Glorious Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Torte

Torte Thanksgiving

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know there’s nothing I love more than cooking for my friends and family. I issue so many invitations for lunches, brunches, dinners and I-made-too-much-dessert-can-you come-over feasts that my friend Anis has come up with a unique RSVP system for our group: “If we don’t reply, we’ll be there. And we’ll be hungry.” The invitations are mostly casual and open, so the guest list quickly grows out of control. (I find the word ‘guest’ such a formal term for people who see you at your worst, i.e. trying to cook for 16 when you were expecting 6, and still love you, primarily because you feed them well.) With people come their dietary constraints, and in India this usually means categories like: vegetarian but no eggs, vegetarian but eats eggs, vegetarian but no root vegetables, meat but no pork, meat but no beef, meat but no alcohol. While sometimes it requires a chart to just keep up, I always accommodate them all, because I find it extremely rude to invite guests over and serve something they can’t enjoy (even if you met them only 5 minutes ago). The only categories of people, who should not expect a repeat invitation are a. if you asked me if there was anything without butter, b. if you didn’t eat dessert, not even a token bite, c. if you picked at your food or d. if you asked for ketchup with my pasta.

Torte Collage 1

However, the term ‘gluten-free’ was not a part of my dietary constraint dictionary. The first I heard of it was when I stumbled across Shauna’s inspiring blog Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, where she embraces celiac (she doesn’t like to use the term ‘disease’) and cooks her way to a healthy life with her chef-husband. While I read her blog purely for pleasure and tried out many of the naturally gluten-free recipes, I still didn’t giving too much thought to gluten-free cooking until I came to Canada for a work project. Not knowing too many people to invite over, my excess cooking/baking energy had me regularly bringing in treats to work or to new friends I’d made here. And it saddened me more than you can imagine when some of my close friends and colleagues couldn’t enjoy them. I started paying more attention and devising ways to cook gluten-free. While it’s not very long, I added a Gluten-Free category of recipes to this blog. And the smiles I saw on my friends’ faces as they bit into a homemade cake or dessert or sweet was well worth it.

Torte Collage 2

Recently, Shauna tweeted about a secret baking challenge. I didn’t know what it was but those three words and I was in! She emailed me later explaining that it was a challenge to cook something wonderful for Thanksgiving that was gluten-free. The idea was that if people saw so many amazing gluten-free recipes around the internet one day, they would feel welcome at the table. Now I was definitely in, because as someone who loves to cook and feed people, this was important to me. I spent the week experimenting and trying out recipes and ideas. I must admit I was not yet confident enough to try gluten-free flours as I’ve never worked with them, a situation I’m determined to rectify soon with Shauna and Daniel’s new cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. It’s both a cookbook and a love story and as you go through it, you’ll be struck at once by their warmth and expertise as they highlight their personal experiences and recipes that will inspire you to get into the kitchen.


And in the kitchen I was, determined to create my own gluten-free contribution to this virtual feast. I knew I wanted to make dessert and knew it had to be a showstopper, something even the non gluten-free folks would fight over. Flan or custard or panna-cotta seemed like a cop-out; it had to be cake. Several trials later, I had the perfect finale to a Thanksgiving meal – I’ve named it Glorious Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Torte. It begins with a cake that contains only four ingredients – nuts (walnuts/pecans), eggs, sugar and spices. It’s light and delicate, laced with warm spices and a nutty taste that’s perfect on its own with a cup of coffee. To make it more festive, I topped it with a layer of salted pumpkin-caramel sauce. (Yes, I did just say salted, pumpkin and caramel in the same sentence; are you in dessert heaven yet?) A thin layer of lightly spiced, roasted apples and pears cuts through the sweetness and adds another layer of texture. Topped with barely sweetened whipped cream and pecans, it is one of my proudest desserts. If you’re gluten-free, you’ll love this cake. If you’re not gluten-free, you’ll love this cake. It’s a win-win, and with dessert, that’s a good place to be. Happy Thanksgiving!

