So I’ve recently come out of the closet and confessed that I am a secret blogger. It was a huge thing to put myself out there and tell everyone what I’m doing, I’m not particularly comfortable in the limelight. Unless I’ve had a bottle of prosecco, but that’s another story… Surprisingly, people have been amazingly supportive, to my face anyway. I’m not sure what I expected, to be honest, but certainly not the lovely reaction I have had. The other thing I didn’t expect was for people to actually want to cook my recipes and ask me for recommendations!!
This morning, a Blog Fan (OK, it was my best friend from school) asked for a lactose-free gluten-free dessert she could make for family gatherings as she has a pesky allergic relative. I can’t resist a bit of bait like that and immediately the cogs were turning. The main challenge, as I saw it, is what can you make as a one-off if you are not intolerant yourself? Something that doesn’t involve you buying weird allergy-friendly ingredients that are expensive and will lurk in your cupboard taking up valuable biscuit space for the next 6 months. And, it needs to be tasty enough for the non-lactose or gluten dodgers to enjoy it and not feel cheated out of a good pud.
So here it is, a traditional Italian Chocolate Torta Caprese. This is a traditional chocolate cake from the island of Capri, made with dark chocolate and ground almonds. It is really easy to make, delicious, rich, chocolatey and moist. And, mainly, something I always love in free-from recipes, is its not a substitute. It’s a stand-alone gorgeous cake that was supposed to be made this way, not a list of substitutions that make it almost as nice as it should be. It does contain sugar, but I have reduced the quantity so it’s not too sweet, and, considering the rest of the cake consists of nuts and eggs, it packs quite a protein punch so shouldn’t hit your blood sugar too hard.
Now, according to my extensive research (google) there seem to be two different ways to make a Torta Caprese. You can chop the chocolate very finely so that this is a marbled, fudgy, choc chip sort of affair, or melt it. The first time I made this, I chopped it, second time I melted it and much preferred that option. The third time, I did what any sensible person would do and did both! Amazing!
Traditionally, this is dredged with icing sugar but I thought that was a bit dated, plus icing sugar isn’t the healthiest option. Instead, I dusted over a little cocoa and made some dark chocolate curls to scatter over the top. You can never have enough chocolate! In fact, if I was making this for a dinner party I would probably add an extra 25g of chopped dark chocolate, but that would make it very rich, be warned!!
I’m going to experiment with this recipe. I have a feeling it would be beautiful with ginger or organge flavoured dark chocolate or made with half ground hazelnuts/half almonds.
INGREDIENTS (makes 24cm round cake, serves about 10)
200g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 70% dark)
250g ground almonds
5 large organic eggs
175g sugar (I used unrefined dark muscavado as its less processed and nice and fudgy, but any sugar would be fine)
100g coconut oil OR 100ml olive oil (or melted butter if you can have it) plus extra for oiling tin.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
cocoa for dusting (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 170C fan. Generously oil and line a 24cm round tin with baking paper.
2. First, if you can be bothered with this part, make your chocolate shavings. Turn large bar of chocolate over so smooth side is facing upwards, pull a large knife firmly towards you, the chocolate should curl up. Keep going until you have a handful or so. Set aside in a cool place. Alternatively, skip to next step.
2. Chop 50g of the chocolate finely (see picture above). I chopped some very finely and left some chocolate-chip sort of size so there was a mixture of textures. You could also pulse it in a food processor.
3. Melt 150g chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave. Once melted, add coconut or olive oil. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, separate eggs into two bowls. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk whites until they form stiff peaks.
4. With the same whisk (you don’t need to clean it in between so long as you have whisked whites first) beat yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. Add vanilla essence and salt. Mix in tepid (it mustn’t be hot or it will scramble the eggs!) chocolate and oil mixture.
5. Next, mix ground almonds and then chopped chocolate into egg yolk mixture. Carefully fold in egg whites, about a third at a time, until fully incorporated. No streaks of egg white please!
6. Pour into tin and bake for about 50 minutes a skewer almost comes out clean and it is firm to the touch.
7. Allow cake to cool in tin. Once cool, serve as it is or dust with cocoa and pile chocolate shavings on top, if using.
Enjoy on its own or with cream/soya/ coconut cream. This cake just gets better and better as it gets more moist after a day or two thanks to the almonds, so it’s great to make in advance.