This traditional Bavarian dessert was originally created in the town of Straubing to honor Agnes Bernauer, who was the mistress of Duke Albert III of Bavaria. In 1435, Agnes was condemned for witchcraft and drowned in the Danube River by Albert’s father because she was a commoner who he believed was unfit for his noble son.
This rich five-layer almond meringue cake is filled with coffee custard buttercream for a wonderful oh-so-good specialty confection. Light and airy meringue cake is lightly spiced with cocoa and cinnamon and layered with almonds and a silky custard-based German buttercream and finished with toasted almonds and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. The sponge-like cake absorbs the moisture from the buttercream melding into one heavenly, mildly sweet mocha pastry with a beautiful texture and a slight crunch.
Almond Meringue Layer Cake
2 cups almond flour
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cake flour
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
7 large egg whites, room temperature
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup granulated sugar
⅛ tsp salt
4 large egg yolks
⅓ cup cornstarch, sifted
2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp instant coffee powder
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Almond Meringue Cake
Preheat oven to 325°. Spray the bottom and sides of five 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line each pan with a circle of parchment paper, and spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, sift together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, cake flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract on top of the egg whites and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg white mixture just until incorporated. (Be sure not to overmix the batter as to not deflate the meringue.)
Gently pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, evenly dividing the batter among the five pans. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of each layer.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Immediately remove the cakes from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and egg yolks together.
Add the sifted cornstarch to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
In a saucepan, heat the milk with the instant coffee just until it begins to simmer. (Be very careful and keep a close eye on the milk as the instant coffee can cause the milk to boil over.)
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add to the egg mixture, one ladleful at a time, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it starts to boil, whisk the mixture constantly for another 30-60 seconds until it becomes thick.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter and the vanilla extract. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature to set.
In a large bowl, use an electric handheld mixer to beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the cooled custard and beat on low speed until combined. (Be sure the custard is at room temperature, not cold. If you put the custard in the refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature before adding to the butter. Otherwise, the buttercream will be lumpy or curdled. If your buttercream is lumpy, set the bowl in a warm water bath. Leave it there until the buttercream around the edges of the bowl melts, then beat smooth.)
Agnes Bernauer Torte Assembly
Remove the parchment paper from the cake bottoms.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate, cake stand, or cardboard cake circle and evenly spread a thin layer of the coffee custard buttercream on top. Place another cake layer on top of the custard and repeat the process.
Cover the top layer with the remaining custard buttercream. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.