Holy Trinity Torte

The time has come for a bit of indulgence.  Yes, I know, we said that last week.  And possibly the week before.  Okay, it might come up on a fairly regular basis, but why not?  You work hard, and sometimes you work long hours.  You file your income tax on time and get your oil changed religiously every three months or five thousand kilometers.  You water your plants on a rigid weekly schedule.  You drive people to and from stores and events, even when you don’t want to or when it’s early enough that yes, those are your pajama bottoms and you don’t care. You cook and you clean.  You support and care for the people in your life that deserve it.  You support and care for the people in your life that don’t. Tell me, truly, is there is one good reason why you should begrudge yourself a piece of cake?  I think not.

More importantly, we aren’t just talking about any cake.  This isn’t a Costco lard-iced sheet cake (PS – I say that with love, and it *might* be my favorite).  Friends, this is a Holy Trinity Torte.  No, no.  Not like *that* holy trinity with the doves and miracles and whatnot.  This is the other holy trinity.  You know, the trinity of chocolate, caramel, and a bit more chocolate.  Specifically, sexy dark chocolate ganache, luscious dulce de leche, and creamy sweet white chocolate ganache. Oh yes, and just a wee nip of Grand Marnier to really make the world go around.  Making this cake may not secure you a place in heaven, but it certainly brings a little piece of heaven down to earth.

I’ll try to keep this introduction quick, because what I will say for this cake is that most good things take time, and this is no exception.  At it’s heart, this is baking as a labor of love with it’s multi-step approach of mixing, chilling, rolling, scalding, assembling, and waiting.  Members of the holy trinity would like me to remind you that patience is a virtue, however, and although this treat might take some time, for the most part every element of this torte can be made ahead.  More importantly, perhaps, each one of those multiple steps is completely do-able, and no one part is particularly difficult.  These are techniques that you know, like melting chocolate and rolling out dough.  So hey, plug your iPod into the speaker dock and spend some quiet time with yourself in honor of your loved ones and….okay, just do it for the cake.  It’s worth it.

Holy Trinity Torte

Makes 1 cake

Pastry layers:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature.
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (1 egg + 1 egg yolk)
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream (35%)
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 3.75 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz white chocolate *
  • 6 oz dark chocolate *
  • 1 cup heavy cream (35%), divided
  • 1.5 tbsp Grand Marnier, optional


  • icing sugar
  • cocoa powder

* Use the best quality chocolate that you have, because it will really make a difference in the quality of your ganache.  And yes, good quality chocolate chips are absolutely fine!  If you are using the chips though, they might take longer to melt into the cream so you may consider heating a small pot of water for some double boiler action when the time comes.

Cream together the room temperature butter and sugar in a fairly large mixing bowl.  Beat them (using electric beaters, if possible) until they are pale and fluffy.  Add the cream, egg, additional yolk, and orange zest to the bowl.  Continue beating until they are evenly combined.

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Sift this together into the butter mixture.

You might already know this about me, but I am exceptionally lazy and take short cuts whenever possible.  To that end, I loathe and despise sifting flour with a fiery hatred that burns.  Guys, it burns. But sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do.  My less painful concession to sifting flour is basically dumping the whole kit and caboodle of dry ingredients into a large wire mesh set over the bowl and shaking it a few times until only a few pebbly bits are left for me to discard.

Gently start to work the flour into the butter.  You don’t want to be an aggressor here or the flour will perk up and say, “Hey, gluten? I’ve got that! Let me help to produce the toughest cookies that you’ve ever seen!” Start by gently folding and stirring the flour into the butter, and when it is about half incorporated discard the spoon and use your fingertips to quietly rub one into the other until it comes together like loose pebbles of dough.

Pat the dough into two logs, one slightly bigger than the other.  Wrap both logs tightly in plastic film and put them into the fridge to chill for two hours.

While the dough is chilling, place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot and pour in just enough water to cover it.  Put the pot over a medium low heat and bring it to a simmer.  You don’t want to let the water come to a rolling boil because that could potentially build up too much pressure in the sealed can (or so goes another one of my Paranoid Kitchen Safety Theories).  Let the sealed can simmer in the water for a full two hours, topping up the water level when it drops below the top surface of the can, and not really paying it much more attention than that.  This is the easiest possible way to make a flavorful dulce de leche, so at least we have one thing that requires minimal effort.

