This intriguing cake, from the Poitou region of France, was traditionally served at weddings, but is now a celebratory treat for any occasion. The cake gets its name from torteau, the French for ‘crab’ as it looks like a crab’s shell. The sweet, goat’s cheese cake has a purposefully charred, almost black surface but with the unexpected contrast of airy whiteness inside. The heat gives this cake its characteristic colour as well as distinctive taste and appearance: it’s a real burnt, edible sculpture. Incidentally, ‘torteau fromager’ was a code name used during WWII on a Free French radio channel to pass messages to the Resistance.
For the cake
Start by making shortcrust pastry, mixing flour, butter, egg yolk, salt and water together. Use sufficient water to get a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and put to rest in the fridge for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Make the filling by mixing the goat’s cheese with 125g powdered sugar and the egg yolks. Add enough milk to bind. Add the potato starch. Whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar until stiff and lightly fold into the cheese mixture. To perfume, add the vanilla seeds and cognac, lightly folding in. Roll out the dough and line a special ‘torteau’ plate or alternatively use a pie dish. Fill with the cheese mixture and bake for 50 minutes until very black on top. The cake makes a delicious dessert, served with fresh goat’s cheese or ricotta and honey.