My Thanksgiving menu from two years ago was definitely one of my finest. We started with fizzy Poinsettia and seed crackers with a fruit chutney. This was followed by Salmon and cream cheese-stuffed cucumber soldiers, a pre-brined Turkey (nod to Nigella Christmas), incredibly creamy mash- always use a ricer, some gravy, a stuffing of chorizo and sourdough and dessert.
Now this was our first attempt at a torte i.e. a flourless cake, and it was an Olive recipe, so reliable to a fault. Mum was nervous because the torte sank ever so slightly, but the saving grace of the recipe was that the torte had to be turned upside-down before serving. Dusted with cocoa, then with icing sugar, it makes quite an appearance when you set it down. Theatric, some would say. Thanksgiving wasn’t a tradition up till then, but having all my friends together that year before everyone settled into different jobs and in different countries really brings back memories.
This dessert is rich and boozy. It’s not the kind of thing you can get high on, but we’d like to believe we did that day. It’s served with a mix of brown sugar and creme fraiche, which I’ve swapped in favour of Greek Yoghurt, because when I make it now, that’s what I would do. Steeping the raisins in the rum is essential, and if you’ll be making this for Christmas, I strongly urge you give your average steamed pud a miss (unless it’s a Heston pud with a hidden orange heart, then it can stay). It’ll just be too heavy. Make new traditions instead, and bring the wow factor to your holiday table with this recipe.
Serves 8 (we were too full, so this actually served 12)
Disclaimer: You must start this recipe two days in advance
Dark rum 150ml (I urge you to use a good quality rum instead of Old Monk, but I’m sure you won’t listen and use it anyway)
Raisins 200g (Not all raisins are equal. Taste them before you buy. We buy our raisins from the Organic Farmers’ Market in Mumbai, and they’re phenomenal)
Almonds 175g, ground
Egg whites 6
Demerara Sugar 200g, run in a processor till it is as fine as caster sugar
Cocoa powder to dust
Icing sugar to dust
Greek Yoghurt/ Sour Cream 400g
Fine Palm sugar 3 tbsp
Dark rum 1 tbsp
Cinnamon 1/4 tsp, freshly ground, or 1/2 tsp if it’s been sitting gathering dust for a bit and may have lost its potency
Leave the rum and raisins to soak together in a covered bowl for a whole day.
The next day, which can be the day before you’re serving the torte, heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Butter and line a 22-cm springform tin (the one with a loose bottom) and leave an inch of overhang above the sides.
In a double boiler setting (heating a small dish of water that’s an inch-deep at least till it is barely simmering, then fitting another vessel that fits comfortably on top), heat the chocolate and butter together till it it incorporated. Stir in the ground almonds, the rum and raisin mix, give it a final stir and take it off the heat.
Beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form. Then, add the blitzed demerara sugar to this and beat again till almost-stiff and glossy.
Stir 1/4 of this egg white mixture into the chocolate butter and raisin mix and vigorously mix to loosen the batter. Then, using a metal spoon or a balloon whisk, fold in the rest of the egg whites into the batter. Only a few turns, 3-4 will be enough.
Pour this mixture into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until the sides seem set and the centre still has a slight wobble to it, like a cheesecake. If it seems to be browning too quickly, aluminium foil to the rescue! A sheet of aluminium foil placed on top will remedy this.
Let it cool completely in the tin, then open the springform latch, position a plate over the torte, and turn it upside-down. Refrigerate it in this way, with the paper still on overnight or till you’re ready to serve.
Before serving, beat together all the ingredients for the cream together in a bowl till well incorporated. Taste and adjust for more sugar. To serve the torte, dust on the cocoa powder, then dust on icing sugar keeping a doily over the torte and serve.