A Hazelnut-Marionberry Torte with Mocha Buttercream for Two August Birthdays

| August 12, 2010 | 3 Comments

The family now has two August birthdays to celebrate. Although Vic’s driver’s license and passport lists December 22 as his official birthday, he was actually spanked into air-breathing consciousness on August 2; but that’s another story.

The Taste of Oregon burst onto the Internet on August 13, 2009, and has chalked up more than 140 posts since. What an exciting year it has been. Happy birthday, Vic and TTOO (The Taste of Oregon)!

Hazelnut Marionberry Torte with Mocha Buttercream - Decorated by Jo Ann Bowker, styled by Donna Conrad, photographed by Steve Anchell, and edited by Charles Price

Our first year was not only bumpy from flying by the seat of our pants, but we experienced some highs that were unexpected. In March, Saveur Magazine honored us by including The Taste of Oregon as one of the five best regional food blogs in their food blog contest. We’ve been asked to review cookbooks, test Beaverton Foods’ new Inglehoffer brand mustards and horseradish sauces, test world-class knives from New West KnifeWorks, and were invited to attend the International Food Blogger Conference in late August, 2010. Early this year we got exciting news from a book publisher in Australia, who selected two of our posts and recipes to appear in an international cookbook called Foodies of the World, to be published in the fall of 2010.

About two months into writing and publishing The Taste of Oregon, we brought Jenny Meadows on board to proofread and edit our work. Jenny is a longtime personal friend who owns and operates My Copy Editor, a professional copyediting and proofreading service. After seeing the difference Jenny makes, we’ll never put out another word without her look-over. Although she lives more than 2000 miles away, in Austin, Texas, our posts are nearly always completely edited and returned overnight.

We’ve shared our many fishing, clamming and crabbing adventures with readers, along with recipes, taken readers on the road to visit wineries, and began sharing our travel tips for great scenic destinations in Oregon. We’ve even tried some adventurous wild food and shared our experience and recipes with readers, including a tidepool edibles class and recipe for seaweed salad, and introduced readers to miner’s lettuce and fiddlehead ferns. This year also brought advertising to our website, along with our Taste of Oregon Amazon.com store, where we’ve recommended many products from Oregon to our readers.

Being that I proclaimed Oregon Is for Nuts in our third post and in the fourth post, Life in Oregon Is Berry, Berry Good in August and September, that berries of all kinds are among us from late spring to late summer, our birthday cake will feature nuts and berries. Of all the wonderful strawberries, blueberries, huckleberries and blackberries we enjoy in Oregon, marionberries are the state’s contribution to the world of blackberry cultivars.


“Seedlings from the Chehalem-by-Olallie cross have been rather successful – producing big berries that are full of flavor. The most outstanding of these selections is the Marion Blackberry or Marionberry. Introduced by George F. Waldo in 1956 and adapted to Western Oregon, the Marionberry is named after Marion County, where it was tested extensively. The berry is medium to large, round and somewhat longer than wide. The Marionberry is a trailing vigorous grower, generally producing only a few long canes which grow up to 20 feet. The spines are large and numerous, and fruiting laterals are long and strong, with many fruit. The Marionberry produces up to 5-6 tons per acre. Marionberries are quality berries, with a better flavor than the Boysen or Evergreen. Marionberries are well-suited for use in local fresh markets and for commercial or home canning, freezing, pies, ice cream flavoring, jams, and jellies.”

Fresh season is typically July 10 - August 10.

  • A native Oregonian. A cross between Chehalem blackberry and Olallieberry blackberry.
  • Medium-sized (5 gr.) dark red to black berry with a medium seed and central receptacle.
  • Known as the “Cabernet of Blackberries” for its complex, rich, earthy flavor.
  • Bred at Oregon State University and raised primarily in Oregon.
  • Named after Marion County, Oregon
  • Oregon produces 28-33 million pounds annually.

Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission

Hazelnut Marionberry Torte with Mocha Buttercream

Adapted from a Gourmet recipe on epicurious.com

Choosing to build a scrumptious confection from two of Oregon’s most famous crops was a no-brainer. Building it was another matter. I had previously relied on a professional baker specializing in cakes to provide a stunning sweet ending to our meals and parties. I had just enough knowledge of buttercream to be cautious. Even cake-mix cakes with canned frostings can take on lives of their own, architecturally speaking.

I called Jo Ann Bowker of Gourmet by Design for encouragement. She told me to make everything except the buttercream and have it ready to assemble by 3:00 PM on Saturday. Aye, aye, Jo Ann! My cake captain arrived promptly at 3:00, and we went to work building the beautiful torte you see above.

Watching her apply her expertise took much of the mystery out of the process. I learned that skillfully applied frosting will hide a multitude of things, and that toothpicks and skewers can stabilize shifting buttercream until you can chill it.