Let the can cool completely before you touch it with your hands or open the lid.

Now then, two hours have passed and the dough is nicely chilled.  Cut the small log into 4 equal pieces and the larger log into 5.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF with your racks set somewhere between the middle and upper third.

Flour your work surface as well as the top of one piece of dough, leaving the rest to chill until it’s time for them to join the party.  Roll out the dough in as close to a circle as you can manage, patching the dough up as you go if it tears or you’re as bad at rolling round shapes as I am.  Keep rolling until the dough is quite thin (about 1/16″ or a scant 2 mm) and the pastry is at least 8 inches in diameter.  Place the bottom of a removable 8″ tart pan (or the base of an 8″ springform pan) on top of the dough and use a sharp knife to trim around it.  Do not discard the scrap dough, but set it off to the side.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and carefully transfer the pastry from board to sheet.  I find that a wide, flat sided dough scraper is a useful helper tool for this.  Repeat with one more round of dough, because it speeds the process if you can cook two at a time.

Bake the pastry wafers for 6-8 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even cooking. The pastry will be slightly puffed and just starting to turn golden brown around the edges.  Let the pastry cool on the baking sheet for 5 – 10 minutes so that it can firm up before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling all the way.

That wasn’t so bad, right?  Good.  Now repeat that process with the remaining 7 rounds of dough. Gather up all of the scrap and refuse dough from the previous 9 sessions and form it into a ball.  Use this to roll out just one more pastry round, for a total of 10.

Yes, I am asking you to roll out TEN pastry rounds. Oof!  But lest you think I’m a Sadist Without A Cause, remember that we do these things for the greater good.  We can, and will, roll out 10 bloody pastry rounds because we know that they will get smothered with sticky sweet goodness and eventually end up looking like this:

Give a nice, fine chop to the dark and white chocolate and put the shards in separate bowls.  Pour the cream into a small pot set over medium heat.  Scald the cream (cook until it is steaming, barely starting to froth in the center, and there are fine bubbles around the edge of the pot) but take it off the heat before it comes to a boil.  Pour half of the cream (1/2 cup) over each type of chocolate and let it sit for up to a minute to melt.  Then start to stir the cream into the chocolate (gently and always in the same direction).  It may look rough and ragged at first, but as the heat of the cream melts the chocolate it will eventually start to come together.

If the mixture cools before the chocolate is fully melted, which could happen, set a small pot with about 1-2″ of water on medium low heat until it starts to simmer.  Put the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not actually in or on the water, and stir it gently until the chocolate is fully melted and uniform.

As for that exceptionally easy dulce de leche, put it in a third bowl and stir in the Grand Marnier.

Wrap the three bowls with plastic as they cool to room temperature, being sure to lay the wrap directly on top of the chocolate ganaches (no need to do this for the dulce de leche) so that they don’t decide to form a skin.

Alright, so we have cooled base cake layers and cooled ganaches.  Things are looking good.  Lay one wafer down on a large plate and spread one third of the dark chocolate ganache (about 1/3 cup) on top.  Start by dolloping the ganache in the center and using an offset spatula or the back of your spoon to ease it out towards the edge.  Stop when the ganache is about half an inch (1 centimeter) from the edge.

Lay a second pastry round on top to make a sandwich, being careful to just lay the wafer rather than pressing it down which would squeeze out the chocolate.  Spread the loaded dulce de leche on top, still being prudent and stopping at 1/2″ to the edge.

Lay a third pastry on top and spoon 1/3 of the white chocolate ganache on top.

Repeat the process, layering the pastry rounds with dark chocolate, dulce de leche and white chocolate, until each one has been layered three times.  Lay the final (10th) pastry round on top.  Again, you are just laying the wafers as opposed to pressing them down.  Cover the torte with clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 6 hours or overnight.

If you have any extra ganache or caramel (I had just a wee smidge of each), might I suggest mixing them all together and encouraging that someone bring you a bowl of ice cream? Or maybe just a spoon?  Because that would be alright too…..

