Throughout Italy there are endless variations to this cake … the recipe here is my version of the chocolate torta found on the Amalfi Coastline of Campania which includes the holiday spots of Capri and Sorrento known as Caprese Torta and uses almond meal as the binding agent. But other regional variations use hazelnut meal, chestnut puree or even polenta (corn meal) as the substitute for gluten rich flour.
The primary thing that is common to all, is the use of fluffy egg whites to create lift and lightness to the cake – like the process by which a souffle will rise.
Whichever version you might seek to make, follow the basic rules and you will never be disappointed. It is decadent and delicious and sure to be a crowd pleaser … be it afternoon tea or an end of dinner dessert.
Makes – 8 to 10 serves (depends on the wedge size)
125g good quality dark chocolate
125g almond meal (or other meal)
4 eggs (at room temperature)
a small pinch of salt
125g – chopped nuts (pistachio is my preference but almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or macadamia also work)
butter for greasing cake tin,
icing sugar and cream or ice-cream for serving
Pre-grease a 20 cm spring form cake tin and dust with almond meal or other non-gluten flour.
Pre-heat oven to 160ᵒ C.
1. Place a saucepan with water onto the stove and allow to come to the boil.
2. Place the chocolate into a heat proof bowl which is larger than the saucepan and place it over the pot of boiling water, so it melts and softens (a bain-marie).
Do not fill the saucepan with more water than needed. the water must not touch the bottom of the bowl used to melt the chocolate – if it does the chocolate will overheat and become grainy.
3. Once the chocolate has melted remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the butter into the chocolate so it softens and melts completely. If the butter doesn’t melt easily place the bowl momentarily over the pot of boiling water and wait for it to disappear into the chocolate.
4. Next add the sugar and almond meal into the chocolate/butter mixture and stir until well combined. Set aside and move to step 5.
5. Crack the 4 eggs one at a time, separating the whites from the yolk. Ensure you place the whites in a very clean, dry bowl (they will be whisked), whereas the yolks go into the chocolate batter.
6. Mix the yolks through the chocolate batter so they are fully incorporated and then add the optional nuts if used.
7. Before whisking the egg whites add a small pinch of salt (this will help them stiffen) and whisk repeatedly until they form very stiff peaks.
8. Take a third of the egg white mixture and gently fold it into the chocolate batter until it combines. Repeat with another third of the egg whites and then the final third.
9. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 – 50 minutes. The cake is done when a skewer poked into the centre of the cake is clean when removed.
10. Allow cake to cool in tin for 30 minutes before removing from the tin.
11. Serve at room temperature with a scope of cream or ice-cream and a dusting of icing sugar.
If you wish to remove the cake more easily from the spring form tin, line it with baking paper rather than merely greasing and dusting the tin.
For those who have not noted the recipe is extremely simple to remember – everything is in equal ratios. Four egg yolks are roughly 125g as is 4 egg whites.
You can half, double or triple the recipe easily if you like, simply increase or decease the size of the cake tin and add or remove 15 minutes cooking time for each increase or decrease in size.
The cake will always fall once it cools but it will continue to be light and airy.