Eggs play an integral role in baked goods, from lightening texture to binding structure to creating loft to adding fat and flavor. For restricted diets like grain-free, eggs can be a meal-saver.
Grain-free dishes are so hot right now, but people forget that grain-free confections have been a norm in several cuisines for the mere fact that eggs + nuts + a little something sweet equal an excellent dessert! Just because you still eat and enjoy grains like wheat, rice, and quinoa, don’t think all these fancy “new” nut products aren’t for you. This cake is a perfect example. Pulling heavily from traditional European patisserie methods, this unleavened chocolate cake is great for any special occasion, or just because. And since there are no leavens at work (no baking powder, baking soda, or yeast) this cake is a swell choice for Passover, too!
Some bakers may be intimidated creating a cake without any of the standard butter, sugar, or flour components. And you do need to be aware of what you are doing to ensure a perfect cake. To help you avoid the inner shame of knowing you kinda maybe messed up the cake you’re about to serve, here are a few tips to ensure a rich and fluffy outcome.
- Chocolate is sensitive. Chocolate doesn’t like high heat or it will burn. Chocolate does not like water or it will seize. And there is no coming back from either of those. Some bakers like to melt chocolate in the microwave but I prefer to have an eye on my chocolate the whole time. Instead of microwaving, there are two great choices to carefully melt chocolate: a double-boiler or straight on the stove-top.Double-boilers are super easy to put together. Place about an inch of water in a pot and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Find a clean metal bowl that fits neatly over the pot, like a lid. Put the chocolate in the bowl, put the bowl over the simmering pot, and stir gently until all the chocolate is melted. The only word of warning I have is to not let that water get too hot. A faster boil produces more steam which can turn into condensation droplets in your bowl. And remember, chocolate does not like water. Any type of water. So keep it to a simmer.
If you are a bit more confident with your ability to keep an eye on things, throw that chocolate into a small pot and place it right on the stove over very low heat. If you remember to check it frequently, and stir it just as often, you’ll come out with perfectly smooth and melted chocolate. Trust me. And yourself.
- Eggs are interesting beasts. Half forgiving and down for anything, half sensitive and prone to over-reaction. Yolks are the forgiving team. Toss them in a bowl and start whipping and they’ll get light and fluffy and lemony-yellow as the dawn. You can even toss stuff in with them, like honey in this instance, and they won’t mind. True now, if you left them mixing for too long, they’ll lose some volume. But why would you do that? If you get called away from cake baking for more than 5 minutes, you’re going to turn off the mixer, right? (Right. You WILL do that.)Whites, on the other hand, need some babying. Stop paying attention to them and they’ll go from liquid to Styrofoam in a hot second. And don’t you dare let anything in that bowl with them, other than maybe some cream of tartar or some sugar if you are making meringues. Let some water sneak into the bowl, or a noticeable amount of egg yolks or fat, and you find yourself cracking a whole new set of eggs, plus rewashing and thoroughly drying your utensils.
So make it easy on yourself. When you are whipping egg whites, keep the egg whites clean and away from water, and use thoroughly cleaned and dried bowls and whisks. I once worked for a chef who insisted that whipping egg whites be started on the slowest speed in our mixer and to then increase the speed very gradually over time so the proteins could slowly untangle themselves from each other and then hook back up again much later. It took about 20 minutes. I found that ridiculous. Start slow so you don’t slosh egg whites all over. But don’t be afraid to crank up the speed. Just watch what is happening in the bowl and be ready to stop when the right volume and peak is reached.
Also, these whipped egg yolks and egg whites are providing a lot of the structure and bind and height here, so be gentle when folding and when transferring the cake batter into the pan. Don’t squish it down. Gently spread it around.
Paying attention to what you are doing is the best and simplest way to make a perfect cake 100% of the time. This holds true for all baking. It’s not necessarily that the recipe is complicated, it’s just that some ingredients require a watchful eye. But, heck, if it all goes south and the cake comes out flat, the rich chocolaty flavor and tender almond crumb will still be there, so just call it a torte and call it a day.