Cakes · European (Western and Eastern) Cuisine

Torta Diplomatica

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Because sometimes you just get tired of making profiteroles.

At one point, I had over 100 petite pâte à choux mounds frozen in my freezer. All I had to do was pop them in the oven for 22 minutes and half of the work was done. My fridge was consistently stocked with 16 sticks of butter and 1 gallon of full-fat milk (thank you, Costco) for the pastry cream. It’s not because I was selling them or making them for a huge party, I just had to be prepared. Prepared for what, you may ask?

“So Tiffanie…I really love profiteroles but I buy them from Trader Joes or Costco frozen. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had a fresh one (I’ve never had a fresh one before). They are so good dipped in dark chocolate…”

In kicks my desire to feed people and I’ll go MIA for 2 days until profiteroles magically appear.  But I’ve got an announcement to make: I’m taking a sabbatical from making profiteroles.  Please request another dessert.

The 6 cups of pastry cream left in my fridge started looking dejected so it was time to make another dessert. A new one. One that I’ve never made before. One that I’ve never heard of. It just can’t rhyme with profiterole or cream puff.

In steps in Torta Diplomatica. This dessert is similar to Napolean but not as well known (at least in the US). Did I mention it has a layer of rum soaked sponge cake?

Timing and preparation: The assembled cake should sit in the fridge over night. The cake layer can be made the day-ahead or frozen for up to 2 weeks in advance. The pastry cream should be made 1-2 days ahead. The phyllo dough can either be made a day ahead or the day-of. If making the day-of, ensure that the phyllo has cooled to room temperature. The goal is to merely assemble the cake the day prior. You’ll likely have leftover pastry cream (and maybe cake) so enjoy the leftovers!

Update from June 2013 archives: This is a recipe update as I found a spectacular sponge cake recipe.

Ingredients

SPONGE CAKE

EGG YOLK MIXTURE:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c milk – luke warm milk (microwave for 15-20 seconds)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 7 egg yolks – room temperature
  • 1 cup cake flour

EGG WHITE MIXTURE:

  • 7 egg whites – room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • Grand Marnier, rum, or ameretto liquer

PASTRY CREAM

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
PUFF PASTRY & GARNISH
  • Store bought puff pastry or your own homemade puff pastry. Thaw overnight in fridge prior to use.
  • Amoretti cookies, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and sliced almonds

DIRECTIONS

For the cake: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line bottom and sides of one 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the pan.

In a large mixing bowl all ingredients in the egg yolk mixture except the cake flour. Beat for at least 12 minutes at fastest speed of the mixer. Add 1 cup cake flour to the above mixture and beat well – set it aside.

In a separate bowl, add all ingredients in the egg white mixture and beat until stiff. Fold egg yolk mixture carefully into the beaten eggs whites. Pour into ungreased  pan. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until done.

Cool completely on racks. Run a thin knife around the inside of the cake pan and then invert onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper. As the cake is cooling, brush the tops and sides with the liquer of your choice (repeat as desired depending on how much you like your alcohol. Let the cake cool completely.

For the pastry cream: Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat.

Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add in the flour and the salt, mix to combine.

When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Very slowly dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring all the time. When about half of the milk has been added, place all of the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan when you stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.

Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days.

For the puff pastry:  Follow thawing instructions on packet (typically this is to let it thaw in the fridge over night).  Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out the dough roughly to the size of your sheet pan or cookie sheet, lay a piece of parchment over it and trim the edges. Transfer the dough to your parchment-lined sheet pan and prick it all over with a fork. Place another sheet pan directly on top of the pastry sheet and insert the stacked pans into the oven on an upper rack. Bake the dough about 20 minutes. The dough will have shrunk (do not worry about this). Now bake it another 20 minutes or so without the top sheet. Make sure you give the dough a nice, dark toasting. If it puffs up on one side, or rises to a height of more than about 3/4 inch, apply the top pan again and press down firmly to deflate it some. You want to do this while the pastry is still warm, before it gets brittle. Once the puff pastry has cooled, trim the edges.

Cake assembly: Now for the easy part. Depending on big or small you want your cake to be, cut the puff pastry and cake to your liking. I typically make  a 4.5 x 6.5 cake by just cutting the puff pastry and cake in half and stacking them on top of each other. On a cake board or cake stand, place one layer of puff pastry. Layer with half an inch of pastry cream. Place the cake layer on top (brush with more alcohol if desired). Layer with another half an inch of pastry cream. Cover with the last piece of puff pastry. Press gently down on the cake and scrape away any crumbs/pastry cream that may creep out the edges. Smooth the sides of the cake. Place the cake, covered, in the fridge over night.

When ready to serve, take the cake out for 20 minutes and garnish with powdered sugar, whipped cream, sliced almonds, and amoretti cookies.

Now what to do with the leftover pastry cream? Make profiteroles!

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