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In pastry school there was a course called "Classic Cakes and Tortes". After having worked in the most popular bakery in my home town, I thought, "Yes! finally I'll learn how to make all those fabulous layer cakes". Not exactly—what the culinary school had in mind was to teach us the traditional French and Austrian classics, not how to assemble a malted Milky Way mousse cake. Nonetheless, in making sacher tortes, opera tortes, and all those fancy Vienna coffee house cakes, I gained an appreciation for the oldies but goodies.
Though not out of the school recipe books, this cake reminds me of exactly the type of classic, low-to-the-ground type torte that we'd mix up in class. Toasted and ground hazelnuts form the flourless base to this dense crumbed cake, and orange zest complements the hazelnuts well. Whipped egg whites are folded in to the batter to lighten up the texture. Bread crumbs are an unusual but common addition to these types of rich nut tortes, as they not only help to lighten up the cake but were probably a way to stretch the nuts. Instead of standard bread crumbs, I folded in a handful of light and airy Japanese Panko crumbs.
Though not gluten-free, this flourless cake is outrageously moist. So much so that it's almost squishy—but who ever complains about a moist cake? No one. And what better to enrobe it but a smooth slick of espresso flavored chocolate ganache.
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