This mocha walnut torte from Dorie Greenspan is a rich, nutty cake that also happens to be gluten-free. Made with lots of walnuts and chocolate, it tastes incredible. It’s so good you can even skip the chocolate ganache (but we still think you ought to give it a try!)
This is the kind of cake served in Italian cafés, French bistros, and Austrian coffeehouses. You can find renditions of it, usually made with almonds, all around the Mediterranean. And you can find it on Passover tables all over the world. (There’s no leavening, so it’s perfect for the holiday.) It’s a simple, unfussy, and unfussed-over cake. A slim torte made with just three ingredients: eggs, sugar, and nuts. There’s no wheat, so it’s gluten-free.
Here I use walnuts, which have a pleasantly bitter side to them. Playing to the nuts’ strengths, I’ve included a few other flavorful ingredients—most important, chocolate and ground coffee (preferably espresso), as well as a touch of cinnamon and vanilla.–Dorie Greenspan
Dorie Greenspan’s Mocha Walnut Torte FAQs
How long will my walnut torte last?
Wrapped well, the cake will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer; thaw in the wrapper.
Can I use instant espresso powder instead of ground espresso?
Absolutely. Use an equal amount of instant espresso powder or granules.
Dorie Greenspan’s Mocha Walnut Torte
For the mocha walnut torte
- Butter or baking spray for the pan
- Cocoa powder for the pan
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts (whole or pieces)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar divided
- 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons ground coffee preferably espresso
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the chocolate ganache (optional)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
For serving (optional)
- 1/2 recipe Chocolate Ganache for finishing
- Toasted walnuts for sprinkling
- Whipped cream crème fraîche and/or confectioners’ sugar
Make the mocha walnut torte
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F (180°C).
- In a food processor, combine the nuts, 2 tablespoons (25 g) of the sugar, the chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon and pulse, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often and taking care that you don’t process for so long that the walnuts become a paste and the chocolate melts. You want to end up with a bread-crumb–like mixture—it’s better to have some discernible morsels than to overdo it.
- Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in a large bowl and the whites in the bowl of a or a large bowl that you can use with a hand mixer.
- Working with a whisk, beat the yolks until they’re homogeneous. Gradually whisk in 3/4 cup (150 g) of the sugar and then beat until the mixture is pale and your whisk leaves tracks, about 2 minutes.
- Beat in the vanilla. Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the walnut mixture.
- Add the salt to the whites. Attach the bowl to the mixer stand, if using, and fit it with the whisk attachment. Beat the whites until they are foamy, opaque and just a bit thick, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, adding it a tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar is in, the whites should be thick and glossy—lift the beater(s), and the meringue should hold a pretty peak. If it doesn’t, continue to beat for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Using a flexible spatula, scoop out about a quarter of the meringue and add it to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture. Stir everything together energetically so that the whites lighten the thick mixture.
- Scrape the rest of the meringue into the bowl and, being gentle, stir and fold it in. (Without overdoing it, you want to get as much of the meringue into the nut mixture as quickly as possible. If there are a few white streaks, it’s fine (better to have streaks than to knock all the air out of the meringue.) Scrape the batter into the pan, swiveling the pan from side to side to settle the batter evenly.
- Bake until the cake feels firm to the touch and has risen and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. (The rise might be higher around the edges, but the middle should lift too.)
- Move the pan to a rack and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then run a table knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to release the cake. Remove the sides of the springform and allow the cake to cool to room temperature on the rack.
Make the chocolate ganache (optional)
- Rinse a small saucepan with cold water, but don’t dry it (this helps prevent the cream from scorching). Pour in the cream, set the pan over medium heat and bring just to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and then, working with a small flexible spatula and beginning in the center of the pan, start stirring the chocolate and cream together. Stir in ever-widening concentric circles until you have a thick, shiny, smooth mixture. Piece by piece, blend in the butter until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes.
Serve the cake
- When the cake is cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and the parchment and turn the cake right side up onto the rack.
- If you want to glaze the cake, now’s the time. Put a piece of foil or other drip catcher under the rack, pour the ganache over the cake and use an offset spatula or knife to smooth it over the top. (Alternatively, you can drizzle the ganache over the cake. And if you’re using toasted walnuts, sprinkle them over the glaze while it’s still warm.)
- Refrigerate the cake until chilled, wrapping it well once it’s cold. The cake is good at room temperature, but I prefer it straight from the fridge. It also cuts better when it’s cold.
- Serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche or, if you prefer, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Or don’t—it’s fine just the way it is.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Oh yummm! Since cakes are not the usual temptation allowed in our household (too hard to resist!) and our tastes are generally towards not-too-sweet, I truly appreciate a really good cake that goes together easily, also keeping some for future times we crave just a slice. Tortes made with nuts work really well for this. And there is something slightly magic about folding the egg white into the nutty batter that makes me all optimistic.
