Incidentally, I first made this torte for Shauna Ahern's gluten-free Thanksgiving recipe roundup. The best part about this torte is that it can be dressed up or down as the occasion calls. A light cake made with 4 basic ingredients - nuts (walnuts/pecans), eggs, sugar and spices makes for a fantastic snack with a cup of coffee. Topped with spice-roasted apples and pears and a salted pumpkin caramel sauce and barely sweetened whipped cream, it is an elegant end to any dinner party. Any gluten-free friends at the table will not be left out. The components are simple and can be made ahead of time; you can add or leave them out as you like. Assemble the cake when ready to serve, though a couple of hours ahead will not do much harm. —Heena
For walnut-pecan torte:
(100 grams) chopped walnuts
(100 grams) chopped pecans
large eggs, separated
For pumpkin-caramel sauce:
(1/2 stick unsalted butter)
canned pure pumpkin
generous pinch of sea salt
For spice-roasted fruit:
apples (I like using a mix of sweet and tart), peeled and sliced
medium pears (I like using Bosc), peeled and sliced
teaspoon fresh lemon juice
unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
cold whipping cream
In This Recipe
Make the torte: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with waxed or parchment paper.
Grind the chopped nuts and spices in a food processor using on and off turns until finely ground but not pasty. (If you start with whole nuts, you'll need to process for a longer time and will get a pasty mixture.)
Beat egg yolks in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 mins, Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until well blended, another 2-3 mins. Stir the ground nuts into the mixture.
Beat egg whites in another bowl with cleaned beaters until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/2 cup of eggs whites into nut mixture to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a knife/cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 mins. Cool for 5 mins, then run a thin knife around the edges and release the sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature. (The center of the cake will sink.) (The cake can be made a day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)
Make the pumpkin-caramel sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan with high sides over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir constantly until the mixture is a deep amber color (8-10 mins).
Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble and rise. Place the pan on medium-low heat and stir until the mixture is smooth, about 5 mins.
Add the pumpkin and stir until smooth. Add salt to taste. Cool to room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in the fridge and bring back to room temperature when using.)
Make the roasted fruit: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Toss the fruits with the lemon juice, spices and butter. Place in a shallow layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven until the fruit is soft and golden, about 30-35 mins, turning the fruit after 15 mins with a spatula and checking to see it doesn't burn. Cool to room temperature on the sheet.
Assemble: Pour a thin layer of pumpkin-caramel sauce over the cake. Layer the roasted fruit over the caramel. Whip cream in a cold bowl with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread on top of the cake. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and garnish with walnut/pecan halves. (You will have leftover sauce depending on how much you use. Reserve to spoon later over ice cream/crepes/waffles/pudding/pound cake).