Shmoo Torte

Autumn 2017
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food and drink

BY: Elizabeth Baird

The shmoo torte comes from Winnipeg, as the story goes, created by a proud mother for her son’s Bar Mitzvah. And while it remains a regular at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs—and, to be sure, at wedding sweet tables—you can order a slice of shmoo at local restaurants and a whole shmoo at bakeries. It is rich, rich, rich. It starts with a toasted pecan sponge cake (some prefer angel food), sliced horizontally in thirds, layered and frosted with whipped cream, studded with toasted pecans, and for the pièce de résistance, a drizzle of butterscotch sauce overtop. It’s about having it all. How this over-the-top cake got its name—“shmoo” or “schmoo”—is a mystery. Some claim it comes from the name of the adorable, generous pear-shaped white comic book creatures from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner.

SPONGE CAKE
1½ cups (375 mL) pecan halves, divided
6 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar, divided
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla, divided
¾ cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
1½ cups (375 mL) packed light brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream

1. Set oven rack at centre of oven; preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

2. Set out 9½-inch (24-cm) regular chiffon cake pan, fitted with legs, and not nonstick. Do not grease or line.

3. Toast pecans in single layer on baking sheet until slightly darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside 12 of the best-looking pecan halves. Let cool; chop remaining pecans finely. Measure out ¾ cup (175 mL) for the cake batter, the remainder for garnish.

4. Beat egg whites until foamy; sprinkle cream of tartar overtop. Beat to soft peaks. Adding half of the sugar in a steady sprinkle, beat whites until they form dazzlingly white and firm peaks.

5. In a separate large bowl, beat yolks with remaining sugar until thick, pale yellow and mixture falls off beaters in ribbons. Add 2 tsp (10 mL) of the vanilla.

6. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; sift one-third at a time over the egg yolk mixture, folding in each addition gently. Fold in the ¾ cup (175 mL) chopped pecans. Fold in about a third of the egg white mixture to loosen the yolk mixture. Fold in remaining whites.

7. Spoon batter into pan; run a table knife through the batter twice to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour.

8. Immediately turn cake pan upside-down and set on its legs for the cake to cool. You can enclose in an airtight container and store at room temperature for 1 day or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let thaw.

9. For the butterscotch sauce, bring sugar, cream and butter to a simmer, stirring. Simmer for 2 minutes. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If sauce separates, warm until softened and whisk to combine and smooth.

10. Beat cream until firm peaks form; add remaining 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla. With long serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into three layers. Arrange 4 strips of waxed paper on large flat cake plate, forming frame that will keep plate clean. Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up on waxed paper. Spread scant quarter of vanilla whipped cream over layer. Repeat with second layer and cream. Top with remaining layer, cut-side down. Spread thin layer of whipped cream over top and side of cake (crumb coat); refrigerate for 10 minutes. Use remaining whipped cream to cover the top and side of cake more generously. If desired, reserve some of the whipped cream to pipe rosettes around top of cake.

11. Press remaining chopped pecans on side of the cake and garnish top of cake with whole pecan halves. Slide waxed paper frame from under the cake. Drizzle some of the butterscotch sauce over the cake, and reserve remainder in a pitcher to pour over individual servings.

12. Chill for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.

Makes 12 generous servings