Friday, January 30, 2009

Adios Abi - Torta mil hojas

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):

I believe that Gloria used a mould to avoid the lop-sided effect.

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) ;).


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful cake! You seem to treat everyone so lovingly. Always baking for everyone. I like that about you! ;)

Susan @ My Wholefood Family Essentials said...

I've never heard of it before but it sounds delicious! That was a great episode of Dr Who. I wonder how David Tennant's replacement (*sob*) is going to measure up?

Anonymous said...

That cake sounds amazing! I've never heard of it before but it sounds fantastic and so gloriously sweet :D

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Maryann :)

Hi Susan, I know - I was devastated when I heard that David Tennant is no longer to be the Doctor! You can hear him in his native Scottish tongue on Himalayas ER on Thursday nights on Aunty.

Hi Lorraine, I'd never heard of it til Abi told me about it either, and then I asked Gloria about it - and she obligingly made it for Independence Day.

Finla said...

I have beenlooking for a recipe for dulce leche for long as we don't get the tinned one here.
I am sure bookmarking the recipe.
You seems to make cakes for your collegues a lot. They are a lucky lot :-)

Maria said...

Love the cake!! Nice work!

Gloria Baker said...

Dear Cake law I think you cake look wonderful and yummy!! Thanks to use my recipe, I love this cake, I read the comments, you may make this same recipem filling with chocolate cream is so nice too. !!! Huggs, Gloria

Gloria Baker said...

I forget to tell you, Mom give me other recipe of Mil hojas too, isif you want this I mail you, Do you want??? xx Gloria

adele said...

Fascinating. I've never heard of torta mil hojas before.

Btw, I'm glad to meet another Who fan. :)

Cakelaw said...

Hi Happy Cook - glad I could assist with the dulce de leche recipe. It's really not hard to make - just watching that the milk doesnt boil over at the start and making sure it doesn't burn towards the end.

Thanks Maria :)

Hi Gloria, I was glad tohave the recipe to make this cake. If you have a recipe for the other version, I would be glad to receive it.

Unknown said...

looks so sweeeeeeeeeeeettttt!! would be great with a cup of coffee. sigh... I wish I could drink coffee again...

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

Hi i love the effort you put in for your friend and made this cake. It is a process and you went through all of them the result at the end came out so nicely..i loved this torta mil hojas, as it is known.

Gloria Baker said...

I will send you Cakelaw!!! xxxGloria

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow this sounds totally amazing. I was loving it already with the dulce de leche but using almond paste put it over the tope. Delicious!

Cakelaw said...

LOL Adele - good to find out that you are another Dr Who fan :)

Hi Arfi, glad the detox is making you feel better though.

Thanks Anamika - I was kinda proud of the end result.

Thanks Gloria :)

Hi Elly, glad you like the sound iof it - it's very different to anything I've ever made before, but I enjoyed it.

Rosie said...

WOW Cakelaw what a brilliant job you've done on Gloria's recipe for Mil hojas!! Well done!!

Rosie x

Unknown said...

Ohhhh WOW!!! I love this excellent excellent excellent idea! Brilliant!

Maris said...

So impressive! Cakes are fun to bake. I always get impatient though and I frost them too soon.

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Rosie :)

Hi Rita, glad you like it.

Hi Maris, I am usually impatient with most things, but baking is one where I have learned to find some zen.