Torta Diplomatica

Rum Cake with Sponge Cake and Puff Pastry Layers

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Preparation info

  • Makes about

    12

    servings
    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Great Italian Desserts

By Nick Malgieri

Published 1990

  • About

Perhaps the epitome of rich, delicate desserts, the torta diplomatica is a mille foglie whose middle layer of puff pastry is replaced by sponge cake soaked with rum syrup. Feel free to vary the flavoring and substitute another liquor or liqueur for the rum in the syrup and the filling. Sometimes I use Maraschino liqueur and the drained cherries from Conserva di Amarene. Orange liqueur and finely diced candied orange peel would also be good choices.

This is an elaborate recipe, though once all the component parts are ready, it is quick to assemble. Start several days before and make the pasta sfogliata one day, then the sponge cake layer and syrup the next. Make the pastry cream without finishing it with the butter, and roll out the pasta sfogliata on the third day. The day you plan to serve the torta, bake the puff pastry layers, finish the pastry cream by beating with the butter and adding the rum-soaked currants, and assemble the torta.

Ingredients

    Sponge Cake

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

    Rum Syrup

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • cup water
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum

    Pastry Cream Filling

  • ½ cup currants or golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

Method

For the puff pastry layers, roll out the pasta sfogliata dough on a floured surface into a 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 2 rectangles, each 10 × 7½ inches, then roll each into a 10-inch square. Pierce the squares of dough all over with a fork and slide each onto a 10 × 15-inch pan, lined with a piece of parchment or buttered wax paper. Chill the layers of dough several hours or overnight.

Bake the layers at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until they are an even, deep golden color. Change the position of the layers in the oven several times, top to bottom and back to front, to help them bake evenly. Check the layers frequently while they are baking: if they begin to puff excessively, pierce the bubbles in the dough with a fork so that the layers remain flat.

Remove the baked puff pastry layers to a cutting board and cut each layer into a 9-inch disk. Return the baked disks to the pans and cool. Crumble all the scraps finely and reserve for finishing the torta.

For the sponge cake, butter a 9-inch × 2-inch-deep round cake pan and line it with a disk of parchment or wax paper, cut to fit. Combine the eggs, egg yolks, salt, and sugar in a heatproof bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to mix. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and whisk until warm, about 100 to 105 degrees. Remove the bowl from the pan and whip on high speed with a hand mixer or a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Continue whipping until the egg mixture has lightened in color, cooled, and increased about 4 times over its original volume.

Sift the flour over the egg foam in 3 or 4 additions, folding it in gently but thoroughly with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the layer at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, until it is well risen, firm to the touch, and a deep golden color. Remove to a work surface and insert the point of a small knife between the layer and the side of the pan. Loosen the layer from the pan and invert it onto a rack. Leave the paper in place and immediately invert the layer again, onto another rack to cool. Double-wrap in plastic and chill the layer.

For the rum syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cool and stir in the rum.

For the pastry cream filling, place the currants or raisins in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, drain, pour into a bowl, and cover with the rum. Allow to stand at room temperature while preparing the pastry cream. Bring the milk to a boil with half the sugar. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the salt and whisk in the remaining sugar. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture and whisk it in smoothly. When the milk boils, whisk one-third of it into the yolk mixture. Return the remaining milk to a boil and whisk in the yolk mixture, continuing to whisk until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching, for 1 minute. Scrape the cream into a clean nonreactive bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

To finish the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and light. Beat in the cooled pastry cream all at once, then continue beating until the filling is smooth and light. Stir in the rum and currants or raisins by hand.

To assemble the torta, place one of the puff pastry disks on a cardboard or platter. Spread with half the pastry cream filling. Moisten the top of the sponge cake layer with half the rum syrup, using a brush. Place the cake layer on the filling, top side down. Moisten the cake layer with the remaining syrup and spread with the remaining filling. Top with the other puff pastry disk. Smooth the sides of the torta with any filling that oozes out and press the puff pastry crumbs onto the sides. Dust the top lightly with the confectioners’ sugar.

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing