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Traditional Serbian cake called Vaso's Cake. Made with dark chocolate, oranges, walnuts and meringue.

Chocolate Orange Cake (Vasina Torta)

  • Author: Balkan Lunch Box
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 8-12 1x

Description

Dark chocolate orange cake with meringue, also known as Vaso’s cake or Vaso’s torte (Vasina torta) is the best Serbian traditional cake, beloved in the Balkans. The cake boasts three layers (a nut based crust, a chocolate and orange topping, and a topping made entirely out of meringue) of perfectly combined citrus and chocolate flavors and an (optional) chocolate glaze.


Scale

Ingredients

Layer 1 (Cake) Crust Batter

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons regular sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white flour
  • 1.52 ounces ground walnuts
  • 1.5 ounces grated baking (or dark) chocolate
  • 5 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12 tablespoons melted butter

Layer 2 Orange Infused Topping

  • 44.5 ounces milk
  • 44.5 ounces regular sugar
  • 7 ounces ground walnuts
  • 2 ounces grated baking (or dark) chocolate
  • 23 tablespoons milk
  • 710 tablespoons juice from one fresh orange
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • (Optional) 1-2 tablespoons rum or Grand marnier
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons regular sugar
  • 5.5 ounces butter (room temperature)

Layer 3 Italian Meringue

  • 5 ounces water
  • 8.5 ounces sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt

(Optional & Highly Recommended) Layer 4 Chocolate Glaze (Ganache)

  • 5.5 ounces baking (or dark) chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 34 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Instructions

Layer 1 (Cake) Crust Batter

  1. Heat oven to 395°F (200°C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl start mixing yolks with a hand mixer while adding the sugar to the bowl one tablespoon at a time. Mix 5-6 minutes on high, or until yolks turn light yellow and easily separate from bowl walls.
  3. With a wooden spatula add flour, walnuts and chocolate to egg yolks. Stir everything until well integrated.
  4. In a separate large mixing bowl beat egg whites and a pinch of salt with a hand mixer. Start by mixing on low for one minute, then finish off with 2-3 minutes on high or until firm peaks form.
  5. With a wooden spatula add egg yolk mixture to egg whites. Mix in slowly but thoroughly so that at the end the batter feels light and airy.
  6. Take a 9-10 inch (24cm) adjustable cake ring (pan) and line the bottom with parchment paper. Using a baking brush paint the ring walls and bottom generously with butter.
  7. Pour batter into cake ring and shake lightly until batter is evenly distributed. Lower temperature to 355°F (180°C) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.
  8. Cool the cake off completely. Using a knife gently separate cake from ring walls. Open the ring and transfer the cake (crust face down) onto plate you’ll be serving it on. Carefully remove parchment paper from the cake.

Layer 2 Orange Infused Topping

  1. In a small pot combine milk and sugar and bring to a boil on high. Lower the temperature and stir frequently until sugar dissolves in milk.
  2. Melt chocolate with 2-3 tablespoons of milk on low at the same time.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.
  3. In a large mixing bowl cover walnuts evenly with sugar and milk. After walnuts absorb the liquid completely add melted chocolate, orange juice and zest. (If using, add rum or Grand marnier now also.) Mix well until integrated. Let cool.
  4. Meanwhile make a bain marie (heated bath) by placing a pot filled with water one third of the way on the stove. Bring water to a boil, then lower temperature just enough to keep it at a slow boil.
  5. (Parallel to water warming up) In a large metal mixing bowl (that can partially fit into the pot from the step above) start mixing yolks with a hand mixer while adding the sugar to the bowl one tablespoon at a time. Mix 3-4 minutes on high, then transfer the bowl into the pot. (There should be a little bit of space between the water and the bottom of the bowl, but the bowl should prohibit the steam from leaving the pot.) Keep stirring egg yolks quickly and continuously with a plastic spatula around 5 minutes. Remove egg yolks from steam heat and let cool.
  6. In a large mixing bowl mix butter until soft with a hand mixer. Add egg yolks and continue mixing. Finally add the remaining mixture (walnuts, etc.) and mix a few more minutes until the layer is well integrated and airy (light) at the same time. Transfer to fridge for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Combining layers 1 and 2: Place a (clean) cake ring (just the side portion) about half way up the cake crust and close it. Evenly distribute layer 2 on top of the cake crust. Use a knife if necessary. Transfer back to fridge leaving the cake ring on.

