Yesterday was my friend Abi's last day at our work before she heads off to Sydney to work as a church leader. I of course wanted to mark the occasion in the usual way by making her a cake.
Abi is of Chilean heritage, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make a cake that I have become obsessed with - the torta mil hojas, or "cake of a thousand leaves". It is the name of the cake rather than its actual composition that fascinates me - it sounds so pretty. I understand from Abi that this cake is usually made with stacks of very thin cookie-like layers, and takes about 12 hours to make. However, Gloria of Canela's Kitchen made a torta mil hojas for Chilean Independence Day in September which is based on thin layers of cake. I decided to make Gloria's version of the torta mil hojas for Abi. Gloria's recipe for the torta mil hojas is here.
Basically, you make 9" discs of cake to serve as the layers - make as many discs as you have batter for. For simplicity, instead of discs spread on parchment paper, I baked 3 cake layers in 9" tins and divided each in half, giving me 6 layers:
You then make dulce de leche to sandwich the cake layers together. While you can boil up cans of condensed milk, I made mine from scratch using another recipe from Gloria's site, which you can find here.
It takes about an hour and a half to make dulce de leche from scratch using the method outlined by Gloria. You start with a mixture of milk and cream and sugar that looks like this:
and you boil it until it looks like this:
and finally, you get this:
As you can see, the liquid condenses down to a very thick caramel. However, the blessing is that you don't have to stir the mixture constantly during the less volatile stages of the process - I in fact watched an episode of Dr Who in another room while running back and forth to check on the progress of my dulce de leche. (For Dr Who fans, it was David Tennant's first episode after the "old" Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, regenerated - the Christmas Invasion episode.)
Once your dulce de leche has cooled, you halve each of your cake layers using a serrated knife, and glue them all together with dulce de leche:
The end result is something that resembles a stack of breakfast pancakes (even if, in my case, it also resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa):
Finally, you make an almond paste with sugar syrup and almond meal and egg whites (be careful when making this - it spits!):
This paste is plastered all over the cake like frosting:
If you want to know what the cake looks like inside, refer to the picture of the slice on Gloria's post - it is an accurate representation of what you end up with (ie a stripey cake!).
This cake is very sweet and very filling. Someone at work described it as a Mars bar without the chocolate, to give you an idea of what it tastes like. However, it tasted good, especially if you like your sugar dial turned to "high".
Abi enjoyed this cake, although she said her nan's torta mil hojas is the cookie dough version which she coats in a meringue. While I could find plenty of recipes for the cookie dough version of torta mil hojas online, none of them were coated with meringue. Does anyone have a recipe for torta mil hojas matching this description?
This cake was fun to make, if somewhat involved. I've always wanted to make my own dulce de leche from scratch, and I now understand why they sell a tiny jar for $7 at Koko Black - it takes a lot of ingredients and a lot of work! However, it was worth it - and I got to lick the pot (after it had cooled, of course) ;).