My great-aunt, Teta Ole, helped raise my mother, who lost her own mother at an early age. Teta Ole helped move the family from Lithuania at the end of WWII to the displaced persons camps in Germany, then eventually settled in Pittsburg, PA with her 2 brothers and her younger brother's daughter, my mother. She worked for years as a seamstress, in a factory making vestments for priests. I learned many recipes and techniques from her (canning/preserving, saving everything - why buy potato starch when you can collect your own after grating potatoes?, improvising), although I was always hopeless at sewing. One of my favorite of her recipes is this torte, which she used to make when we were coming to visit. It's delicious and surprisingly light - and freezes well so you can be ready for your guests ahead of time. I've translated this recipe from her hand-written recipe card (in Lithuanian), and added some more instructions, since the original was fairly bare-bones.
It's also easily made gluten-free: just substitute an all-purpose gluten free flour 1:1 for the regular flour in the crust - you don't even need a binding agent because it's supposed to be fairly crumbly. I prefer blends without bean flours in them for this purpose.
Finally, if you want a really impressive-looking cake that feeds a crowd, bump up the filling to 1.5x the ingredients, and bake slightly longer - start checking it at 45 min. —Julija
Test Kitchen Notes
I did the dough in a food processor. That was fastest and easiest. It wasn't quite 1/3 of way up the pan. If I tried to get it up more, it was too thin. It was 1/4 of the way up the sides. I left some of the sugar out of the egg yolks and put it in with the whites so it was super foamy and with tiny bubbles (sugar is foaming agent in meringues). Baking time was 50 minutes in my oven. My only beef is that walnuts go rancid so easily, so it's risky to base the whole thing on them. Make sure to taste them before you make it. —Stephanie Bourgeois
For the crust
unsalted butter, cold
all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
kosher salt (although the original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp. - I like the little extra kick of salt)
apricot or plum jam
For the filling
unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups
large eggs, separated
toasted, ground walnuts (make sure you cool them before you grind them in a food processor - they can be a little chunky)
Preheat the oven to 350 F - have a 10-inch springform pan ready (don't need to butter it).
For the crust - mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or 2 knives (or a food processesor) until the mixture is uniformly crumbly. Press the crumbly mixture into the springform pan so that it covers the bottom and 1/3 of the way up the sides of the pan evenly (don't worry if it's not perfect - that's part of the charm). Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes or until the crust is golden - don't let it brown too much! Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.
Take the crust out of the oven, and while it's warm, spread the jam evenly over the bottom on the crust, then set aside while you make the filling.
For the filling - in a standing mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together until they are fluffy. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, and continue beating until the entire mixture is light in color. Turn the mixer down to slow and add the nuts.
In a separate, clean bowl, with a clean whisk beater, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Take 1/3 of the egg whites and using a spatula, mix them into the nut mixture to lighten it up. Then add the remainder of the egg whites and carefully fold them in until the batter is mostly uniform in color - don't overmix!
Pour the filling into the prepared crust over the jam. Bake it at 325 F for about 35-45 minutes (depends on your oven) - or until it's lightly browned and the center is only slightly jiggly. Cool completely on a wire rack before removing the springform pan and serving.