Torte Collage 3P.S. Check out the roundup of amazing recipes for a gluten-free Thanksgiving at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

Glorious Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Torte
Torte recipe adapted from Epicurious
Toppings inspired from The Traveler’s Lunchbox
Serves 6-8
(Don’t be intimidated by the many components, they are simple and can be made ahead of time. Assemble the cake when ready to serve, though a couple of hours ahead and refrigeration will not do any harm. You can also adapt the recipe to your taste: skip the fruit, add more/less sauce, swap caramel for chocolate ganache, add espresso to your whipped cream…)

For pumpkin-caramel sauce:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick unsalted butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
generous pinch of sea salt
For walnut-pecan torte:
3.5 ounces (100 grams) chopped walnuts
3.5 ounces (100 grams) chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For spice-roasted fruit:
2 tart apples (e.g. Granny Smith), peeled and sliced
2 medium pears (I like using Bosc), peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
To Serve:
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Walnut/pecan halves

Make the pumpkin-caramel sauce:
1. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan with high sides over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir constantly until the mixture is a deep amber color (8-10 mins).
2. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble and rise. Place the pan on medium-low heat and stir until the mixture is smooth, about 5 mins.
3. Add the pumpkin and stir until smooth. Add salt to taste. Cool to room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in the fridge and bring back to room temperature when using.)
Make the torte:
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
5. Grind the chopped nuts and spices in a food processor using on and off turns until finely ground but not pasty. (If you start with whole nuts, you’ll need to process for a longer time and will get a pasty mixture.)
6. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 mins, Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until well blended, another 2-3 mins. Stir the ground nuts into the mixture.
7. Beat egg whites in another bowl with cleaned beaters until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/2 cup of eggs whites into nut mixture to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
8. Transfer the batter to prepared pan and bake until a knife/cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 mins. Cool for 5 mins, then run a knife around the edges and release the sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature on a rack. (The center of the cake will sink.) (The cake can be made a day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)
Make the roasted fruit:
9. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss the fruits with the lemon juice and spices. Place in a shallow layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the fruit is soft and golden, about 30-35 mins, turning the fruit after 15 mins with a spatula and checking to see it doesn’t burn. Cool to room temperature on the sheet.
10. Pour a thin layer of pumpkin-caramel sauce over the cake. Layer the roasted fruit over the caramel. Whip cream in a cold bowl with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread on top of the cake. Drizzle with more caramel sauce (I use a zip-lock bag with the tip cut off) and garnish with walnut/pecan halves. (You will have leftover sauce depending on how much you use. Reserve to spoon later over ice cream/crepes/pudding/cake).

You can also adapt the recipe to your taste: skip the fruit, add more/less sauce, swap caramel for chocolate ganache, add espresso to your whipped cream…

Read more:

This entry was posted in Cakes, Celebration, Dessert, Favorites, Food, Gluten-Free and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Glorious Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Torte

  1. Peggy says:

    It’s amazing how many people are affected and have to eat gluten-free everyday! It’s so nice of you to share this recipe and for such a good cause! It’s looks absolutely delicious!

  2. Lizzy says:

    Well its true that there are so many with Celiac..But as it is ,It is much better to eat gluten free…

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  4. Lexie says:

    Tasty looking torte and first-class presentation. I would dive into this one : )
    Lexie @ Lexie’s Kitchen

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  11. Yazmena says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, oh and glorious too. Yum.

  12. That looks mega yum. My sweet tooth is pleased just looking at the pictures. As a caregiver to a brain tumour patient who is advised not to eat sugar, refined flour, food high in copper or etc. I know how difficult it can be explaining dietary restrictions to someone. However, it’s great to see so many cooks like yourself open to accommodating everyone at the table by getting adventurous in the kitchen.

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  14. jackhonky says:

    Hello salted pumpkin caramel sauce! Where have you been all my life?!?!!

    That torte looks AMAZING! I’m in love. And the layer of spice roasted fruit AND the whipped cream on top AND the salted pumpkin caramel sauce. Oh wait. I said salted pumpkin caramel sauce already. I can’t believe I’ve never seen/heard of it before though. AND on top of all that other amazing flavors!

