Saturday, February 4, 2012

78/99: Hungarian Jancsi Torta: A slice and a scandal

Belgians, Royalty, Gypsies, Hungarians, Scandal, Chocolate, Walnuts:  the words that come to mind when describing this cake. I love that the cake comes with a story... and I also love that the two are equally as good.

I ran into this great story on a blog called Night Train to Detroit. Check it out:

Clara Ward, born in 1873, was the youngest child of Eber Brock Ward, multi-millionaire captain of pretty much every pre-automotive industry in Detroit and the midwest, and an actual captain, too. He died when Clara was two years old, leaving her all of his lumber fortune. (He also left behind: steel fortune, railroad fortune, silver and salt mine fortune, shipping fortune, real estate fortune, fortune — misc.)

When she was 17 years old, Clara married the Belgian Prince de Caraman-Chimay and became one of Detroit’s elite contingent of gilded age celebrity princesses. It was the ultimate status move for wealthy industrialists: marry your pretty young daughter off to a minor European monarch, who was probably broke and needed some cash for repairs on the moldy old chateau. Bam! You were royalty.
Detroit had finally come of age.

Courtly types weren’t too fond of Clara — because, rumor had it, King Leopold was a little too fond of her. Clara and the Prince left for Paris in 1894 when they got tired of dealing with the scandalous royal gossip.

Paris in 1894! Music! Bohemians! The Moulin Rouge! Absinthe! Cafés! I bet it was fun. Somewhere in partyland, Clara met a Hungarian violinist named Rigó Jancsi and, to the bafflement of the general public and the panting delight of tabloid reporters, fell in love and ran away with him.

The Prince de Caraman-Chimay sought a divorce. Meanwhile, gossip rags followed Clara and Rigo all over Europe. Toulouse-Lautrec painted them. Clara, inspired by Rigó’s artsy free-wheeling ways, performed at cabarets and salons an art she called poses plastique (basically: wearing something titillating and standing still, in a pose, for a long time).

For a few years they were the toast of the continent. And Hungarians, proud of their hometown boy made good, invented a cake to celebrate.

See? Isn't that juicy?

So here's the process of the cake. It was pretty easy but it took awhile to complete because I had the NCIS marathon playing in the background. But here goes:

1. Toast the walnuts and then remove the skins by rubbing them in a kitchen towel:

2. Combine the egg yolks with sugar and whip on high speed for 5 minutes:

3. Combine the grated chocolate and walnuts with the yolk mixture:

4. Fold in meringue:

5. Bake for about 40 minutes then let cool in the pan:

 6. Remove from the pan and serve hot or cold:

The torta is actually one of the best cakes in the book. Here's what my friends had to say about it:

Elizabeth tried it and said three times that it was seriously her favorite.

Katy: "It really is my favorite. I love how moist it is and I love how every bite is really chocolatly."

Anna: "It has a really great texture."

Betsy: "The story behind it is almost as good as the way that it awakens my senses." (we laughed at her)

Rose's Heavenly Cakes- page 279

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