Esterházy torte – nut dacquoise layer cake

Esterhazy cake

Esterházy cake is a dacquoise layer torte originating in Budapest in the late 1800s. It was created (as many famous/regional speciality cakes are) by a confectioner keen to impress one of the great houses of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire and one of its members in particular, Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy de Galántha. Its longevity as a popular recipe proves the Prince (or at least those around him who ate the cake) must have designated it a success. Some of the essential features of this torte are the fondant glaze with spider’s web pattern, the chopped (or slivered) nuts pressed into the edges of the cake, the number of layers separated by a French nut buttercream. Recipes vary in the number of layers and, as the recipe for the cake travelled and got more popular throughout mid-eastern Europe it naturally altered, as these things do due to taste and availability. Some variants are all hazelnut, some almond, some walnut and some a mixture.


The only thing I have altered was that I could only get ground almonds. I had wanted to use half and half almonds and hazelnuts, but as I don’t have anything that can successfully grind nuts or spices down without turning them into a mush, I had no option but to purchase pre-ground. Ground almonds are easy to get hold of, but ground hazelnuts proved trickier and I could only find them online (and I didn’t think they’d turn up in time so I bypassed them). I have used chopped hazelnuts on the outside of the cake though, so I think this balanced the flavour back out a little at least. Some recipes include alcohol (usually cognac) and some don’t; I’ve kept without it because there would be children eating it too and I’m not a massive fan of boozy cakes anyway. One last thing, this is me being pedantic but I piped the layers. Most recipes just say to spoon or spread the meringue sponge. I fully admit I’m OCD in the kitchen with trying to get my bakes (especially any patisserie) as exact as possible so there was no way I’d do anything else than use a piping bag and round nozzle. I piped the meringue sponge onto a pre-drawn circle (underneath side of baking paper) starting in the middle and spiralling outwards – this is a typical method to make large single macarons. You can please yourself – it doesn’t alter the flavour or texture and the top layer gets covered in fondant anyway. It’s just I knew it was there… 🙂 Don’t panic at the length of the recipe – it’s not as tricky as some might have you believe, it just has quite a few stages to it. The only tricky thing is piping the chocolate spiral. I did make this cake over two days, not because you really can’t make it all in one go, but that I started at about 8pm one night (after a full day’s work and the usual tidying and preparing dinner after getting home) and frankly ran out of steam to complete it that evening. This recipe was submitted for a Daring Bakers Esterházy cake challenge, hosted by Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake.


  • Baking paper/parchment
  • Round template about 5cm (6 in) – a pan lid, plate or cake tin
  • Piping bag and large, round plain nozzle (about 8mm or 3/8in diameter) and another (or a plastic piping bag with the end snipped) with a small, plain nozzle (about 1mm / fine)
  • Saucepan and heatproof bowl for bain marie (or a double boiler if you’re posh/well equiped)
  • Bowls and stand mixer/handheld mixer
  • Stand mixer or handheld mixer (you can do the meringue by hand but it’ll be laborious)
  • Baking trays
  • Smaller items: pastry brush, palette knife or cake lifter, rubber spatula, marker or pencil

Ingredients – nut meringues / dacquoise

  • Egg whites – 6 large
  • Icing sugar – 180g
  • Caster sugar – 20g
  • Ground almonds – 200g (or 100g and ground hazelnuts 100g)
  • Plain flour – 60g
  • Vanilla extract – 1/2 tspn

