A dense, delicious, intensely chocolate cake. Serve as is or accompany with whipped cream, frozen yogurt, or ice cream. The origins for this cake are certainly European, but exactly were remains unclear. I found one version, gâteau au chocolate et aux amandes, in Elizabeth David’s book French Provincial Cooking. An internet search brought up multiple listings for an Italian version, La Torte Caprese. And I found a third version, pastel de chocolate alemendras, in Claudia Roden’s recent book The Food of Spain. These versions all use bar chocolate. My version uses high fat cocoa powder (20-25%) because, in my opinion, cocoa powder is easier to source and easier to work with. Just don’t use Dutch Process cocoa powder because the process changes the acid base balance and may keep the eggs from setting.
4 extra large eggs
7 tablespoons / 100 g butter
1 cup / 100 g cocoa powder
7 tablespoons / 100 ml strong coffee
1 cup / 100 g almond flour
½ cup / 100 g white sugar
⅛ teaspoon / 0.4 g salt
a spoonful or two of brandy
Bring butter and eggs to room temperature before starting. Assemble one large stainless steel bowl for egg whites, one medium mixing bowl, one small mixing bowl for egg yolks, and one 8 inch (20cm) high sided cake pan. An electric hand mixer helps immensely. Wash all equipment, utensils, and bowls in hot soapy water before starting. Line the bottom of cake pan with parchment paper. Make coffee and put aside to cool. Preheat oven 325°F / 160°C. Measure or weigh out sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder, and butter.
Start by melting butter in double boiler or small pan sitting in a larger pan of gently boiling water. Stir ground almonds into melted butter and add a pinch of salt. Then, using the medium mixing bowl, dissolve the cocoa powder in the cooled coffee. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons brandy as needed ensure the cocoa is completed dissolved. The mixture should resemble a very thick paste and will form a ball.
Now incorporate the cocoa-coffee mixture into the butter-almond mixture. Keep stirring until the mixtures are thoroughly incorporated and become very smooth. Do not let the temperature go above 125°F / 50°C. Transfer back to medium bowl and set aside to cool. Separate egg whites from egg yolks. Using the electric mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar in small mixing bowl until yolks froth up and turn pale yellow. Fold egg yolk mixture into cooled chocolate-butter-almond mixture.
Finally whip the egg whites into a foam that holds a soft peak but does not look dry. Remember egg whites whip best at room temperature in a stainless steel bowl. Use electric mixer with the balloon whip at high speed. Both over beating and under beating produce lower volumes. Once the egg whites are whipped, move fast because whites start to soften as soon as you stop beating. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture a third at a time using a spatula and a cutting motion. Fold only until no visible streaks of white remain. Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
Place cake in non-convection oven and bake until the sides are set, the center is slightly soft, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Usually takes somewhere between 35 minutes and 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, remove from pan, and transfer to a plate. Hold in the refrigerator or freeze for future use. Bring cake to room temperature and dust with grated orange peel or powdered sugar before serving.
As one of my dietitian colleagues shared with me in a moment of candor “The last think I want to know when I order dessert is how many calories are in a chocolate mousse!” Many people feel this way. So if you are one of those people don’t want to know, read no farther.
There is another way to look at the situation. Indulgences are a significant source of calories and knowing the count enables you to manage the impact. This cake is made with whole, minimally processed ingredients and provides nutritional value as you can see referenced below. The problem is the calorie density. No more, no less than any other chocolate cake out there, but still significant. For smaller portions, divide cake in 10 pieces at 250 calories each. For larger portions, divide cake in 6 pieces at 410 calories each. In my experience, most people just want to enjoy, so when I serve this cake I keep the numbers to myself.
Per Serving (80g): Calories 310, Fat 22g, Saturated Fat 9g, Sodium 65mg, Carbohydrate 22g, Fiber 5g, Protein 8g. Excellent source fiber and magnesium (cocoa, almond flour). Good source protein (eggs, almond flour), vitamin A (butter), vitamin E (almond flour), iron (cocoa). Cocoa is a natural source of flavonoids. See nutrition label per serving for fat and saturated fat because values exceed reference limits.