Chocolate Pecan Torte – Favorite Cake for Three Generations


You have to pity my mother for the day she first served me a slice of her favorite Chocolate Pecan Torte. I was 7 or 8 at the time, and after one bite I declared that this was the cake I wanted for my birthday, always. But her glorious cake isn’t made from a box mix or even a basic from-scratch recipe. No, the famous cake batter is made from ground pecans instead of flour, and preparing the recipe is guaranteed to trash your kitchen and get a minimum of seven bowls, saucepans and baking dishes dirty.

Alas, generations are destined to repeat the mistakes of their elders. And so it was that as soon as my baby daughter had graduated from pablum I fed her a bite of my birthday cake and she declared that this was the cake she wanted for her birthday, too, from that year forward always and forever.

 The cake itself is tender and amazing; the ground pecans are held together with the tiniest bit of flour and the batter is flavored with fresh orange juice and lightened with whipped egg whites. Between the layers is a soft whipped cream flavored with grated orange peel. The topping is a dark chocolate ganache. The sum of the parts is just off-the-scale good.

Here’s the recipe, handed down by the best birthday cake baker and sweetest mom on the whole planet, Betty Crosslen.


For the cake:

4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon orange juice (Note:  I just buy one orange and grate the rind for the filling below and squeeze the juice for the cake)
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups finely ground pecans

For the filling:

1 teaspoon grated orange rind
½ cup whipping cream, whipped

For the frosting:

1 cup top-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon salt

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees Celsius). In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar and the orange juice. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Beat in the remaining ½ cup of sugar gradually. Use a spatula to fold this mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Then, fold the ground pecans in gradually. Spoon this mixture into two greased 8 x 8 pans (you can also use round cake pans) and bake for about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, then gently loosen the cake from the pans onto plates lined with foil or plastic wrap.

To make the filling, combine the whipped cream with the grated orange rind. This filling gets spread on top of one of the two cooled cake layers. Use the plastic wrap or foil to remove the other cake from the plate and gently place it on top of the first cake layer.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate chips and stir in the sour cream and salt. Spread the frosting on top of the cake. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for an hour and serve. (I garnished the cake in the photo above with semisweet chocolate curls, but that really is guilding the lily and not necessary.) Store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

My daughter’s 21st birthday celebration

Like childbirth, the labor of creating this cake fades away as soon as it’s served. A special dessert marks an important occasion, continuing a beloved tradition that could very well last for generations to come… and with it, many sweet memories.

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you so much for posting this recipe – it looks PHENOMENAL! I can’t wait to try it! As someone who should avoid wheat as much as possible, but cheats sometimes on sweets this is perfect. I know I’m going to love it!

  2. This look just challenging enough to warrant flour on the counter and forhead. Going to give this a try.


  3. Great birthday party picture. And the cake, of course, looks delicious, too.

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