Passover Schmoo Cake (Torte)

There is much debate about the origins of the Schmoo Cake. Some say it was invented in Winnipeg by a mother for her sons bar-mitzvah and others say that it might have come for the Mennonite community. Either way, the Schmoo is hugely popular in Winnipeg and I think we baked them for at least 75% of the pastry tables we did in our 40 years of catering (Winnipeg pastry tables are famous!).

And the beautiful thing about the Schmoo is that it easily converts into a Passover recipe. Instead of flour, we use potato starch for this, which also makes it gluten-free. The base is a sponge cake, speckled with chopped pecans and layered with whipped cream and a simple caramel sauce. You only use about one-third of the sauce when you assemble the cake, always spooning extra sauce onto each slice of cake as you serve it.

You can bake the cake ahead and freeze it, then thaw and decorate it when you’re ready for it. You can also freeze it fully assembled, then wrap it carefully in plastic once frozen. Or you can assemble it and keep it in the refrigerator to serve the same day.

Cake Ingredients

  • 10 large eggs, seperated
  • 340 grams / 12 oz granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups), divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 140 grams / 5 oz potato starch (3/4 cup)
  • 100 grams / 3 1/2 oz finely chopped pecans (1 cup)

Caramel Sauce Ingredients

  • 340 grams / 12 oz brown sugar (dark or light) (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Whipped Cream

  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • 28 grams / 1 oz icing sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • lightly toasted pecans for decorating

Preheat the over to 350°F / 175°C.

For the cake: In a mixing bowl, mix the egg yolks well with 170 grams/6 oz (3/4 cup) of the sugar. Add the vanilla and mix in, then the baking powder. Sift the potato starch into the bowl and mix well, making sure that all of the potato starch is incorporated. Add the chopped pecans and mix through.

Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand-mixer and use the whisk to start whipping the whites on high (or use a hand mixer with a whisk attachment). When the eggs are frothy, start to slowly add the remaining 170 grams/6 oz (3/4 cup) of sugar, with the machine running. Continue whipping the eggs until stiff peaks form.

Add approximately 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the yolk mixture and fold it together. Then add the next 1/3 and gently fold together, and then fold the remaining 1/3 in. You should mix this together gently, so that you don’t deflate the egg whites, but also trying to eliminate any clumps of whites.

Pour the batter into a tube pan with a removable bottom and spread it out evenly. I like to gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any potential air pockets.

Bake for half an hour, turn the pan, then bake another 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. It is important that the cake is fully baked before the next step; when you remove the cake immediately turn the cake pan upside down and let it cool completely. If it’s under-baked, the cake will fall out of the pan.

While the cake bakes, make the sauce. Combine the brown sugar and whipping cream in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring as it heats. As soon as it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate.

Once the cake has cooled and the sauce is chilled, you can assemble the cake.

Combine the 4 cups of whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer with the whisk attachment). Whip the cream on medium, until stiff peaks form, being carful not to over-whip it (if you go beyond stiff peaks it will separate and turn into butter).

Using a serrated knife, carefully sliced the cake into 3 layers — it’s a very delicate cake, so take your time. If you have an electric knife, you can use that. Place the largest (bottom) layer on a cake plate (cut-side up) and use a spatula to spread an even layer of whipped cream over the cake layer. Use a spoon to drizzle some sauce over the whipped cream — not too much (see picture above — middle picture on the bottom row).

Place the next layer of cake on top, then another layer of whipped cream and more sauce. Place the top layer of cake on top, then carefully cover the cake in whipped cream. You can decorate this any way you like. I make sure the entire cake has a good layer of whipped cream, then pipe rosettes on the top of the cake, making two circles and forming a channel to fill with the caramel sauce. Then decorate with lightly toasted pecans.

Serve the cake with more sauce to spoon over each slice. This will serve 10-12.

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