Labunski Torte

This recipe makes one "tall" 8 or 9 inch layer cake. I am including instructions also for a wedding cake version that friends requested.

12 eggs, separated
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 cups ground pecans (or commercial pecan meal--Recommended)**
parchment paper
8 or 9 inch layer tins
** add 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil, if using commercial pecan meal, as it is dryer than when you grind your own pecans. I use hazelnut oil if I can get it.

Beat sugar and egg yolks until light, add vanilla and oil, and then gradually add pecan meal. Beat whites separately, then add about half of beaten whites to pecan mixture to soften batter sufficiently to then fold in the rest of the egg whites. This is a very stiff batter, so don’t worry too much about losing the air in the egg whites.

Grease layer tins, then place circle of parchment (precut to fit) in bottom of tin and grease bottom again, then flour tins. Ladle batter into tins. You’ll have to spread it with a tablespoon to the edges. Recipe makes 4 layers with 9 inch tins, 5 layers with 8 inch tins. Batter should be about three-quarters of an inch deep.

Bake in slow oven about 275°. The cooking time is difficult to judge because ovens vary–about 50 minutes to an hour. This cake will not “rise” but also should not really brown. It will not “spring back” when you tap it. Be careful that the edges don’t dry out and harden. (Poke around..) Also, take care that the center is not raw. It should resist when touched, and begin to pull away from sides of tin. Remove cakes from tins
before they cool completely. Handle very carefully, the layers are easy to break.

Mocha Frosting (Filling)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 - 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons instant coffee with about 2 tablespoons hot water to melt it.

Cream butter, add sugar and cocoa, then flavorings. Adjust stiffness
of frosting by adding more sugar if necessary. Remember all the
heavy layers will force soft frosting out the sides.

Top Frosting - optional...I didn’t use this for the wedding cake:
3-4 squares of semi-sweet chocolate. Sometimes I add some powdered sugar if I think the chocolate is too bitter. Add about 1/2 cup whipping cream

Carefully melt chocolate with whipping cream. Remember too much heat will make chocolate “strike” (lumps). Allow to cool almost to room temperature. It should be syrupy consistency. Pour over frosted cake and push with back of spoon out from center and over the edges to make streams of chocolate down sides. It will harden when cool.

For the outside of the wedding cake, I used the same recipe as the filling, without the cocoa. The decorative icing was the same, but also without the coffee flavoring, to lighten the color to nearly white. (We decorated this cake with natural flowers, but in the past I have purchased chocolate roses from the local bakery to put on the top as I am not adept with a pastry bag.

**pecan meal-available from Sunnyland Farms, Inc., P.O. Box 549 Albany, GA 31703, Phone 1-912-883-3085. Order Home Box 5 lbs.. size. Should be enough for 4 cakes. It keeps well in the freezer.

Debbie and Alex’s wedding cake took about 11 batches. It made 4 16-inch layers, 4 12-inch layers, 4 8-inch layers, 4 6-inch layers, and 2 sheet cakes, 11 x 14 inches, 4 layers each. This quantity will easily serve 300. It is deadly rich, so small slices are welcome.

Recipe is adapted by my mother, Marion Hutchins, from one submitted to the Junior League of Memphis, Tennessee (1952) by a Mrs. George Miles. Probably adapted from an Eastern European hazelnut torte (?)

I think it must be lucky as a wedding cake. We have made it for 7 weddings including our own and everyone is still married.

Kate Bates - February 1996/2011