Method for the dacquoise/nut meringues

  1. Mark out five circles on your baking paper using your circular template/lid etc
  2. Turn on the oven to 150 C
  3. Whip up the egg whites to stiff-ish peaks using a fast speed
  4. Slow the mixer a little to medium speed and slowly tip in the caster sugar and incorporate, then the icing sugar (a little at a time or in a slow stream – just don’t plonk it all in at once)
  5. Ensure the meringue is glossy and fully incorporates the sugar and remove the bowl from the mixer
  6. Mix in the ground nuts (about a third at a time) and the vanilla extract slowly with the rubber spatula in a figure of eight motion. Be gentle but do make sure all the ground nuts are spread evenly throughout the mixture
  7. Using a blob of the mix on your finger, fix down the baking paper (with the marked out circles on the underside) onto the baking trays – this will keep them fixed in place as you pipe or spread
  8. If you’re piping: place the mix in the piping bag with the large plain nozzle (you’ll have to refill) and start in the middle of the circle and pipe in a tight spiral round and outwards until you have a disc. It is better to overlap the spiral rather than have gaps, as you can spread out the mix afterwards. (spreading out the mix when there’s gaps will thin out the layer too much). You can smooth the discs a little with a palette knife
  1. If you’re spreading, spoon the mix onto the sheets and smooth it out to the edges of the circle. You’re aiming for just under 1 cm in height
  2. If you have a bit left over, pipe or spoon a small circle so you can test ‘doneness’ at the end of the cooking
  3. When you’ve done all five pop them in the oven for about 16 mins. Do NOT let them go brown, you want just under but definitely cooked. Judging this is fairly tricky, and they will carry on cooking slightly from the residual heat for a few minutes after you remove them anyway. If you were able to pipe a smaller circle you can test this – if you think it’s underdone, pop them all back in for another 2 minutes
  4. Take out and leave to cool on the baking sheets – don’t move them until you have to as the meringues are slightly fragile

French nut buttercream

  • Egg yolks, large – 6
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Unsalted butter, softened slightly – 150g
  • Ground almonds/hazelnuts – 75g
  • (Plus a little whipped double cream to lighten if you prefer)

French buttercream – recipe

  1. Made in a bain marie (a bowl over a saucepan with a few centimetres of water, although do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl, or use a double boiler, if you have one)
  2. Bring the water to a gentle boil, put the yolks and sugar in the bowl on top and whisk while heating until smooth and thickened
  3. Leave to cool
  4. In a separate bowl, whip up the butter until fluffy and then beat in the yolks and the ground nuts until smooth and fully incorporated
  5. Just one note – to lighten the buttercream if you prefer fold in some whipped double cream (I know this doesn’t exactly lighten the calorie load but it can create a lighter feel and taste on the palette, as some people find buttercream too cloying). Should you wish to add a spoonful of cognac or other liquer, you could do that now

Assembling the layers

  1. For this don’t use all the buttercream – you’ll need enough kept aside for the sides and one teaspoon to add to the chocolate to thin it for piping
  2. Alternate the dacquoise layers with buttercream and build the torte – two things though: put the top layer on upside down (so it is flat at the top) and do not put any butter cream on the top

Apricot glaze method

  1. Warm the apricot jam and a teaspoon of water in a microwave or a saucepan
  2. Brush it over the top layer of the torte – let it cool/resolidify before you attempt to pour on the fondant icing

Icing method

  1. Mix together the icing sugar, a little lemon juice and a little water – you want it to get to only just starting to slip off the back of the spoon. It’s better to add the water a tiny drop at a time, as it’s so easy to make it too runny and you’ll need a lot of icing sugar to bring it back. As a guide for a cake this size you’ll need about 100ml in total
  2. Before you start pouring it on, ready the chocolate (see below) so it is to hand as soon as the icing is smooth
  3. Pour on the icing and smooth it out with a palette knife – if you’ve got a cranked one that’s easiest

Chocolate spiral method

  1. Melt the chocolate (in a microwave is easiest – zap it in 10 second intervals until it’s malleable) then stir in a teaspoon of the creme you’ve prepared
  2. Put it in the second piping bag with a small nozzle (or a new bag with the corner snipped off)
  3. Start in the middle of the cake, squeeze evenly and spiral the piped line of chocolate round and outwards, until you’ve got a nice spiral that meets the edge of the cake
  4. To ‘draw’ the spider lines you’ll be using a skewer or toothpick to alternate between dragging over the lines from the middle to the edge, then from the edge to the middle. Imagine a bike wheel – you’re drawing the spokes and it’s easiest to do an even number of lines so you can mentally divide the cake up easier to match the lines up.

