Masha Torte (Dark German Chocolate Torte with Cherries Flambé) from Jenna Blum

Today we have a guest post from bestselling author and food lover Jenna Blum! Her new novel The Lost Family is an Indie Next pick and has been receiving rave reviews including starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. The Lost Family is available now!

The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war. Really, Peter is like Ferdinand the bull, except instead of wanting to smell the flowers, all he wants to do is cook. He was training as a chef in Berlin when the Nazis came to power; in America, being in his kitchen at Masha’s, his 1965 Manhattan restaurant named after his lost wife, is his happy place. The menus in The Lost Family are a fusion of 1965-era favorites and German-Jewish comfort food, Peter and Masha’s favorite childhood dishes:  Masha’s “Little Clouds” (cream puffs with chocolate fondue),  Brisket Wellington, Chicken Kiev, and my favorite, Masha Torte—an inside-out German chocolate cake with cherries flambé. There’s also a Hamburger Walter, invented for news anchor Walter Cronkite when dining at Masha’s, served Au Poivre with No Vegetables At All (my dad was a newswriter for CBS and he told me this was how Walter liked his hamburgers).

I LOVE FOOD, and I had a joyous time creating and kitchen-testing all the recipes for Masha’s menus in The Lost Family (there are two, spring and fall). I relied on my German friend Christiane’s mother’s recipes, my childhood memories of my Jewish grandmother’s dishes, the Mad Men Cookbook and similar cookbooks from the 1960s, and ingredients from my garden. I worked in food service for many years as a waitress and a prep chef to subsidize my expensive writing habit, but I’m not a chef, so there were some notable cataclysms, for instance throwing ice cubes into the oven to create crispy baguettes for Peter’s crostini (explosions) and dropping an entire Masha Torte on the floor (flaming explosion; we ate it anyway, and it was good!).

Yet part of me has always wanted to be a restaurateur. When I was a child I had a restaurant in my basement called Faster in which I held my parents hostage. For The Lost Family my fiancé and black Lab were my taste testers, but they were much more willing than my parents and gladly ate all the recipes. The lusciousness of food, its importance as art form, comfort and sustenance, runs throughout the novel like the marbling of fat in a good steak. I hope you enjoy it, and the story of the Fabulous Rashkins, as Peter calls himself and his daughter when he’s teaching her to cook, as well.

Masha Torte (Dark German Chocolate Torte with Cherries Flambé)

I hope you enjoy this recipe, compliments of Masha’s, and its proprietor/ chef, Peter Rashkin.

  • 1.5 c all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c organic brown sugar
  • ¼ c cocoa powder (the darker the better)
  • 1.5 t baking powder
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • ½ t sea salt
  • ⅓ c fat free Greek yoghurt (I prefer Fage) 1 T agave syrup (optional)
  • 1 T maple syrup (optional)
  • ¼ c unsweetened vanilla soy milk (can also use coconut or almond)
  • ¼ c coconut oil
  • 1.5 T vanilla extract
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated (~ 1 c)
  • 1 c dark chocolate chips or shaved bakers’ chocolate

For flambé: 2 T butter

  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 15 oz cherries (Bing or dark) in syrup (can be canned) 6 T c Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 12-inch cake pan.

In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Using wooden spoon, create well in center of dry ingredients; add yoghurt, milk, coconut oil, syrups if using, vanilla.

Mix batter until just combined; stir in zucchini. Add chocolate chips/ baker’s chocolate.

Pour into pan & bake 40 – 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack 5 – 10 minutes; transfer to fire-proof serving platter.

In large sauté pan over med-high heat, combine butter & sugar; cook until sugar dissolves. Add cherries & syrup, Grand Marnier. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat.

Pour atop torte. With long kitchen match or long-handled lighter, ignite cherries. Once flames have burned down, serve.

Bon appetit!


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