Layer 3 Italian Meringue

  1. In a small pot bring water and sugar to a boil. Bring temperature to low and stir occasionally. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the syrup is of a consistency of thin honey.
  2. About 5 minutes before syrup is finished in a large mixing bowl beat egg whites and a pinch of salt with a hand mixer. Start by mixing on low for one minute, then finish off with 2-3 minutes on high or until firm peaks form.
  3. (Please note if you are wary of bacteria (salmonella) you can do this step using a bain marie like you did for layer 2 egg yolks. Fill a pot one third with water and bring to a boil on high. Water should be boiling by the time you’re ready to beat egg whites, or about 5 minutes before the syrup is done. The rest is the same by adding the syrup in while mixing on steam.)
  4. Continue beating egg whites while lightly pouring the syrup into the bowl. You are now mixing until stiff peaks form. Syrup should be trickling in for about 5 minutes to give you enough time to mix it in. After you’ve mixed all the syrup turn the mixer off, and flip the bowl around. If the meringue stays in the bowl you’re finished. If it moves mix a little longer.
  5. Combining layers 1 and 2 with layer 3. Take the cake out of the fridge and remove the cake ring. Wash and dry it, then place back on the cake (about half-way up) and close again. Pour meringue on top and evenly distribute as the third layer. As you’re distributing push lightly to avoid air being trapped inside. Return back to the fridge.

(Optional & Highly Recommended) Layer 4 Chocolate Glaze (Ganache)

  1. After the meringue layer has completely cooled down, melt all glaze ingredients on low. Stir frequently to avoid burning. If it looks too thick, add a little more milk. (Meringue has to be completely, 100% cool.)
  2. Transfer to a strong plastic bag, cutting off a very small tip on one end. Pour chocolate first on meringue edges so that chocolate drips down the sides of all of the cake’s layers for a beautiful visual effect. Pour remaining chocolate on top and use a dull edge of a long knife to even it out.
  3. Return to the fridge. Leave overnight at the very least. (Best if you can wait an entire day before you eat it.)
  4. The cake lasts up to 7 days in the fridge.

Notes

This recipe heavily relied on Vaso’s cake recipes by Jelena from food for thought food blog as well as The Big National Cookbook (a classic Yugoslavian cookbook). My gratitude goes out to both!

Layer 1
Take eggs out of the fridge 1-2 hours ahead so they’re at room temperature once you start baking. It’s good to have more eggs on hand than you expect you’ll need, accidents happen.

Separate egg yolks from egg whites as precisely as you can. If some egg white ends up in egg yolk section it’s no big deal, however if you get any yolks in egg whites remove them as much as possible. Otherwise  you’re better off using new egg whites.

Wash your mixer rotating parts and cake ring (pan) after each use as you’ll use them for several steps and they need to be completely clean for each.

Toothipick test: stab the cake several times in different places with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Otherwise, if the toothpick has crumbs on it, bake a few minutes longer then repeat the test. To prevent burning, place parchment paper on top of the cake.

Layer 2

The volume of fresh orange juice will depends on how much you like orange and dark chocolate flavor combo.

Bain marie is a method by which you’re cooking ingredients on steam heat. This method is excellent for killing bacteria while still allowing ingredients to keep a smooth consistency. Keep stirring egg yolks quickly and swiftly otherwise they have a potential to overcook and become an omelette. All the “fancy” equipment you’ll need for a water bath are a pot for boiling the water and a mixing bowl (preferably a metal one) whose bottom partially fits into the pot. Fill the pot one third of the way with water and bring to a boil. Place the mixing bowl inside so the least amount of steam escapes. Some people allow the bottom of the mixing bowl to hit the water, while others don’t. I’ve tried both ways and prefer the method where there is a little bit of a distance.

Layer 3

Please note I don’t use bain marie for egg whites, but this is my choice. Egg whites are generally not a good growing ground for salmonella, plus I’ve never had a problem with it before. However, I understand you may want to protect yourself in the slightest possibility of contamination. I get you. In this case, create a bain marie the same way as you did for layer 2 egg whites. Be careful and steady the bowl in the pot (wear a mitten or use a kitchen towel to protect your fingers) while beating egg whites. When you start adding in sugar syrup you’ll have to either turn off mixer several times while you add it in, or use the hand that was steadying the pan and bowl to add the syrup in. Do it slowly and you’ll be ok.

Layer 4

In absence of a strong plastic bag (it has to be strong, lest it falls apart), use a small dish with a pour spout for pouring chocolate. By the way anything will work, from džezva (Balkan coffee dish) to a sauce bowl.

Some only use baking chocolate and heavy cream (50-50) to make the glaze. Whatever you decide, test it ahead for consistency.

Cake

For best taste leave the cake in the fridge overnight. It’s even better if you can hold off 24 hours before eating it. The cake lasts up to 7 days in the fridge. As per Jelena, when cutting it run your knife under hot water first.

Keywords: chocolate orange cake, dark chocolate meringue cake, vasina torta, vaso's torte

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