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to share this with you.  Sometimes, in baking as in life, what looks like a perfect situation may end up getting a bit stickier than we’d like.  As the ganache softens the cookie like pastry and the layers begin to swell slightly even as the torte condenses, there may be some, ahem, leakage. It’s not the end of the world.  Let the leakage happen, and then before you serve the torte you can gently lift it off the plate (using two large spatulas and a very steady hand) and transfer to a clean one.

Dust the top of the torte with icing sugar and sift the cocoa into appealing patterns if you feel the yen.  Of just stare at the side of your torte, marveling at it’s layered glory, and wondering how many extra hours on the treadmill this is going to cost you.

And cost you, it will.

This torte is a perfect rich, dense and sweet accompaniment to a nutty dark roast or small tasse of Turkish coffee. Or, if you’re like us and apparently your interest lies in courting adult onset diabetes, you could sip on a cake inspired cocktail instead.

Each bite of this torte is a sugargasm of delight, from the buttery and flaky pastry layers that are rather akin to a thin butter cookie, to the rich chocolate and layers of sticky toffee flavored dulce de leche.

I made the mistake of suggesting to Mike, right after our Valentine’s dinner no less, that I could bring the rest of the cake in to work with me on the following Tuesday.  The look of horror on his face was almost comical as he forbade me to “steal his cake”.  No, he insisted, this was his special love-cake that he had a right to eat, goddammit!  So I let him keep the cake that he had staked a claim on, and sure enough every day for the next week he whittled it down, carving out one piece at a time.  Sometimes for breakfast.  And second breakfast.  Frodo would have been so proud…..

Contrasted against other tortes which get stale and dry if they’re left to sit for more than a day, this oral pleasure just begs to be made in advance and sit for up to three days, soaking in the pools of saccharine richness a little bit at a time.

I might not be the world’s most affectionate person.  I don’t always like to be touched, I think that daily private time is less of a luxury than a necessity, and I sometimes choke and end up telling my Very Special People, “I really love……..your shoes.” But over time I have found certain work-arounds to show people that I care without actually having to (shudder) show them that I care, and if one of those ways comes wrapped in gooey caramel and layers of chocolate, so be it.

  • Lauren

    Looks delicious! I will add this to my pile of “need to try” recipes. I am afraid of the whole boiling a closed can of condensed milk. It would be me who would make the can explode for sure!

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Oh my GOODNESS. Tina, it’s very cruel for you to show me things that I will immediately crave, knowing that in my current state of delicacy that I can’t wait that long to have them. You’re a mean woman. And I really adore sweetened condensed milk to the point of fanaticism, so that does me no favors either. Ass.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    I’ve always wanted to try that trick with the sweetened condensed milk — turning it to caramel by cooking it in the can. Seems like one of those fun little kitchen miracles that really makes it all worth it… well, at least until I think about the can exploding. But, we’re going to block that out for now. Alright?

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    At the thought of exploding cans, a wave of fear and horror surges through the internet….
    Seriously guys, I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill. The risk of explosion is unremarkably low as long as you;
    – keep the can submerged in the water at all times (don’t let the pot dry up)
    – let the water simmer rather than boil
    – let the can cool completely in the water

    Fun, fun!! And also, boiling cans is so Depression-era-chic.

  • Sandra

    AMEN to this Holy Trinity….looks like a lot of work but definitely worth the treat in the end. All my favourite flavours…chocolate, caramel, and the Grand Marnier….just lovely!!

  • Luana

    Could you use store-bought puff pastry?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Luana – I would not suggest using puff pastry. The reason that this cake holds together is that the crisp cookie-like layers of pastry are softened by the more liquid layers, and that seeping give and take is what helps it to bind. If you were to use puff pastry, it might just get soggy. Because of the flaky layering it also might not hold together in the same way.

      There’s an Italian torte that I *adore* but don’t know the name of, and it involves layers of puffy pastry with custard, fruit and whipped cream. The pastry does get a bit soggy for the outer layers, but still holds it’s integrity. That said, I don’t know if they use exactly the same product as store bought puff. But now I have cake on my mind. Sigh.