Esterhazy Torte or Hazelnut Dacquoise Layer Cake

Yet again, a “rustic” cake from the wedding cake designer only Quasimodo would hire. Sorry folks. Another good schadenfreude moment for my haters. What is my handicap with fancy cakes? I need to take a class or something! You know, I think it’s the end game for me—I’m solid through the baking, the layering, and then when it comes to frosting—to decoration—I choke and wildly surrender in ugly haste. I brought this cake to a very forgiving Super Bowl party tonight, but it was, terribly, a foreshadowing of another wild surrender as the Seahawks choked at the finish line. My frosting here is surely cake-equivalent to throwing an interception at the one yard line with 40 seconds to go. Lessons learned, lessons learned.

 hazelnut cake slice hazelnut cake done

Esterhazy Torte or

Hazelnut Dacquoise Layer Cake

Adapted from Jelena at Kingdom for a Cake, for Daring Bakers Forum


12 large egg whites

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon caster superfine sugar – (I made this by taking regular granulated sugar and pulsing it several times in a food processor.)

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

2½ cups ground hazelnuts

2/3 cup plain flour


12 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

1 -1/3 cups butter at room temperature

1½ cups toasted ground hazelnuts

2½ to 3¼ cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons sunflower oil
3-4 teaspoons lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons hot water

¼ cup (1¾ oz) dark chocolate
1 teaspoon  oil
¾ cup roughly chopped hazelnuts



 Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray in a cold oven, increase the temperature to moderate 350°Fand bake until a nice aroma starts to come out of the oven and the nuts have become darker.

Continue until their skins almost turn black or dark brown and the hazelnut ‘meat’ becomes a caramel colour. You will need to watch the oven carefully since the nuts can easily burn. From time to time, just open the oven and carefully try one to see if the centre is nice and crispy, but be careful not to burn yourself. It should take about 15-25 minutes.

This baking process brings out the aroma of the hazelnuts needed for the cake. (If you are using almonds instead of hazelnuts, they need to stay white. Hazelnuts are not good in this cake if their aroma is not present.)

Let them cool.


Set aside ¾ cup toasted nuts and roughly chop them. These will go around the cake at the end.

The rest need to be ground. A grinding machine is best since a food processor might turn the hazelnuts into a creamy mush. If you are using a processor do it in short pulses so they do not have the consistency of peanut butter but of fine powder.

hazelnuts ground

Divide the ground hazelnuts into 2 batches of 2½ cups and 1½ cups for the sponge layers and the filling respectively.

HAZELNUT LAYERS (Dacquoise layers)

This part is brought to you by: Chickens on Ice! 12 eggs is no small feat, but add that to the current strife surrounding my chickens’ living conditions after the last heavy snow this weekend and the production is all the more to be lauded. Bravo, ladies. Bravo.

chickens after snow Chickens ice skating

hazelnut cake eggs

With an electric mixer beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar and vanilla sugar for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add in the hazelnuts mixed with the flour and beat until just combined.

Cut baking paper into five squares large enough to draw a circle of 10 inch (25cm) in diameter on the squares.

Turn the paper over and place one piece onto an up-side down oven tray and delicately spoon inside the circle one-fifth of the beaten egg white mixture.

hazelnut dough layers

Place the tray into an preheated moderate 325°F oven and bake for 14 minutes. It will look soft but that is how we want them. Your finger should not stick to the layer when you touch it.

Take the layer out together with the paper and place on an even surface

Cool the oven tray and repeat with the next 4 layers. It is important that the up-side down oven tray is cool when you start to bake the layers.

If you have a 10 inch (25cm) diameter spring form pan with a removable bottom just cut out five pieces of baking paper to fit the bottom and spoon the mixture in the pan.

Make sure to cool the bottom of the pan after removing each layer and before placing the egg white mixture for the next layer into it.

Place all the layers next to each other.

The filling is cooked in a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler just take two pots so that the smaller one fits perfectly in the larger one and there is no gap between them.

Fill the larger pot with about 1-inch (2 cm) water place on the stove and bring the water to a slow boil, the water should not touch the smaller pot bottom.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer in the smaller pot for 30 seconds. Place the smaller pot into the larger one and cook for 14-15 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes for a short while with a wooden spoon always scraping the sides and the bottom. Stir constantly, near the end.

hazelnut cream double boiler

Let the filling cool.

