Prinzregententorte, a very exacting Bavarian treat

Heinz Georg Erbhäuser must have adored Prince Regent Luitpold when he invented this cake in the Prince’s honour because this was not a straightforward bake. Now I admit fundamentally there is nothing complicated here – a bit of genoise sponge (well 7 layers of sponge), sandwiched between chocolate butter cream and covered in chocolate is surely not a challenge, but lordy lord did this one take a long time.  And I was most conflicted because it was a sunny day and the garden beckoned.  I genuinely thought having started at 10 am I would be done by about 1 pm  at the latest.  My project management skills are rubbish because I was still fiddling around at 5 pm, with a few tea breaks in between.

I posted the background to this bake a few days ago which you can find here.  Since then I have learned that there is even a British angle to this cake in the form of Prince Regent’s Luitpold’s daughter in law, who was a Jacobite Queen.  The Jacobites are pretenders to the British throne dating back to 1689 when we kicked James II out of the country for all the wrong modern reasons (we didn’t like his religion very much – Catholics still can’t be a British Monarch since then), but also for all the right modern reasons (supremacy of parliament and people over the king – our so called Glorious Revolution which many historians credit as the stimulus that led to the march of the British across the world for the next 250 years.

Enough of my history geekery and back to the cake.  What was so hard?  Frankly just the number of processes and the fiddlineess of the whole thing.  Added to that the cake stands or falls from a looks perspective by the perfection of the chocolate cover – something which is very hard to get perfect as you can see.

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There were a few surprises though.

  • The sponge has been designed to be quite chewy and is quite durable for a genoise.  There is a lot of  handling of the sponge layers which are very thin, so Heinz Georg  was obviously a clever chap.
  • The German butter cream is a revelation.  It tastes more like a chocolate mousse than any other buttercream I have ever tasted.  It is light, fluffy and not at all greasy or cloying. The version here is a chocolate one, but you can do a vanilla one, and more interestingly a fruit version where you replace the milk with the juice of your chosen fruit.  This is a butter cream I intend to use most of the time from now on.
  • The chocolate cover – this proved really really (I will say it again – really)  tricky and I suspect I may be getting a few polystyrene cake shapes to practice that one.
  • My mother’s 1950’s Handmixer – I forgot I had this and it came in most handy

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The result though?  Absolutely delicious  even though the chocolate cover could have looked better, and the layers came out beautifully.  It is very much a cake to have with tea and coffee, and has a very intense chocolate taste without being over powering, and the German buttercream really makes for a different cake experience.

There are a few things I would do differently, mainly concerning the cover, and these are captured in the method down below along with a few tricks. It may also be worth assembling the cake on a thin cake board and then cover in chocolate, making it much easier to handle. You will also notice   I was a little obsessive about getting even portions of batter and buttercream so each layer was even.  However it was all worth it in the end, and all I can really say is:  give this one a go.

The Recipe …all the way from Bayern

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For the Genoise Sponge Layers

  • 8 large eggs
  • 250g Icing Sugar
  • 200g Plain Flour

For the Chocolate German Butter Cream

  • 3 Large Egg Yolks
  • 500ml Whole milk
  • 50g Cornflour
  • 100g Sugar
  • Vanilla Pod
  • 30g Cocoa Powder
  • 150g Dark Chocolate – 70% Cocoa Solids
  • 120g Icing Sugar
  • 300g Unsalted Butter
  • 2tbs Rum

For the Chocolate Cover

  • 225g Dark Chocolate – 70% Cocoa Solids
  • 30g Coconut Oil or Unsalted Butter

Making the Sponge Layers

Prepare the Baking Parchment

Using a 26cm springform tin, mark out a circle on 7 pieces of baking parchment.  Mark out using the outside of the tin – why will become clear later, and use baking parchment not greaseproof paper.

Making the Batter

  • Weigh your mixing bowl !
  • Separate the eggs
  • Add one third of the icing sugar to the egg yolks
  • Whisk until the mixture forms a ribbon that sinks slowly back into the batter
  • Whisk the egg whites
  • Gradually add the sugar
  • Carry on whisking until stiff
  • Fold into egg yolk batter
  • Sift in the flour
  • Fold in the flour until smooth

Making the sponges

  • Heat you oven to 200C/180C fan
  • Weigh the whole mixture in the bowl and work out the weight of batter ended for each of the 7 layers (this is why you needed to weigh your bowl).  It will be about 125g or 3 generous tablespoons per layer.
  • Flip the paper so the circle marking is underneath – you don’t want biro ink with your sponge
  • Spoon batter on to the paper upto the target weight
  • Spread to the just over the edge of the circle – you need to keep to the circle shape  but you don’t have to be super precise.  An inverse spatula is invaluable when doing this!
  • Put on a baking tray and bake for 6 minutes
  • The moment the edge goes light brown it is done
  • Place on a cooling rack and move onto the next
  • TIPS
    • Things go a little quicker if you do 2 at a time
    • the baking parchment can create ridges once the batter has sat on it (the downside of doing 2 at a time) – stretch out the paper to remove the ridges  before putting in the oven

Once finished you need to stack them and weigh them down (to make them even in depth).

