Made with chopped cashews and graham cracker crumbs, complete with a dense mouthfeel reminiscent of carrot cake, this torte is wonderfully unique and one of my very favorites, especially to celebrate Easter and welcome spring to do.
The funny thing is, I never knew what exactly made this dessert – not when I tried it for the first time and not even once after I ate it at a gathering with my husband’s family. Started making regularly 15 years ago. Monteagle, Tenn.
Judging by their reactions when tasting it, I don’t think many of the people I’ve served it to over the years know what it actually is. “What’s it called again?”
But one thing’s for sure: people love it.
Before falling in love with this turtle, my only experience was in restaurants. Not only did I not know what a tote actually was, but I wasn’t even sure whether it was pronounced “tor-tah” or “tort,” depending on the spelling. I left it.
Allow me to humbly inform you all that I now know exactly what makes a torte: It’s a type of cake made without flour, though it’s not necessarily gluten-free. Usually dense and layered, it is made with cream, jam or fruit along with crumbs or ground nuts. It is of European origin, denser than a cake and often made in springform pans. Throughout the US, it is commonly pronounced as “tort” and elsewhere as “tor-tah”.
Not a single person in my family has ever referred to this dessert by its actual name, despite being requested several times over the years. My husband asks when I’m going to make “that thing that tastes like carrot cake – only not quite as sweet – which I love.” My good friend, who now makes this every year as part of her family’s Easter lunch, usually tells me she’s making “that horrible coconut pie thing of yours.”
I feel like I’m portraying all of us – my immediate family, my friends and me – as ignorant people, but I don’t think any of us are. None of us grew up with torture; They were not in the repertoire of our mothers. Besides, the word tort doesn’t roll off our lips. This sounds like something that would be difficult to make and probably too appetizing for the kids at the table.
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However, this coconut cake is simple and easy to make. The flavor is unmistakably coconut (hence the name), but the other ingredients match beautifully.
The base is made of egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks, to which chopped cashews, graham cracker crumbs, and coconut are added. It’s baked low and slow, given time to cool, then topped with fresh whipped cream sweetened with coconut and lemon zest. It’s also dizzyingly delicious.
I know you will love this coconut cake. everyone does!
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 3/4 cup “snowflake” coconut (sweetened or unsweetened both work), divided
- 1/2 cup chopped dry roasted, salted cashews
- pinch of salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp grated lemon rind
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup coconut, and cashews and set aside.
- With a pinch of salt, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually add the granulated sugar and beat again until stiff peaks form.
- Add vanilla, then fold in graham cracker mixture.
- Pour into a 9-inch baking pan or use a springform pan and bake until lightly golden, 45 to 50 minutes.
- Cool completely.
- Whip the cream, adding powdered sugar, lemon zest and remaining coconut. Spread on tote.
- Cut into pie slices to serve.
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