Tradition holds that Esterházy torte can be no more or less than six layers high. Who knows why, but far be it from me to buck tradition. Some versions of this pastry call for alternating layers of hazelnut and almond meringue. That’s a neat idea, but not necessary. If you feel like making two batches of meringue, go for it! You’ll need:
11 egg whites, room temperature
10.5 ounces granulated sugar
11.5 ounces finely ground peeled hazelnuts or almonds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Swiss meringue buttercream
about three ounces apricot glaze
1 recipe poured fondant
about three ounces melted dark chocolate, couverture or ganache
about four ounces slivered almonds
Start with the meringue layers. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and set two racks in the middle of the oven. Meanwhile, using an 8″ pot lid or cardboard cake round, draw pencil circles on two or three parchment sheets. Turn the sheets over so the pencil line is underneath. It will still show through. These sheets will be your layer templates.
Now make the meringue. Put the whites in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whip and whip them until they’re frothy. Add the vanilla extract and, steadily, the sugar. Whip the meringue to stiff peaks, then gently fold in the ground nuts. Pipe or spread about 1/6th of the meringue onto each of your parchment sheets and spread it even, about 1/4 inch thick. Bake the layers for about 8 minutes until they are only very lightly browned. Re-use the templates to bake a total of 6 layers. Cool them on wire racks.
When you’re ready to assemble, place a meringue round on a cake plate or platter and stick it down with a dab of buttercream. Apply a thin layer of buttercream, then another layer until you’ve stacked six meringue layers. Spread the apricot glaze over the top layer, then chill the torte in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm it. Meanwhile, prepare a pastry cone with your melted chocolate or warm ganache.
Warm the fondant in a small saucepan and and pour/spread it over the top. Immediately pipe thin concentric circles of chocolate onto the layer, then using a toothpick pull the lines outward from the center to make a spiderweb-type design. Allow the glaze to set completely. Lastly, apply a thin layer of buttercream to the side of the torte and press the slivered almond against it to finish.