Friday, December 20, 2013

Linzer Cake

One of my favorite cookies is the Linzer.  Packed with nuts and spice and sandwiched with a layer of raspberry or apricot jam, it's among the best of the season.  Linzer Cookies are a permutation of Linzertorte, a tart that dates back to a 17th century recipe from Admont Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Austria.  Linzertorte is made with a spiced nut pastry dough, filled with jam and topped with a criss-cross lattice of pastry.

This is a cake version of the flavors and scents of this delicious traditional tart and cookie.  I've based the recipe on the popular Walnut Jam Cake from Gourmet.  Instead of walnuts, I use a combination of almonds and hazelnuts.  I've added cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and some citrus zest to introduce the Linzer flavors.  The cake is filled with a thin layer of raspberry jam brightened with lemon juice and dusted with a whisper of snowy powdered sugar.

The method for mixing this cake was new to me.  Since I've never mixed cake batter in a food processor, my pastry training kept gnawing at me and I was a bit skeptical about what sort of texture would result.   To my surprise, the crumb is beautifully fine and tender.  A revelation for quick and stress-free mixing.

Wishing you and your family the very best of the holiday season.  May your tables be brimming with delicious treats shared with love and joy.  Cheers!

Bench notes:
- Toast almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Toast hazelnuts for about 10 - 15 minutes.  Cool before using.
- The Walnut Jam Cake call for 1 1/4 cups (4 1/2 oz) walnuts.  I use different volumes to approximate the same weight for almonds and hazelnuts.
- The recipe doesn't instruct on the temperature of the butter.  I let it sit for just about 6 - 8 minutes at room temperature.  Once the nuts and sugar are ground and the butter is added and processed, it begins to look like cookie dough.
- Use just a couple of drops of almond extract to enhance the nut flavors.
- Cake can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for a day or two before slicing.
- Here's some guidance on how to slice a cake into two layers.  I usually don't need to chill the cake before slicing and I use a long serrated knife.  The removable bottom from a tart pan works well to lift the top half and set aside.
- Use your favorite jam and substitute blackberry, apricot or currant, if you please.  Add lemon juice to taste.
- I think a thin layer of chocolate under the jam would be supreme.  Just melt about 4 - 5 oz of semisweet or bittersweet and spread it evenly across either the bottom layer or across the cut side of the top layer before placing it back on top of the jam.

Linzer Cake
based on Walnut Jam Cake from Gourmet
Serves 8

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (3 1/2 oz) toasted almonds
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) toasted hazelnuts
2/3 cup (4 3/4 oz) sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
zest of 1/2 lemon
4 oz (8 tablespoons) butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
1 teaspoon lemon juice, to taste
fresh raspberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease an 8" x 2 1/2" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl and set aside.

Place almonds, hazelnuts, sugar and citrus zest in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are finely chopped.  Add the butter pieces and process until combined.  Add all the eggs, vanilla and almond extract and process until thoroughly mixed.  Add the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly.

Bake the cake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 - 30 minutes.  Place on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge to loosen.  Invert the cake and gently remove the parchment.  Invert again and cool completely.

Place the cake on a serving platter.  Using a serrated knife, slice the cake into two layers.  Gently lift the top layer and set aside.

Whisk the jam with the lemon juice together until smooth.  Spread the jam over the bottom layer of the cake to within 1/4" of the edge.  Place the top layer over the jam and dust the the top with powdered sugar.  Garnish with raspberries, if desired.


Kate said...

Looks very pretty with that sprinkling of snow decorating the cake.... and, are those little santa hats on top? ;)
Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...


My mom always cut the cake with a piece of nylon thread, and that is how I do it as well.. just wrap the thread around the cake and pull it gently using the thread like a saw. I find it easier and cleaner this way, maybe someone wants to give it a go:)

pastry studio said...

And Merry Christmas to you, Kate. I hope you're enjoying all the baking that comes with the season.

Thanks for tip from your mom, Anonymous. I haven't tried that but I think whatever works, give it a go!


Victoria said...

Merry Christmas!

A friend of mine made the Gourmet cake with pecans instead of walnuts for a dinner party; it was divine, so that's the way I've always made it.

I cook Hungarian food often and like to serve Craig Claiborne's Linzertorte often as a dessert, I am going to try this over the holidays. I know I will love it.

A question - I assume you use almonds with the skins on for color; what about the hazelnuts? Skins or no skins.

pastry studio said...

Yes, Victoria, this is the cake you alerted me to a while back. It's so delicious I decided to see if it would work for this idea and I love it. Thanks again for pointing it out to me.

In rustic cakes like this, I don't bother much with trying to remove the skins. I try to get as much of the hazelnut skins off, but don't go beyond a basic rub once they've been toasted. It doesn't matter much in terms of taste and I like to keep things simple for people who are probably doing lots of cooking and baking at this time of the year.

A very, very Merry Christmas to you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with plenty of great food, drink, conversation and laughter! Cheers!

Victoria said...

I'm so thrilled you conjured this up. I know I will add it to my repertoire as it really will go with so many things I make.

In Marcella Hazan's Carrot Cake, she definitely leaves the almond skins on for color.

Merry, merry, happy, happy. xoxo

pastry studio said...

I think in many ways I'm really old school in my methods. I hope you enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

hi! have always loved your blog. would you say this cake has a tart-like texture? as in a cross between a sablé and a cake, somewhat dense and crumbly? The mixing in a mixer method seems like what's used for tarts.

also if i don't have a mixer, do you think cutting in the butter or using a cake mixer would do?


pastry studio said...

Thank you very much. This definitely has a cake texture - a very moist, soft cake crumb. You can make the cake with a mixer. You'll have to find a way to grind the nuts.

Just use the standard cake mixing method:

1) sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and stir in the ground nuts
2) cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light, about 3 - 4 minutes
3) add eggs, one at a time; this will look broken but will be fine once you add the flour.
3) add the citrus zest, vanilla and almond extract and blend
4) add the flour mixture and mix just until there are no flour streaks.

I hope this helps. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Don't know when I'll get round to doing this but will let you know how it works out.