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Iris Cake (Iris tårta)
SONATA FOR MIRIAM
I am not much of a cake maker, so it does say something about this recipe that is has been a resounding success each time I have made it.
The old woman who created it, and whose name was Iris, lived on the island where Cecilia in my novel Sonata for Miriam lives. It’s a barren island in the Baltic and in the 60’s when I had the good fortune to first set foot there, only a handful of people still lived there permanently. One of them was Iris. All produce had to be ordered from the mainland – except for fish. So this cake was a true indulgence. Not that Cecilia would have made this. She is a bit like me in that respect.
Sometimes I have made this cake for Easter and added little chocolate Easter eggs for decoration. Much easier than it sounds, and very, very rewarding.
Iris Cake (Iris tårta)
Note: You can double or triple the recipe to serve a larger crowd. Vanilla sugar is a commonly used ingredient in Swedish desserts, and is made by mixing granulated sugar with vanilla beans or vanilla extract. You can find it at specialty food stores.
For the cake:
½ cup (1.7 ounces) finely ground hazelnuts
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (see note)
3 egg whites, at room temperature
For the filling:
7 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk
3 egg yolks
For the topping:
½ cup whipping cream
pinch of granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace two circles on the paper using a 6 to 7-inch plate, or just draw the circles freehand.
- To make the cake: In a large bowl, combine ground hazelnuts, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla sugar. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the dry ingredients.
- Spread the mixture evenly on the parchment paper, forming two equal circles. Bake for 15 minutes. The cakes will not rise much and they may crack a little, but this is as it should be. Let cool.
- To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add sugar. Remove from heat, add milk and then the egg yolks, one at a time, while stirring. Heat again on low until set, but don’t boil. The result should be similar in consistency to custard, and a little translucent. Let cool.
- Move one cake from the baking sheet onto a plate. Spread the filling over it, then place the second cake on top.
- To make the topping: Whip the cream and a pinch of sugar on high speed. Spread the top of the cake with whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder.
Yield: 4-5 servings