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 this dessert was actually made of – not when I tried it for the first time and not even once when I made it at a gathering with my husband’s family fifteen years ago. Started making regularly after keeping in. in Monteagle, TN. I don’t think many of the people I’ve served it to over the years know what it was actually made of, judging by their reactions when tasting it. “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 was, but I wasn’t even sure whether it was “tor-tah” or “tort” the way it’s spelled. I left it.
Allow me to humbly tell you all that I now know what makes a turtle a turtle: it’s a type of cake made without flour (though it’s not necessarily gluten-free), Usually dense and multi-layered, made with crumbs or ground nuts. With cream, jam or fruit. It is of European origin, denser than a cake and often made in springform pans. It is generally pronounced as “tor-tah” throughout the US and “tor-tah” elsewhere.
Not a single person in my family has ever referred to this dessert by its 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 we are. None of us grew up with torture. They were not in the repertoire of our mothers. And turtle doesn’t just roll off our tongue. This sounds like something that would be hard to make and would probably be very appetizing for the kids at the table.
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 is very tasty. I actually make my own graham crackers for the crumbs. (You certainly don’t have to, but I’ll tell you: They’re really easy.)
I know you will love this Coconut Torte. 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 tsp 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 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.
- Combine whipped cream, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and remaining coconut. Spread on tote.
- Cut into pie slices to serve.