Finishing the cake

  1. Using a palette knife spread the remainder of the creme round the edge of the cake and then gently press the chopped hazelnuts into the creme

Paris-Brest with passionfruit crème diplomate

This Paris-Brest choux is another Daring Bakers‘ challenge.

I have made Paris-Brest before on a few occasions and to follow the original recipe is to produce one large ring-shaped choux filled, decorated simply with toasted, flaked almonds and filled with crème mousseline. It’s typically large enough that it can be sliced to serve a number of people. So, for a change I thought I’d do individual choux and add a new flavour in.

I find crème mousseline (also sometimes known as German buttercream) a bit much when it’s the main filling. It’s wonderful with fruit or when there’s a little less of it, but in a Paris-Brest there’s a massive amount of cream for the amounty of pastry. So, I thought I’d I try a crème diplomate as a change – I also opted for a chocolate topping (more like an eclair) than the traditional icing sugar and flaked almonds.  

Crème mousseline is a 4 : 2 : 1 mix of pastry cream : butter : hazelnut paste. Just reading it makes it sound heavy and  artery-clogging! There are plenty of recipes online if you prefer to make this.  

Crème diplomate is a 2 : 1 (typically) mix of pastry cream to whipped double cream. Not exactly slimline in itself, but it feels lighter in the mouth to me. Maybe I’m making that up/it’s wishful thinking? Anyway, whichever you choose to use this is not going to be a dieter’s dessert.

Background to the Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest is another of those pastries dreamt up by a very canny self-marketing Parisien Chef Patissier. In this instance, it was Louis Durand, in 1910 who chose to commemorate the Paris to Brest and back-to-Paris cycle race by creating a ‘bicycle wheel’ in choux pastry and filling it with crème mousseline. It certainly drew attention,  ensured his name became synonymous with the delicacy and firmly placed it as a staple of French patisseries ever since. I guess it worked out well for him! The history of cooking is littered with French chefs trying to create the next best thing and get their name known – some are known for their overall contributions (like Carême onwards though Soyer, Lenôtre, Desfontaines, to today’s Parisien Chefs like Michalak and Felder) and some like Durand for one particular success. Clearly celebrity cheffery is not a new phenomenom in France!

If you can read French (or are adept at working out Google translate) you may like to view this website on the Durand patisserie in Paris. The Patisserie is still going and this link takes you to some information about Louis and his creation, and includes some simply fabulous photos of Louis, his wife and the original facade of the shop and you can browse the rest of the site to see their current pastries.


This makes about 8 small choux (about 10 cm across)


  • saucepan
  • baking paper or parchment
  • baking trays
  • fine sieve
  • bowls
  • plastic flexible spatula
  • piping bag and large round nozzle
  • a circular object about 10 cm in diameter – like a side plate or pan lid just to draw round

Ingredients – choux

This choux recipe (best I’ve tried) is taken from ‘Patisserie’ by Murielle Valette, printed by Constable 2013, ISBN 978-1-9089-7413-6

  • Water – 250 ml
  • Unsalted butter, diced – 100 g
  • Caster suger – 12 g
  • Salt – 5 g
  • Strong white bread flour – 125 g
  • Eggs, medium – 4

