Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bohemian cake

This is by far my favorite Serbian torte, almost no flour, lots of layers, lots of ground nuts, custard-like filling that is absolutely dreamy, and of course, inevitable chocolate filling.

The original recipe can be found here:

Many experienced Serbian ladies will tell you that this torte is a piece of cake to make. Not for me. So I expanded this recipe into this long version, mainly just added lots of details that were important for me while making this torte as a complete beginner.

Bo - he - mi - an [boh-hee-mee-uhn]
-  noun
  • a native or inhabitant of Bohemia. 
  • (usually lowercasea person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.
  • the Czech language, esp. as spoken in Bohemia.
  • a Gypsy.
- adjective
  • of or pertaining to Bohemia, its people, or their language. 
  • (usually lowercasepertaining to or characteristic of the unconventional life of a bohemian. 
  • living a wandering or vagabond life, as a Gypsy.
  1. 18 eggs
  2. 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  3. 450 gr (~16 oz) of ground nuts (In Serbia we only use hazelnuts or walnuts, but here I use pecans too and they are wonderful! You can use only one type of nuts or combination. The ground should be very fine, like powder. In Serbia we use meat grinder to get this fine ground nuts, but here I don't have it, so I use a small blender and it can be ok provided you work in small batches, never fill it up to the top. Before grinding, I strongly recommend slight roasting - 350 F for 15 minutes - makes a huge difference)
  4. 250 gr (8 oz) of butter (try using this Irish unsalted butter, it is amazing)
  5. 1/2 liter (16 oz) of milk (I always use and highly recommend full fat)
  6. 2 vanilla powder bags (if you cannot find European vanilla powder - usually found in International Markets in small paper bags like the ones containing one serving of sugar, e.g. Dr. Oetker makes them - you can use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract) 
  7. 3 tablespoons of flour
  8. 250 gr (8 oz) of powdered sugar
  9. 510 gr (18 oz) of crystal sugar (smaller crystals are better)
  10. 100 gr (4 oz) of baking chocolate (the high quality of this chocolate translates directly into fantastic amazing chocolate filling, so don't save on this!)


The cake has three dough layers and three yellow custard filling layers and three chocolate filling layers

The dough layer:
Mix well 5 egg whites with 120 gr (4 oz) of sugar with electric mixer (until hard peaks and you can basically flip the dish upside-down without spilling -- but be careful with this experiment). Always first mix the egg whites until almost done and then add sugar, it is faster that way. Add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and 150 gr (5-6 oz) of ground nuts. Mix all well but carefully with a spoon or spatula. Prepare the baking pan by coating it with butter and then dusting with flour. Make sure you cover with a thin layer of butter and dust of flour  EVERY part of the baking pan so that the cake does not stick to the pan. Put the cake/dough mixture in a baking pan (this amount works well with 13"x9" pan) and bake until toothpick comes out clean (usually at 350 F for 15-30 minutes - the time depends actually on how much nuts you add, adding more ground nuts reduces this baking time). Another experiment that tells you the dough is done is to take out the pan and move it quickly and in small movements up and down; if the dough is detached from the pan, it is ready. Repeat this 3 times to obtain 3 layers. My strong recommendation is to use the same type of nuts or nut mixture for all layers, because different nuts can result in different layer size after baking.

The creamy custard filling:
Mix well 10 egg yolks with 150 gr (6 oz) of sugar until creamy and almost white. Add 3 tablespoons (not completely full) of flour and 2 vanilla powders and mix well again. Meanwhile, put 1/2 liter (16 oz) of milk in a dish and on top of a double boiler over boiling water until milk starts simmering. Add egg yolk mixture to the simmering milk. Start stirring this mixture while keeping the dish on the double boiler over boiling water. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes thick and creamy and almost pudding-like. This can take a really long time - 30 minutes even - and not for a second should you stop stirring because this may completely ruin the filling and result in crumbles of flour. The time also depends on the amount of flour. The more the flour you add, the shorter the time for mixing, but also, the more you can taste flour in your filling, and that is not very nice. Another important point here is that if you don't have double boiler and work with two dishes one of top of the other, they must fit together well and the top one should have a nice handle. You need to have a solid hold while you are mixing! The resulting filling should be custard like in taste but not as thick (although after it cools down it gets thicker and almost completely like custard). The color should be light creamy yellow. You can put it in the fridge to cool down while you make...

The chocolate filling:
Mix well with a spoon (preferably wooden spatula) 250 gr (8 oz) of butter with 250 gr (8 oz) of powdered sugar until the mixture becomes creamy (this requires a lot of strength). Beat 3 eggs and 5 egg yolks and add 100 gr (4 oz) of chocolate to this egg mixture. You can first melt chocolate a bit over the double boiler and over boiling water. Then, put eggs and chocolate mix (cooled down a bit) back over a double boiler over boiling water and stir until the mixture becomes thick. Again, do not stop stirring for a second. And again, this will take a bit of time, although not as long as for the creamy custard filling. This mixture becomes even thicker than the white filling and even more like pudding. Set it aside and let it cool to a room temperature. Then add it to the butter mixture. The resulting filling is in color like chocolate and looks very creamy and fluffy due to butter.

Layer the cake as follows: Place the first layer of dough, then spread over it ~ 1/3 of the total amount of custard filling and over everything a bit less then 1/3 of total amount of chocolate filling. Repeat this again three times. The final layer of chocolate filling should be more then 1/3 and is used to cover the cake completely (not only on top but on the sides/walls as well).

My recommendations:
I use 50-70% of sugar and still get a very sweet dessert. One of the best dough options is to mix approximately equal amounts of hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. Another classic one is just hazelnuts. I always increase a bit the amount of chocolate and nuts. I sprinkle a bit of ground nutmeg into a dough mixture. Smells great! To get a very rich cake with lots of filling, reduce the amount of ingredients by ~20% for the dough layer, or increase the amount of ingredients for the fillings by ~30% - you will end up throwing out some egg whites, but the cake will be more creamy. 

The original recipe has total 9 layers, but you can scale the ingredients as you wish to make as many/little layers as you like. And the pan (and torte) shape can be rectangular, square or round, anything you like.

Decoration on top can be as simple as roasted nuts, waves made with a fork, or you can let your imagination work...


P.S. Now, if I could only find some good photos... I was able to find only one tiny picture of the end result. Next time I make it (and I should really say we, because I always enlist someone to help :-), I will record the process and post everything in pictures. 


  1. I am not a big cake lover in general BUT this is SO GOOD cake!