This cake is gluten-free with ground almonds taking the place of flour, which yields a moist dense cake with incredibly deep chocolate flavor. For those of you who are gun-shy about trying gluten-free baked goods, this is one dessert that you will not only enjoy but will be asking for seconds!
Because there are so few ingredients, the quality of each becomes even more important than usual. Make sure you have all your ingredients prepared and measured out before you start baking. It is a good habit to get into because that way you don’t find out halfway through that you are short on one ingredient or another.
Even if you don’t use Scharffen Berger chocolate, make sure that you use one that is 70% cacao – the recipe was developed to take advantage of the specific attributes of that intensity of cacao. The percentage means that 70% of the chocolate is derived from chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa powder. The remaining 30% is made up of vanilla, sugar, and other ingredients. That is why the type of chocolate you use determines how “chocolaty” something tastes. The higher the cacao percentage, the more intense the chocolate flavor.
There is something else that you should consider before substituting a different chocolate. Because there are no standards in place, some manufacturers will use a higher percentage of cocoa butter, reducing the cocoa solids. This results in a chocolate that is still legally 70%, but may not be of the same quality as Scharffen Berger.
If you want to learn more from the chocolate virtuoso herself, Alice Medrich, take a look at this page on Scharffen Berger’s site. It offers you recipes and videos from Alice where she shares some of her secret tips to successful baking. Alice has spent the bulk of her career studying chocolate and how it interacts in all applications. She is an outstanding pastry chef and cooking teacher. If she is teaching in your area, I highly recommend you take a class from her.
The other way to learn from Alice is to work your way through her books. I guarantee you will learn more about chocolate than you ever realized you could. Any of her cookbooks will be a wonderful addition to your library, but my personal favorite is Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. I was astounded at the depth of Alice’s research and dedication to her favorite topic.
Try these Alice Medrich’s cookbooks:
Pure Dessert: True Flavors, Inspiring Ingredients, and Simple Recipes
The success of this cake depends in great part on using three different oven temperatures, stepping it down incrementally. Each temperature level works to set the structure and then finish the baking without over-cooking the outside of the cake. Preheating the oven 25°F higher than your initial temperature anticipates the loss of heat that happens when you open the door to put the pans in the oven. By the time you get them settled and the door closed again, the temperature can drop as much at 15°F to 20°F.
Once the oven is preheated, toast the almonds on a sheet pan until the aroma is noticeable, about 5 to 7 minutes if they are sliced, or 8 to 10 minutes if they are whole. If you are substituting a different nut, they may take a bit longer or less depending on their size and oil content. Shaking the pan halfway through is helpful to make sure they toast evenly. You can also toast them on top of the stove in a skillet if you prefer, but I think the oven gives you more evenly toasted nuts.
Using a springform pan and lining the bottom with parchment paper will make this cake much easier to handle. A springform pan is one where the bottom and the sides are separate pieces. The sides are held tight by a latch which, when loosened, allows you to easily remove the baked goods from the pan. In addition to this recipe, a springform pan is commonly used when making cheesecakes, tortes, quiches, and deep-dish pizzas, or anything that cannot or should not be inverted.
Not only is this cake perfect for people with gluten intolerance issues, but because there are no leavening ingredients in it, you can serve this at Passover as well. Personally, I would be delighted to have this every day of the year and that makes it perfect for Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Unless otherwise indicated always use “large” eggs in baking. The majority of cookbooks use this as the standard size. Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before whipping for the greatest volume. Because the only leavening for the batter is from the eggs, make sure you whip them long enough to incorporate as much air as possible and be gentle when folding in the other ingredients. You want to keep the batter as light as possible.
Kitchen Skill: How to Separate Eggs
Set two bowls on the counter. Crack one egg and, holding it over one of the bowls, gently separate the two halves of the egg, pouring the contents into one hand. With your fingers slightly separated, move the egg yolk back and forth between your hands allowing the egg whites to drip into the bowl. Gently set the yolk in the second bowl. Continue until all the eggs have been separated.
- 2 cups almonds, toasted and finely ground (use a food processor)
- 6 oz Scharffen Berger (70% Cacao) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup prepared espresso or double strength coffee
- 10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment. It is important that the oven be thoroughly preheated so that the cake gets a blast of hot air to start the baking.
- In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and coffee, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and ivory colored, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, two at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and airy, another 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the cooled melted chocolate.
- In a separate very clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. With the beater running, add 2 tbsp sugar and beat until glossy. Fold the ground almonds into the whites. Fold 1/3 of the chocolate mixture into the egg white mixture, to lighten it slightly. Add remaining chocolate mixture and fold in until nearly all the white streaks are gone.
- Pour into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350°F. Bake 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F and bake an additional 45 minutes.
- Turn the oven down to 300°F and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven, with the door ajar, for another 30 minutes.
- Cool on a rack. Remove the sides of the pan. Serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. Whipped cream is optional.
- You can also make a chocolate ganache glaze and use it to pour over the top or pour it next to the cake on the plate for puddle of happiness!
- Yield: about 10 servings