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Lingonberry Cream Buckwheat Torte (Heidjertorte)

  "Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home." -Luisa Weiss

  In her book (which I've loved and read a few times) "My Berlin Kitchen," Luisa is talking about distance in the physical sense. She traveled a lot, and making familiar dishes in different kitchens brought a sense of familiarity to her.

  I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and I think it can apply in a more abstract way as well.

  Loss is felt more keenly on the holidays. I was reminded of this by the shadows in my sister-in-law's generally sparkly eyes over Thanksgiving. Relatives, whether you were impeccably close or not, are always difficult to define as 'gone.' 

  I couldn't help but remember the first few Christmases after Grandma Edna passed. Sure, they were still Christmas-y, fun and filled with family. But there is always the underlying tone of something missing, and after awhile you learn to accept the difference.

  And sometimes you learn that you need a little reminder of that person, too. I saw this recipe (or rather photo) pop up on Luisa Weiss's (aka The Wednesday Chef) instagram a while ago. A fatless buckwheat sponge, lingonberry whipped cream and a slathering of freshly whipped cream to finish it off. Color me intrigued, this cake might as well have been something my grandma made once upon a time.

  So I took away some distance between me and my Grandma's spirit when I filled the kitchen with the scent of freshly-baked buckwheat, tart lingonberry preserves and fresh cream. 

  The sugared cranberries and rosemary on top, however, is all me. There's no way Grandma would have bothered with that nonsense, especially with a big family at Christmas--but she would've though it was very pretty.

  This comes from Luisa's latest book, Classic German Baking. And while I'm not the proud owner of it just yet (and I have approximately zero dollars to invest in anything this time of year), with a little digging I found her recipe reviewed on Taste and went to town. In a matter of minutes, Christmas dessert was decided, and I was eagerly searching my grocer's shelves for lingonberries and buckwheat.

  If you're thrown off by the combination of flavors in this cake, good heavens don't be. The lightness of the fatless sponge perfectly compliments a wholesome buckwheat flour. And while it is slightly bitter and plain on its own, combined with generous helpings of rich whipped cream and the pleasing sweet tartness of lingonberry preserves, it's truly a magical cake in its own right. Refreshing after a heavy, long meal.

  Life goes on, Christmases go on and I'm so grateful to have had the grandma I did that to this day she still influences my flavors and baking.

  Happy New Year, to one and all.

 (And a special thank you to my family for bearing with me while I went overboard to photograph a cake with my sister-in-law's wonderful new camera. Incidentally, photo credit to Mercedes Brandt for a few of these snapshots. <3)

Lingonberry Cream Buckwheat Torte (Heidjertorte)
Yield: one 8 or 9-inch torte

Ingredients for the torte:
  • softened unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 6 eggs at room temperature, separated into yolks and whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • A splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp scooped and leveled buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups lingonberry preserves

For topping:
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • Extra lingonberry preserves for decoration (optional)
  • Sugared cranberries and/or rosemary (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch/23cm springform pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment as well.

Place the egg yolks, the 3⁄4 cup sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a handmixer fitted with a whisk attachment or regular beaters); turn the motor on to medium-high. Beat to combine then slowly add the hot water and beat for 5 minutes. 
In a separate, very clean bowl, whip the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Mix the buckwheat flour and baking powder together and sift over the egg yolk mixture. Fold in until well combined. Then fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until no white streaks remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and place the pan in the oven on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the pan from oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing the springform ring. Gently turn the cake upside down to remove the pan bottom and parchment paper. You can turn the cake right side up again, or leave it upside down as the bottom creates a nice, flat surface for the top of the torte.

Place 1 1⁄2 cups whipping cream and sugar in a large, clean bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the lingonberry preserves and vanilla. Slice the cake into thirds horizontally. Spread the bottom layer evenly with half of the lingonberry cream. Place the middle layer on top. Spread that layer with the remaining lingonberry cream. Top with the top layer. Chill in the fridge while you whip the remaining cream.

In a separate, large clean bowl, whip the remaining 2 1/4 cups of cream with the 2 teaspoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Frost the top and sides of the torte with the whipped cream, reserving about 1 cup in a piping bag fitted with your decorating tip of choice for the garnish. Chill cake and pastry bag in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Pipe rosettes or whatever decoration you like with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate as desired with lingonberry preserves, sugared cranberries, etc.

Refrigerate the torte for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours before serving. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving it.

Sources: adapted from Taste, originally from Classic German Baking