Beat the cooked yolks for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.

Beat the room temperature butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy then beat into the cooked yolks.

Add in the ground hazelnuts and beat again until combined.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the filling to spread around the torte at the end.

Divide the rest of the filling into 4 cups.

Line a large tray with some baking paper.

Remove the baking paper from one of the dacquoise and place it onto the tray, spread one quantity of filing evenly over the dacquoise, then place another layer on the top.

hazelnut layer cake

Repeat, making sure that the last layer is placed bottom-side-up (do not place filling on this surface) which will make it easier to obtain a smooth looking finish.

hazelnut bigmac

Place some baking paper over the torte. Press a bit with your hands to even it out, put another tray over the torte and now place something heavy on the top to allow the torte to level up. A pan half-filled with water will be fine.

hazelnut cake leveling

Place the whole torte with the pot in the fridge for one hour.


By hand mix the powdered sugar, oil, lemon juice while adding teaspoon by teaspoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy, but not runny. Mix vigorously for a couple of minutes. The sugar should be lemony.

With a hot wet large knife quickly spread the icing over the cake. Here– again– I need someone to tell me where I went wrong. Apparently this is much harder than this simple instruction implies, but I have no good tips for success, obviously, since mine looks like it was done by Jackson Pollack.

hazelnut cake frosting hazelnut cake frosted

You will need around 2½ to 3¼ cups of powdered sugar but it is better to have more than less, since when you start spreading you cannot go back. You will have some left over icing. If it is a bit uneven just turn on the hair dryer and heat the icing so it will smooth out a bit.

Before starting with the icing have the chocolate ready since it needs to go onto the soft icing in order to get the web. Here again, I think I waited too long, and the icing had already dried before I got the chocolate on there. I also had nothing to “pipe” with– so this was all done with a fork. And it shows.

Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of oil, place in a pipping bag, or a  plastic bag with a cut in the corner that will act as the tip.

Draw four (4) concentric circles onto the cake, then with a knife (not the sharp side) or a wooden skewer run six (6) lines at 30 degree angle to the cake to get the decoration (see pictures for more details). Each line should be in a different direction. One running away from you and the next one running to you.

hazelnut cake done

Press the remaining crushed hazelnuts around the cake to complete the decoration (I had run out of hazelnuts at this point– and they are $18 a pound right now, so that’s that.

Let rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours before tasting. This cake that gets better as times goes by. We usually enjoy ours for 7 days.

hazelnut cake hemisection

This cake tasted WONDERFUL, in spite of its its lamentable appearance. Equally tasty, yet far more aesthetically pleasing were the Seahawks football cupcakes made by our host Kim.

seahawks football cupcakes chickens on ice

Haiku #30

The symphony at

Yellowstone Park, no, sorry–

just my bulldog’s gas.

Haiku #31

The prisoners are

learning to tend the gardens

within–water soul.

Haiku #32

Raynaud’s of the brain:

Fragile neuron endings like

Blueing fingertips.

5 thoughts on “Esterhazy Torte or Hazelnut Dacquoise Layer Cake

  1. Beautiful, Rachel! So-called “perfect” is boring 🙂 It sounds delectable. Also, go, chickens, go! They are amazing! 🙂

    1. Betty just started laying again today!! After four months “rest” the green eggs are back! Spring must be on its way– I’d say green eggs are more reliable a predictor than Punxatawney Phil

      1. She must’ve sensed that you’d been singing your chickens’ praises for their egg-laying (or perhaps reads your blog on your computer while you sleep every night?! 😉 ) and decided she’d better get to work! Hooray for green eggs, surely a sign of spring indeed. Who needs a groundhog anyways? 🙂

  2. Rachel, I love your Seahawks cupcakes. Sorry about the loss! And I had a similar experience with the Esterhazy. Didn’t put the apricot glaze – I think that may have helped, but my edges were uneven and I had to throw the nuts around the side, making for a messy avalanche of cake. I mooshed it all back together and made it kind of acceptable for photos 🙂 It was definitely challenging!

    1. Haha, too bad for the Seahawks– there were also green and blue Jelly beans in a bowl next to the cupcake tower. I thought all of that would be good juju enough to tip the scales in their favor. One yard shy, I’m afraid. Glad to know I’m not alone with the cake wreck.

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