Torte caprese

As far as chocolate cakes go, this Elizabeth David-like torta caprese is the ultimate for me. Aside from whipping the whites, you only need a wooden spoon. It’s dark and not too sweet, which would detract from the richness of the cake. If you like, a grating of orange zest is particularly nice here too. To serve it, I like it just as it is, but you could add some lightly whipped, plain cream. Note that it is even better the next day.

Serves 8-12 in thin slices

  • 125 grams of almond meal (see note, below)
  • 125 grams of the highest quality dark chocolate that you are willing to use (I like 70% cocoa and will often add a little extra, about 180 grams)
  • 125 grams of unsalted butter, chopped
  • 125 grams of caster sugar (I like to cut this down to about 90 grams)
  • 3 eggs, separated and left to come to room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

Grease and line a 20cm/8 inch spring form cake tin (or one with a removable base). Heat oven to 170C.

For the almond meal, you can use store-bought if you like, but I prefer to buy whole almonds, blanch and peel them and then put them in the food processor to grind them to a fine, sandy texture. If you happen to like making almond milk at home, you can also save the almond meal from that process by keeping it in the freezer until moments like this.

In a double broiler/bain marie/a metal or glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Once melted, add the butter and remove from the heat, stirring with a wooden spoon (or silicon spatula) until it is completely smooth. Add the almond meal and the sugar. Once the mixture is tepid, add the egg yolks and stir with the spoon until it is combined.

In a separate bowl (use a metal, ceramic or glass bowl as opposed to a plastic one), whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until smooth, fluffy peaks begin to form. Fold these gently into the chocolate batter, then pour the smooth batter into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top of the cake appears dry. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out with a few crumbs attached but not appear to have wet batter on it. It is better to slightly undercook than slightly overcook this cake — overcooking leads to a decidedly drier cake, nothing like how this moist, dense cake should really be.

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