    I’m so making this for my next dessert party….

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  18. Mary says:

    This looks really good! I bookmarked it and I will give it a try, if not for Thanksgiving, then just for fun……in fact, just for fun will likely win out, because there will be so much competition with other tastes on T-day, and this looks like it could and should stand alone!

    And by the way, the proper term is “celiac sprue”. “Sprue” is a noun that means a malabsorption syndrome such as “tropical sprue” (thought to be caused by a pathogen encountered in the tropics, or possibly rancid fat or folate deficiency). “Celiac” is an adjective that means “of, pertaining to, or located in the cavity of the abdomen” and celiac sprue is an autoimmune condition. So when someone says “I have celiac” it doesn’t make sense. The celiac sprue crowd has adopted and uses “celiac” in the same way people describe themselves as a diabetic, so I know I’m a faint voice crying in the wilderness, asking for proper terminology.

    Oh well, sorry for the rant–more than you or anyone wanted to know I’m sure!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  19. I love the look of that torte!

  20. Hot Polka Dot & Tiffin Tales' Mom :) says:

    A winning recipe and post! Yay Pumpkin Crusaders!

    • tiffintales says:

      You are the kindest person I have met and by far, the best thing to come out of Project Food Blog.
      I can’t begin to describe how much your messages warm my heart.
      Thank you so much.
      Love and hugs,

  21. Narder says:

    This was such a delicious recipe! Everyone agreed that we will have to make it every Thanksgiving from now on. One suggestion (meaning where I screwed up a bit) was to really adhere to the directions for roasting the fruit. I did not flip them or grease the pan well enough and they came out quite toasty. I did, however add some allspice to the fruit and to the cake, something the recipe does not call for. The cake is like heaven!
    Thank you so much for posting

  22. Dia says:

    ooo la la! This looks/sounds heavenly!! I love anything pumpkin, so have been perusing some of the recipes from the challange – yum! I am working on finding just the right recipe for the Gluten Free Friends cookie exchange at Saturday’s meeting … hmm …
    The term our family uses is ‘gluten sensitive’ – we had a delightful GF TG for 19, (about half ‘went along’ with the rest of us) & I don’t think anyone went away hungry of feeling ‘deprived.’ Kudos to you for adding a gluten free section to your recipe list. I began using a Tiffen this fall for taking my lunch to work – so I’ll be back!

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  28. Sarah says:

    This looks amazing and I’m so looking forward to testing it out this Thanksgiving. My question is, though: can it sit as a nearly finished torte for more than 24 hours? I’ll be traveling all day by car tomorrow, and I’d like to bring a nearly finished product with me (minus the whipped cream). Otherwise I guess I can just pack all the ingredients and put it together on Thursday morning. Would appreciate any advice. Thanks!

    • tiffintales says:

      Thanks Sarah! You can make all the components (torte, pears, sauce, cream) a day ahead and just assemble them when you are ready. I hope this helps! Happy Thanksgiving!

  29. AJB says:

    We made this on Thursday. Made all the components at home and assembled at my relatives’ it when it was time for dessert. It was an absolute smash hit, everyone loves it and everyone wants the recipe. My gluten-free husband was in heaven–I think we might use the torte part and modify based on the season in the future..

    • tiffintales says:

      I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it! And yes, the torte is pretty versatile – I love it on its own as well with a cup of coffee.

  30. Abigail P.O. says:

    Made this for Thanksgiving. Two actually, one for my dinner and another for a friend’s. It was absolutely delicious. That torte is great, even on it’s own. So light and surprisingly flavorful. The caramel took a lot longer than I thought it would, maybe I just didn’t cook the sugar and butter long enough in the first step. I got lots of compliments on it, so thank you!

    • tiffintales says:

      I’m so happy that I had some small part in making your Thanksgiving dinner a success. The caramel gets easier the more you make it – getting the butter and sugar the right golden brown is the important part.

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