For the cake:

  1. 1½ cups (12 oz. or 360 ml.) hazelnuts
  2. ⅓ cup (80 ml.) all-purpose flour
  3. ½ cup or 1 stick (120 ml.) unsalted butter, room temperature
  4. ⅔ cup (160 ml.) sugar
  5. 6 large eggs, separated
  6. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) vanilla
  7. ¾ teaspoon (3.75 ml.) salt
  • Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
  • Butter a 15x10x1-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter paper too.
  • Pulse the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped (do not allow it to become a paste) and stir together with flour in a bowl.
  • Add the butter and ⅓ cup of sugar to a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until pale and fluffy.
  • Add yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.
  • Stir in the nut mixture by hand.
  • Beat the egg whites with salt in another bowl with clean beaters until they hold soft peaks.
  • Add the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar and beat at high speed until whites just hold stiff peaks.
  • Fold ¼ of the whites into batter to lighten it up, then fold in remaining whites a little at a time until all is incorporated thoroughly.
  • Spread batter evenly in the baking pan, smoothing top with a spatula.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven until center is set and top is pale golden, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool cake in the pan on a rack. Cover cake with an inverted baking sheet, then invert cake onto it and remove paper.
  • Reinvert cake onto a cutting board. Trim about ¼ inch from each side of cake with a sharp knife, then cut cake crosswise into 4 equal rectangles (each about 9×3½ inches).
  • Line baking sheet with wax or parchment paper and transfer cake to baking sheet, arranging layers side by side, touching.

For the jam filling:

  1. 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) unflavored gelatin
  2. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) water
  3. ¾ cup (180 ml.) marionberry preserves, strained (from 1 cup or 240 ml. with seeds; you may substitute blackberry preserves)
  • Soften the gelatin by sprinkling over water in a small bowl and letting it stand a minute or so.
  • Heat the strained preserves in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until warm.
  • Add gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove bowl from heat, set in a larger bowl of ice water.
  • Cool, stirring often, until cold, 5-10 minutes or so.
  • Spread jam evenly over cake layers and chill for about an hour or until set.

For the mocha buttercream:

  1. 3½ ounces (100 gr.) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  2. 2 large eggs at room temperature
  3. ¾ teaspoon (3.75 ml.) salt
  4. ⅔ cup (160 ml.) sugar
  5. ⅓ cup (80 ml.) water
  6. 16 tablespoons (240 ml.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened.
  7. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) vanilla
  8. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules mixed together with ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) hot water.
  • Using a double boiler or a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool.
  • Mix together the egg whites and salt in a large bowl.
  • Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium high heat while washing down the inside of the pan with a pastry brush dipped into water.
  • When the mixture reaches a boil, begin beating whites with a mixer at medium-high speed until frothy.
  • Now beat at medium speed until whites hold a soft peak. Cease beating and wait for sugar syrup to be ready.
  • Place a candy thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until it reaches 238-242 °F (114-117 °C).
  • Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heatproof 1-cup glass measuring cup that has been tempered with hot water.
  • Pour slowly in a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg whites while beating at high speed. (Be careful here! Jo Ann cautioned me that the amount challenged the size of her Kitchen Aid Mixer bowl.)
  • Beat, while scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 6-7 minutes. (Cooling is imperative before proceeding.)
  • Set the mixer to medium speed and add the butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each piece until incorporated. (If meringue is too warm and buttercream looks soupy or thin after some of the butter is added, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing with the remainder of the butter.)
  • Proceed to beat at medium speed until the buttercream is smooth. (The buttercream may appear curdled before all the butter is added but will come together again before beating is finished.)
  • Add vanilla, chocolate, and coffee mixture and beat for 1 minute longer.

Note: Can be made a week ahead and chilled in the refrigerator or frozen for up to one month. Slowly bring to room temperature (no microwave) and beat with an electric mixer before using.

Assembly and decorating:

  • Save the best-looking layer for the top.
  • Place 1 cake layer on your serving platter, jam side up and spread with ⅓ cup (80 ml.) buttercream.
  • Top with second layer, jam side up and spread with ⅓ cup (80 ml.) buttercream.
  • Top with third layer, jam side up, and spread with ⅓ cup (80 ml.) buttercream.
  • Top with reserved cake layer, jam side up. Frost sides of cake with about 1 cup (240 ml.) buttercream.
  • Transfer remaining buttercream to pastry bag and pipe a decorative border around top edge of cake.

Note: If you’ve worked with sheet cakes and buttercream before, you probably know what to expect. Because of the way I cut the cake, we stopped at three layers as it was high enough. In the future, I will cut the cake lengthwise into three longer rectangles.

I’m very grateful to Jo Ann Bowker of Gourmet by Design for helping me bring this cake to reality. She makes wedding cakes, cookies and favors, handmade truffles and custom baked goods. I once described a cake to her that I had tasted long ago. She researched it by my description and located a Rigo Janči Cake, which delighted me and tasted as I remembered: a dense chocolate cake with a chocolate mousse filling and mocha buttercream frosting. An ample amount of Myers Dark Rum was introduced to the cake to keep it moist. It was so incredible, that three of us devoured it in one sitting on a certain Christmas Eve. Brava, Jo Ann!

Jo Ann lives and bakes in Salem, Oregon, and can be reached at [email protected] and by phone at 503-400-2903.

Happy birthday!

— Charles

Tags: , ,

Category: Cake, Desserts

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (3)

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  1. VPanichkul says:

    It was truly delicious! Thanks for the b-day cake, Charles!

  2. Marlene says:

    Happy Birthday again Victor. Charles, I have a birthday in Febuary and would greatly welcome you making that cake for me. Ha!! Ha!! Not only can I imagine it tasting great but it looks beautiful. If only you were not so far away.

  3. Tina Martin says:

    It was beautiful and delicious! Happy Birthday, Victor, and Happy Birthday to The Taste of Oregon! You have both enriched our lives.

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