  • select your smoothest layer first
  • flip onto a piece of baking parchement
  • carefully peel away the parchment
  • set to one side with a piece of parchment
  • carry on with the rest with a piece of parchment with each. topping off with a pice of parchment
  • and finally weigh down with a few plates

Making the German Butter Cream

German Buttercream involves making a stiff Creme Paitissiere, creaming butter and sugar together (in the traditional UK/US butter cream method), and then whisking the two together.  It is vital the creme pat and butter are the same temperature when you combine them so don’t hurry

  • cut the chocolate into shavings (or grate it) and set aside in a bowl that can be put over a pan for melting
  • combine the egg yolks, cornflour, sugar, and a dash of milk and whisk until smooth and the mixture goes paler – by hand is fine
  • split the vanilla pod down its length
  • put the milk into a pan, with the cocoa and vanilla pod
  • bring to the boil, stirring to stop it burning on the bottom of the pan and making sure the cocoa is dissolved
  • set aside for 5 minutes
  • meanwhile ……melt the chocolate in a bowl placed  over a bain marie  (a pan of boiling water – it is important that the water doesn’t touch the bowl)
  • Now …remove the vanilla pod from the chocolate milk
  • pour a small amount of milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk smooth
  • add a small amount more until the mixture is quite liquid
  • pour the egg and chocolate mix back into the main pan and bring to the boil whisking continuously until thick and gloopy
  • pour in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth
  • press through a sieve to take out any remaining lumps
  • cover with cling film, with the the cling film touching the surface to prevent a skin developing and allow to cool to room temperature – this takes at least an hour

Once the creme pat is at room temperature you can move on to the next stage  (trim the sponges and do a bit of clearing up while you are waiting for this to happen)

  • cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
  • add the creme pat, and rum and beat into the butter

Assembling the cake

First trim your sponges to the same size and then build the cake with the butter cream.  The sponge layers need to be handled carefully but are more resilient than I expected.

  • set aside the  3  spoonfuls of the buttercream for piping later
  • take the bottom of your 26cm spring from tin, place over the sponge layer and trim using a serated knife
    • the reason for marking the paper at stage one on the outside of the tin, and spreading the mixture slightly over the edge, means you have excess on every circle to trim off so they are all the same size
    • use a serated knife as this cuts more cleanly than a sharp knife (someone will tell me why one day)
  • place a layer on a flat rimless plate
  • cover with chocolate butter cream
    • each layer is about 150g
    • work out the weight of the mixture, divide by 8
    • weigh the whole bowl and  then take out the desired weight (by checking the weight on the scales going down)
  • Carefully position the next layer on top and continue
  • Finish with a a layer of butter cream on the top and round the sides (which is why you need 8 portions)
  • Smooth and flatten as much as possible
  • Chill for 3 hours  – don’t be tempted to short cut this.

For the chocolate cover

The key here is trying to get as smooth a cover as possible. here are a few things I think I would do differently

  • the base of butter cream needs to be smooth which why chilling it hard as possible in the fridge helps as you can smooth it off a bit more rigorously
  • try to pour and tilt to cover the cake and avoid using a spatula on the top as much as possible
  • I would pour while the cake is  on the plate so you can lift any excess chocolate back up onto the sides  – as you see I used a cooling rack and i needed the chocolate that dripped though which involved some manic scraping of the paper underneath to get it back on the cake
  • once the cake is covered, lift it onto your cake plate straight away before the chocolate dries to stop the cover cracking.

Here is what to do

  • melt the chocolate and coconut oil/butter over a bain marie
  • pour over the centre of the cake and tilt until the top and sides of the cake are covered, using a spatula on the sides only
  • lift on to a plate and allow to harden
  • once hard mark out the slices on the top using a hot knife – I have a nifty cake divider which proved a little troublesome because I couldn’t heat it
  • pipe rosettes of butter cream on the end of each slice  – as you see I didn’t do this!
  • if you want to get really fancy, buy some little fancy chocolates and put  on the top of the rosette

And finally

Leave it for a day.  This torte improves with being set aside for a while.

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