This month’s challenge is hosted by Jason from Daily Candor who challenged us to bake a peculiar-looking and peculiarly named hrapouša (hrah-PO-choo-sha) cake (or Dolska torta, or “Dol cake”). Created by the villagers of the tiny town of Dol on the Dalmatian island of Bra, the cake seems to have been named for the rugged stones from the nearby caves, and is known locally to be a bit of an aphrodisiac. It has won considerable acclaim within Croatia, and every year the town of Dol hosts the Night of Hrapouša competition which draws over a thousand attendees.

The cake is very different from other cakes in terms of both texture and flavor. The bottom layer is a fragrant almond-based sponge with orange-vanilla notes, while the top is a lemon-scented fragile brittle made of walnuts. It is extremely rich, and even those of us with a major sweet tooth can handle only a thin slice or two. Fortunately, it keeps at room temperature for a good week, and for several months if frozen immediately after making.

HRAPOUSA

Ingredients:

250g / 9oz / 1 3/4 cups whole almonds (roasted or raw)

400g / 14oz / 3 1/2 cups walnuts (halves and pieces)

600g / 1 1/3lb / 3 cups granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoon kirsch or other cherry-flavored liquor

1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon

6 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 480°F / 249°C / Gas Mark 9 1/2. Pulse the almonds in food processor to yield a meal.
  • Take the zest and juice from ½ orange, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, cherry-flavored liquor and 200g sugar.

  • Mix gently until it is homogeneous. Separate the 6 eggs, adding the egg yolks directly into the mixer bowl.
  • Retain the whites separately: 4 whites in one large mixing bowl, the remaining 2 in another medium bowl.

  • Mix ingredients from step 2 with yolks until batter is uniform. Pour into another bowl if using stand mixer.
  • Clean out your standing mixer bowl and place the 2 egg whites in the bowl. Beat well until stiff peaks form.

  • Add half of the beaten egg whites and half of the almond meal to the batter. Fold it in gently to incorporate.
  • Add remaining almond meal and egg whites, stirring gently. Pour the batter into a 20 cm spring form pan.

  • Drop oven temperature to 392°F /200°C immediately after placing cake inside and bake as per scheduled:
    for 5 minutes at 392°F /200°C, then for 15 minutes at 350°F / 176°C and for 15 minutes at 320°F / 160°C.

  • Begin checking the cake approx. 5 minutes after lowering the temperature to 320°F / 160°C / Gas Mark 3.
  • When a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, remove cake from the oven and leave to cool.

  • If the center has swollen due to baking, press gently with the back of a wooden spoon to flatten its surface.
  • While the cake is baking, place remaining 4 egg whites, 400g / 2 cups sugar and the walnuts in a large pot.

  • Turn up the burner to medium-high heat and stir the mixture aggressively for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Make sure that the bottom of the pot does not scorch. Stop when the liquid takes on a beige/caramel color.

  • Add zest and juice of ½ lemon and remaining ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to the walnut-caramel mixture.
  • Stir to spread uniformly throughout mixture. Pour resulting walnut mixture over bottom layer of the cake.

  • Make the top even with the back of the wooden spoon and place the cake back in the oven at 320°F /160°C.
  • Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the top takes on a golden color. Allow cake to cool for 90 minutes.

  • Then gently remove cake from spring form pan, peel off the parchment paper. Servings: Makes 12-16 slices.
  • Cake can be stored at room temperature for 5-6 days or cover in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.