I appreciate diversity. I actually require diversity in every facet of my life – e.g. demographically, culturally, dietarily, in social circles, trail mix, and (of course) in dessert options. Following suit, I recently made these two flourless cakes for a dinner party and then subsequently to celebrate a lovely coworker’s birthday the next day – a total multitasking baking win for no leftovers! The first is a chocolate lover’s dream: a deceivingly light Nutella cake with hazenut dark chocolate and a rich ganache. The second: an airy cinnamon snacking cake made with almond flour, then topped with roasted almonds and dusted with spices. Both are gluten-free (’tis the craze these days, so let’s hop on that bandwagon), using nut flours that I whipped up in my mighty mighty Vitamix. All hail the all-powerful Vitamix!
The importance of diversity is really about balance – anything too homogenous automatically becomes uninteresting (and unappetizing – 50 filet mignons in an aluminum vat, gross). Also, I firmly believe that as a baker we can adopt the model that too much of a good thing – when accompanied by other good things – is never a bad thing. People appreciate their options!
Cake #1: Almond Cinnamon Cake
Adapted from Nigella’s iphone app Nigellissima (beautifully done, btw), also seen here.
8 egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing tin
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease the springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
- In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are opaque and start to hold their shape, then slowly add the sugar, whisking until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is thick and shiny. Add the almond essence and the clementine or orange zest. Then, in about 3 goes each, alternately whisk in the oil and the almond meal (mixed with the baking powder) until they are both smoothly incorporated into the meringue.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, then mix together the flaked almonds and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.
Bake for 35-40 minutes (though start checking at 30), by which time the top should have risen and be set and the almonds become golden, and a cake tester should come out clean, barring the odd almondy crumb.
- Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in its tin on a wire rack. Once it is no longer hot, spring open the sides of the tin, but don’t try to remove the cake from the base until properly cool.
- When you are ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar.
Cake #2: Nutella Cake
Adapted from here.
For the cake
6 large Eggs
1 pinch of Salt
125 g Unsalted Butter (softened)
400 g Nutella (1 large jar)
1 Tbsp of Frangelico liqueur
100 g ground Hazelnuts
100 g Dark Chocolate (melted)
For the icing
100 g Hazelnut (peeled weight)
125 ml Double Cream
1 Tbsp Frangelico liqueur or Water
125 g Dark Chocolate (chopped)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (degrees Celsius).
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico, egg yolks and ground hazelnuts and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.
- Fold in cooled, melted chocolate to the Nutella mixture, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of whisked egg white before gently folding the rest, bit by bit.
- Pour into a greased 23cm/ 9 inch round and lined springform tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others.
Make the ganache: put a heavy-bottomed saucepan onto the stove and add the cream, Frangelico (or water) and chopped chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted.
- Take it off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency (should be a smooth cream like texture).
Release the cooled cake from the mould carefully, leaving it on the base (as it is wet and heavy and will break). Slowly glaze the top of the cake with the chocolate ganache.
- Finish it all off by placing the toasted (and cooled) hazelnuts onto the cake.