Ladyfinger Torte with Rum Cream


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Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague


By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

  • About

When choosing a pastry from the coffeehouse display case, whipped-cream lovers usually gravitate toward Malakofftorte, named for a decisive battle of the Crimean War of the 1850s. (This was this war where Florence Nightingale served so bravely, and which inspired Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”) There are a few variations on the theme—some feature almond buttercream instead of rum cream, or use Cointreau rather than rum, or favor cake layers over ladyfingers —but the torte is usually constructed of liquor-soaked ladyfingers with lots of spiked Bavarian cream. Home-baked ladyfingers are best, but if you prefer, feel free to substitute store-bought ladyfingers, either the sponge cake ones or dry Italian savoiardi, trimmed to fit as needed. Don’t let the ladyfingers soak in the rum syrup; the quickest of dips will do.


    Rum Syrup

  • cup granulated sugar
  • cup water
  • cup golden rum

Lady Fingers

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sifting


  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted, optional


  1. To make the rum syrup: Bring the sugar and water to a full boil in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the rum. Cool completely.
  2. To make the ladyfingers: Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and heat to 400°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a large pastry bag with a 7/16-inch-wide plain tip, such as Ateco Number 805.
  3. Sift the flour and salt together into a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and cup of the sugar with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick and tripled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining cup of sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and shiny. Stir about one fourth of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Using a large balloon whisk or rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whites, leaving a few wisps of whites visible. Sift half of the flour over the eggs and fold in. Repeat with the remaining flour.
  5. In batches, transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Pipe out strips of the batter, about 3 inches long and about 1 inch apart, onto the baking sheets. You should have about 30 ladyfingers. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the ladyfingers. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the ladyfingers to a wire rack and cool completely. Choose 6 of the thinnest ladyfingers for garnishing the torte and set aside.
  6. To make the rum cream: Pour ¼ cup of the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand 5 minutes to moisten the gelatin, then stir. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or the microwave oven, heat the remaining milk until very hot.
  7. In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to combine, and gradually whisk in the hot milk. Add the softened gelatin. Stirring constantly over medium-low heat with a heat-proof rubber or wooden spatula (this scrapes the bottom of the saucepan better than a spoon and gets into the corners, too), cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula, about 3 minutes. Do not boil; an instant-read thermometer inserted in the custard will read 185°F. Immediately strain the custard into a medium stainlesssteel bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water. Stir often until the custard is cool, but not set. Remove the custard from the ice water.
  8. Beat the cream in a chilled medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat in the rum. (Beat the cream a little stiffer than usual.) Stir about one fourth of the whipped cream into the custard, then fold in the rest. The rum cream should hold its shape. If necessary, chill in a larger bowl of ice water until lightly set.
  9. To assemble the torte: Lightly oil the inside and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. First dipping the ladyfingers briefly in the rum syrup, arrange a layer of 6 to 8 ladyfingers in the pan, fitting as closely as possible, trimming to fit. Don’t worry about any open spaces. Add about one third of the rum cream to the pan and spread it. Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers, and top with half of the remaining cream. Dip and layer the remaining ladyfingers, and spread with the remaining cream. Discard any remaining syrup. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the rum cream is set, about 4 hours or overnight.
  10. Rinse a thin knife in hot water and run it along the inside of the pan. Remove the sides of the pan. In a chilled medium bowl, beat the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Transfer about half of the whipped cream to a large pastry bag fitted with a 9/16-inch-wide open star tip, such as Ateco Number 825. Using a metal spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream. Using a decorating comb, mark the sides of the cake. Pipe 12 rosettes on top of the cake. Cut the 6 reserved ladyfingers in half crosswise. Insert the cut side of each ladyfinger into each rosette, placing the cookies at a jaunty 45-degree angle. If desired, sprinkle the toasted almonds in the center of the cake. Refrigerate, uncovered, until ready to serve.

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