You wouldn’t guess from its rustic appearance, but Ritz torte holds an elegant balance of flavors and textures: sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, rich and light.
This regional dessert from Appalachia features a Ritz cracker and pecan meringue piled high with whipped cream and topped with chocolate shavings. The base is crunchy and chewy like a macaron, but the buttery Ritz crackers and nutty pecans make it sweet and salty. It has some rich ingredients, but the meringue and whipped cream keep it feeling light.
My grandfather was originally from the mountains in Virginia, and some cousins still live in the area. There’s even a section of the Appalachian Trail named after my family in Shenandoah National Park. When this dessert caught my eye on social media, recreating it seemed like a delicious way to reconnect to part of my family history.
My Take on Ritz Torte
I contacted a few family members to learn more about the dessert and began piecing together a recipe based on their accounts and what I’ve read. While staying true to the dessert, I couldn’t resist making a couple refinements. I’ve swapped out the Cool Whip for homemade whipped cream (because nothing beats fresh whipped cream).
Toasted nuts have substantially more flavor and crunch than raw nuts, and I believe no recipe should skip this step. I figured I’d add the Ritz cracker crumbs in the oven with them while I was at it, giving the dessert even more toasty flavor.
How To Make Ritz Torte
To make the base, start by whipping the egg whites and sugar to a soft meringue. Fold in the crushed Ritz crackers, chopped pecans, vanilla extract, and baking powder for some extra lift. Bake the base until the meringue turns matte and you can see the faintest hint of browning on top. Once cooled, top it with whipped cream, filling the pan right to the top.
This dessert may be unfussy, but it feels like it’s meant to be shared for a special occasion—a potluck or party (you can double it in a 9×13) or even if it’s just the first time in a long time that the whole family is home. Don’t let it sit on the dessert table for long, or the whipped cream will deflate and melt. It’s best straight from the fridge.
Tips and Tricks for Making Ritz Torte
Ritz torte is simple and rustic, but I know from personal experience that problems can arise when making meringue and whipped cream, no matter how much experience you have in the kitchen. Here are some of my tips for whipping up an impeccable Ritz torte:
- When making the meringue, gradually pour in the sugar so it has a chance to dissolve. With this sugar-to-egg white ratio, the sugar needs some extra time to dissolve so the egg whites foam properly.
- Don’t whip the meringue to peaks. The base will rise a lot in the oven and then collapse after baking. The meringue should be thick, shiny, and bright white. When ready, it should fall off the whisk in a thick ribbon, and you should be able to form a figure-eight in the bowl.
- Let the base cool to room temperature before adding whipped cream, or it will melt and seep into the meringue, making it soggy.
To make an easy Ritz torte in half the time, skip toasting the Ritz crackers and nuts, buy pre-toasted, chopped pecans, and spread 8 ounces of Cool Whip over the base instead of homemade whipped cream.
Obviously, a Ritz torte should have Ritz crackers, but I had an aha moment in realizing that this method for dessert doesn’t strictly require them. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am curious about using crushed gingersnaps for the holidays, graham crackers for a s’mores flavor, or pretzels for different sweet and salty versions.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Lightly spray an 8×8-inch square pan with baking spray.
Crush the Ritz crackers:
Place the crackers in a large zip-top bag and seal the bag. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until the largest pieces are about the size of a dime.
Toast the crackers and pecans:
Spread the cracker crumbs and chopped pecans into an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through so they toast evenly, until the cracker crumbs turn golden brown and everything smells buttery and nutty.
Set the pan on a wire rack to cool while preparing the meringue.
Make the meringue:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until frothy, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, gradually add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Continue whipping the egg whites until thick, shiny, and bright white, about 4 minutes.
The meringue won’t form a peak on the whisk when lifted out of the bowl, but it should fall off in a thick ribbon. You should be able to form a figure-eight in the bowl without it breaking.
If the meringue is too runny to form the figure-eight, continue beating the egg whites, checking the consistency every 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Make the batter:
Add the toasted pecans and cracker crumbs, baking powder, and vanilla extract and use a silicone spatula to gently fold the batter until the pecans and crumbs are evenly distributed.
Bake the meringue and cool:
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Bake the torte until it is puffed, matte, and beginning to brown along the edges, about 30 minutes.
Set the pan on a wire rack and allow the meringue to cool completely, at least 1 hour, before adding the whipped cream.
Make the whipped cream:
Once the base has cooled to room temperature, make the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. The cream should thicken and when you pull the whisk out of the bowl, the peak should stand up.
Add the toppings and serve:
Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate shavings and collect them in a small bowl.
Spread the whipped cream in a thick, even layer over the torte. You can decorate the top with swoops and swirls in the whipped cream if you like. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate shavings.
Cut into squares and serve. For clean slices, chill the torte in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
Store leftover Ritz torte covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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