Method – for the choux

  1. Bring the water, salt, butter and sugar to a boil until all are disolved together
  2. Taking the pan off the heat tip all the flour in quickly and mix until it comes together into a ball
  3. Put the pan back on the heat and stir for a about half a minute to dry the pastry out a bit further
  4. Put the mix into a large bowl and start stirring in the eggs one at a time. It takes a while to mix in the egg fully
  5. Pause at egg number four – as you made not need the whole egg. It’s easier to add a fraction of an egg if you beat it first to mix yolk and white. Add a little of this last egg at a time – you’re looking for a consistency which is heavy and just above dropping – in that the paste should slowly slide down the back of a spatula but not actually get anywhere near dropping off the end
  6. It’s now ready to put in a piping bag and use
  7. Mark out circles on the baking paper with the lid/plate you’re using as a template – how many you get on a baking tray will depend on its size. You need to leave about 5 cm between the circles so you will probably get four on a typical baking tray
  8. Turn over the baking paper so thedrawn circles are underneath and just show through (even with permanent markers the ink may come off – as I can testify to!)
  9. Heat your oven to 190 C fan / 200 C conventional
  10. Pipe the paste in a ring so that the outside of the ring matches the lines of the circle (ie pipe inside). Repeat to use all the mixture up
  11. Wet the back of a teaspoon and smooth the paste where the ends join
  12. Sprinkle the baking paper the choux rings are on with a little water and put the trays in the oven.
  13. Cook them for around 15 mins and then turn down the oven to 155 C fan / 165 conventional for at least another 15 minutes. Don’t open the oven door for at least this half an hour period or the choux will sag (the first 15 mins is enough to cook it and let it rise and the second 15 mins will dry the pastry out further). Unfortuantely, although cooking choux isn’t as hard as some say, judging when it’s done does take a bit of practice. If in doubt, turn the oven off and leave them in there for anouther 15 mins. Choux should be a medium-to-dark brown (a bit darker than most other pastries).
  14. When ready take them out, leave them on the trays and leave to cool

Ingredients – crème diplomate

For the crème patisserie

This will give you more than you need but it will freeze.

  • Full fat milk (the richer the better, for example Channel Islands gold top) – 500 ml
  • Caster sugar – 90 g
  • Egg yolks, large – 4
  • Plain flour  – 20 g
  • Cornflour – 20 g
  • Butter, unsalted and cubed – 40 g
  • Vanilla pod, split – 1 or  vanilla paste – 1 tspn 

For the passionfruit crème diplomate

  • Whipped double cream – 300 ml
  • Passion fruits – 3

Method – to create the crème diplomate

Prepare the crème patisserie


  1. Bring the milk and spilt vanilla pod/vanilla paste to a boil in a small but heavy-bottomed pan
  2. Remove from the heat
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together everything else except the butter
  4. When the milk has cooled a bit, tip a little of the milk into the egg and flour mixture and mix it in (tipping a small amount in first will stop you getting scrambled eggs, which is likely to happen if you lob it all in in one go) 
  5. when this is mix, gently pour in the rest and combine
  6. Tip it all back in the pan and return the pan back to the heat
  7. Bring to just under boiling while stirring constantly
  8. When it’s nice and thick, remove from the heat
  9. Pass it through a sieve into the bowl again
  10. Put the cubes of butter in the bowl and stir until it’s totally incorporated
  11. Set aside to cool and when cooled enough store in the fridge until needed


Prepare the passionfruit cream

  1. Whip the double cream until really thick
  2. Scoop out the flesh of the passion fruits into the cream – you can sieve out the seeds if you don’t like them but personally I think they add a nice texture and the black seeds look good in the cream
  3. Mix the fruit into the double cream
  4. Chill


Combining the two creams into crème diplomate

  1. When you’re ready to combine (ie everything is chilled), just mix the crème patisserie with the double cream and fruit – use a spatula and mix until combined
  2. Chill until ready to use
  3. Freeze any leftover

Ingredients – for the toppings

  • Chocolate (dark or milk – your preference) – 100 g
  • Various toppings – I used pearl sugar, flaked almonds and chopped pink pralines but you could use anything you like/have to hand

Building the Paris-Brest

  1. Using a sharp serrated knife (I used my bread knife after sharpening it) and slice each choux in half
  2. Melt the chocolate – being careful to temper it to a nice shine (see my tempering temperatures blog)
  3. Dip each of the TOP halves of the choux in the chocolate
  4. Leave to start setting – when the chocolate is still just just the melty side of set sprinkle the toppings over
  5. Leave to cool completely until the chocolate is hard
  6. Spoon the crème diplomate into a piping bag and pipe onto the BOTTOM halves of the choux and place the chocolate covered halves on top of the cream