Burnt Almond Torte

Burnt Almond Torte

This rustic Burnt Almond Torte is an iconic Pittsburgh treat that everyone loves. Moist yellow cake is layered with silky, vanilla pastry cream, and iced with a fluffy almond-flavored buttercream frosting, then covered in toasted, sugared almonds. One bite and you’ll be craving more.

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Homemade burnt almond torte cake on a white cake plate on a blue placemat.

For a meal that any ‘yinzer’ would be proud to eat (or serve), consider our recipes for Pittsburgh Style Ham Barbecue Sandwich, Grandma’s Pickled Vegetable Salad, and Chewy Almond Macaroons.

The Story Of The Burnt Almond Torte

In 1970, Henry Prantl, the owner of a Shadyside, PA bakery, attended a baker’s conference in Anaheim, California. After attending a tasting event where a local baker utilized an abundance of almonds to make this unusual cake.

Henry returned to Pittsburgh and developed his own take on the almond cake, using all fresh ingredients, no pudding mix or cake mixes. He changed the original sponge cake to a sweet and buttery yellow cake and added a layer of custard. He prepared this cake fresh every day for three years before it took off and became a local favorite.

Now, his burnt almond torte is a nationwide favorite. It has been featured on many websites, cooking shows, and publications. You can also have the cake shipped to you anywhere in the United States. It’s also one of Jane Fonda’s favorite sweets. How cool is that?

Side view of a Burnt Almond Torte cake on a white cake plate sitting on a blue placemat.

What Makes This Cake Different?

The cake is definitely a bit labor intensive, but using only fresh ingredients and nothing ‘processed’ is a big part of why the torte is so popular.

It has four parts – cake layers, a layer of pastry cream, buttercream frosting, and candied and toasted almonds.

Each component is made from scratch. None of it is especially difficult. It just takes some time and patience. Trust me, it’s well worth the effort!

The cake is a yellow, vanilla-almond flavored cake that is light and moist, and full of flavor.

The pastry cream is silky, subtly sweet, and flavored only with vanilla.

Fluffy buttercream icing is made next, mimicking the vanilla-almond flavors captured in the cake

Finally, sliced almonds are coated in sugar and toasted in the oven until they’re golden brown, a bit crunchy from the sugar, and have a delicious, caramelized quality.

Slice of Burnt Almond Torte cake on a gray plate sitting on a blue wooden board.

Ingredients Needed

This looks like a lot, but don’t let that scare you off. Most of what you need is already in your pantry or fridge. If not, everything can be easily found in any grocery store. Nothing fancy. Nothing exotic.

  • Flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • Granulated sugar and powdered sugar
  • Unsalted butter
  • Eggs
  • Heavy cream and buttermilk
  • Vanilla and almond extracts
  • Sweetened condensed milk – you will have some left over. Use the leftovers to make Thai coffee or in your hot tea.
  • Sliced almonds

Do I have to get special equipment?

No! If you have a mixer, saucepan, mixing bowls, spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, and square cake pans, you can make this recipe.

Top view of a Burnt Almond Torte Cake sitting on a white cake stand.

Tips For Success 

  • Take your time and enjoy the process. Read the entire recipe first and then go step by step. Nothing is difficult.
  • Use parchment paper to line the bottoms of your pan. It makes a big difference. The cake won’t stick and it gives a nice, flat, and smooth surface if you want to flip the cake upside down to ice it.
  • The eggs, butter, and buttermilk should be at room temperature so they are more easily mixed in with the other ingredients.
  • Be sure to cook the pastry cream long enough to get very thick and keep stirring it. If you get some lumps, don’t fret! Spoon the lumpy cream into a fine mesh colander and push it through with the back of a spoon into another bowl. Poof! You have silky smooth pastry cream just like a professional!
  • Take the time to cool everything as stated in the recipe. Allow the cakes to cool completely. Chill the pastry cream until it’s very cold so it gets as thick as possible. Allow the toasted nuts to cool so they don’t melt the buttercream. Simple steps, but all necessary.
  • The outer coating of toasted almonds makes the cake forgiving in that you don’t necessarily have to do an icing crumb coat first, but I have found that chilling the cake once it’s iced for around 30 minutes does make pressing the almond into the icing much easier and less messy.
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Side view of a Burnt Almond Torte cake on a white cake plate sitting on a blue placemat.

Burnt Almond Torte


  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x

Description

This rustic Burnt Almond Torte is an iconic Pittsburgh treat that everyone loves. Moist yellow cake is layered with silky, vanilla pastry cream, and iced with a fluffy almond-flavored buttercream frosting, then covered in toasted, sugared almonds. One bite and you’ll be craving more.


Ingredients

Scale

For the cake:

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup whole fat buttermilk

For the pastry cream:

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, and cut into cubes

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

For the sugared almonds:

  • 2 ½ cups lived almonds
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

Make the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two 8-inch square pans with cooking spray.

Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan and line the pans. Spray the parchment very lightly with the cooking spray. Set the pans aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together until the butter is pale in color and very fluffy – about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract and beat until well combined.

Spoon in half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until almost combined.

Pour in the buttermilk and continue to mix until the liquid is incorporated.

Add the remaining flour mixture.

Mix until just combined. Don’t overmix the batter.

Divide the batter between the two pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is lightly golden.

Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the pastry cream.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt.

Bring to a simmer, stirring often.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, remaining ½ cup of the cream, and egg yolks together until smooth.

When the cream mixture is steaming, but not scalded, slowly drizzle some of the hot cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper them and prevent the yolks from scrambling.

Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the remaining simmering cream.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching and lumps.

Allow the mixture to cook until very thick and you can see bubbles begin to erupt in the center of the pan.

Spoon the pastry cream into a heat-proof bowl.

Whisk in the vanilla and the butter until fully combined and smooth.

Place plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to prevent skin from forming.

When cool enough to handle, place the bowl into the refrigerator and chill until cold – at least an hour or overnight.

Make the frosting.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream, vanilla, and almond extract.

Beat on low speed to combine the ingredients and then increase the speed to high.

Whip the mixture until very light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.

Toast the almonds.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the almonds with water to moisten the nuts.

Sprinkle in the sugar, tossing to coat the almonds.

Spoon the nuts and any remaining sugar onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out into an even layer.

Bake in the preheated oven, tossing with a spatula every 5 minutes until the nuts and sugar have turned golden and the nuts are coated with melted sugar and are a light caramel color. Timing will depend on what size baking sheet you are using. Mine took about 25 minutes to get a light caramel color on the nuts.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the almonds to come to room temperature.

Assemble the cake.

Peel the parchment off of the cake bottoms.

Place one layer of cake on a large plate.

Spread ½ cup to 1 cup of the pastry cream on top, leaving about a ½-inch border on all edges.

Place the second cake on top of the pastry cream.

Use an offset spatula to frost the top and edges with the frosting. Try to get an even layer all around.

Press the toasted almonds into the frosting on the sides and top of the cake until there is no visible frosting.

Notes

You will have leftover pastry cream and toasted almonds. The pastry cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Use leftovers to spread on graham crackers, as a filling for crepes, as a dip for fruit, or as a base for a small fruit tart.

The toasted almonds can also be kept in an airtight container and used to sprinkle on ice cream, as a sweet note in salads, or eaten alone as a sweet snack.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: burnt almond torte cake, dessert recipes, copycat recipes, cake recipes, Pittsburgh foods, taste of home, candied almonds, almond buttercream, pastry cream

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