This mocha walnut torte from Dorrie Greenspan meets all of those criteria, and can be prettied up with a glaze if you are serving it all for guests, or you can be more austere with a dusting of sugar or some perfect berries. We got lucky, and some friends dropped by with fresh lime curd, which was a perfect accent along with a dab of cream (softly whipped, mascarpone or crème frâiche) to serve, and just with a slight dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
A recipe that is effortlessly gluten-free is a bonus–no tradeoffs or detectible substitutions are involved, so this is very useful for sharing or entertaining.
With so few ingredients this mocha walnut torte recipe by the wonderful Dorie Greenspan ensures the main flavors are front and center, specifically the tannic nuttiness of the walnuts and the deep dark chocolate hit. We enjoyed how light the end result is. With no flour and with the whipped egg whites the cake has a lovely crumbly (in a good way) barely-holds-together texture that we really liked alongside a dark espresso.
I chose not to do the optional glaze and I really don’t think the recipe needs it. For my taste though, I think I’d rather reduce the cinnamon or remove it all together. I think its flavor distracts from the rest.
This mocha walnut torte is a wonderful surprise. I haven’t used walnuts in a cake of this sort, only almonds, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The headnote for the recipe states that walnuts bring a “bitter” side. You won’t perceive it as bitter, just really good, I might even prefer it to those made with almonds. It comes together fairly easily using pantry ingredients.
The mocha walnut torte smelled heavenly while baking. On this gloomy day, I was transported to Vienna with my lovely torte and a cup of coffee. The cake has a really nice texture. I erred on the side of under-pulsing in the food processor and I loved the bits of nut and chocolate.
A dessert with nuts as the main ingredient will always get my attention AND when the recipe called for chocolate and coffee, I was all in. This mocha walnut torte is truly an unfussy dessert and most cooks would readily have all the necessary ingredients on hand to whip this up. The recipe was easy to follow and was as delicious at room temperature or chilled, serving it with a dollop of whipped cream to mellow some of the richness.
The combination of all the ingredients makes for a delicious and substantial torte that easily serves 10 to 12 people and I guarantee will impress your guests. My taste testers loved the torte and were surprised by how few ingredients it included. The other great thing about this torte is it is gluten-free!
I did add one minor change to the process. From all my past baking experience, any nut has more flavor if lightly toasted before adding them to any baked good. So, I lightly toasted my walnuts, letting them cool completely before putting them in the food processor.
The one crucial instruction to pay attention to in the directions is do not overdo the very last step of gently folding in the meringue, a very important step.
Oh, my. Hang on a second while I swoon over my plate.
This cake is absolutely lovely. It’s a very adult flavor: dark, rich chocolate with a bitter edge from the coffee, walnuts, and ganache, and a great nubbly texture from the walnuts and chocolate bits in the batter and just to gild the lily, it is both gluten-free AND suitable for Passover! It’s also surprisingly easy to make; if I were eating this at a restaurant I would have assumed it to be a much more complex cake.
Though I doubt we’ll find out about its keeping qualities, I’m excited to read in the recipe that it holds up well in addition to being gorgeously delicious. We didn’t wait for the ganache to cool before trying it so didn’t make whipped cream, but I might go whip some up for the rest of the cake because that will be a fantastic foil for the deep, dark bitter chocolatey-ness! I think if I make this for a special dessert I might make candied walnut halves for fancy decoration.
I was anxious to try this mocha walnut torte as a treat for my coworker with a gluten allergy. I will be making this again and again. Reading over the recipe, and looking at the photo, I expected this to be quite dense. It was surprisingly airy, very moist, and so rich. The ground chocolate melted so evenly it was hard to believe there was no cocoa or melted chocolate in the batter. I used 60% bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate and ground espresso.
I did make the half recipe of ganache and drizzled it over the top. Small wedges with a dollop of whipped cream on the side were a perfect dessert.
If you’re looking for a rich and decadent flourless chocolate cake, look no further. It is packed with deep coffee and cinnamon flavors that blow most other cakes of this variety out of the water.
Be warned though, once paired with the ganache, this is a RICH cake. The recipe says to make a half batch of ganache and drizzle it, though a half batch is still enough for a flood of biblical proportions. Unless your intention is to make a lake in the center (and there’s nothing wrong with that), drizzle with as much as you’d like and save the rest for another purpose. I topped mine with toasted chopped walnuts and shared them with some very happy neighbors.
I’m not an enthusiastic baker, nor a chocolate lover, and I find following baking instructions to the letter difficult. Having said that, the preamble of this mocha walnut torte recipe, evoking European desserts and rich coffees, had me imagining the clink of china saucers on marble tabletops before I even had it printed out.
Also, I saw that I could skip the ganache; using whipped cream instead cuts the chocolate a little, and this cake is RICH. I recommend toasting and cooling the walnuts before starting the recipe.
Originally published November 6, 2021