it. It all comes together in the fridge.
Serve: the following day, damp a sharp knife and cut through all the layers. Serve with dried pineapple and mango slices (bought from the shop) for a little zingy kick.