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Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

5 stars based on 8 votes


I’m in charge of dessert for Passover every year so I’ve made my fair share of flourless chocolate cakes. This one, adapted from Maida Heatter’s Cakes, is my all-time favorite. Originally called the Queen Mother’s Cake (it’s a long story), the cake is Heatter’s most popular recipe ever. It’s made with ground almonds instead of flour and frosted with a decadent chocolate ganache, making it rich, elegant and surprisingly light.


Even though it’s fancy and made with nuts, kids love it. As you can see, my son has been enjoying it as a snack cake all week long!


There aren’t that many ingredients in this cake, which makes it look simple but I’ll be honest: there are a lot of steps! It’s not hard to make but it does take a few hours start to finish. I think it’s worth it! Here goes…

Begin by buttering a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. Line the pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the pan with matzo meal (if making for Passover) or fine bread crumbs so the cake won’t stick. Next, toast and grind the almonds, separate the eggs and melt the chocolate in the microwave.


Next, beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the melted chocolate and ground almonds. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the chocolate mixture.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake Batter

Bake the cake for about one hour and ten minutes, then let the cake cool. It will fall in the center as it cools; that’s okay — the next step is to cut off the edges of the cake to make it flat.


Next, make the frosting.


Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the instant coffee powder. Off the heat, stir in the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Let the ganache thicken for 10-15 minutes, then pour it over top of the cake. Use a thin spatula to smooth it over the top and down the sides. Serve with fresh berries, sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or any combination.


Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Servings: Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10-12
Total Time: 3 Hours


For the Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • Handful fine dry breadcrumbs, matzo meal or gluten-free substitute (for dusting the pan)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (best quality, such as Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the Ganache Frosting

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (best quality, such as Ghirardelli)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the almonds in a single layer on the prepared pan and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the almonds are lightly colored and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9'' x 3'' springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with the fine bread crumbs (or matzo meal); rotate the pan several times to spread evenly, then invert over the sink and tap lightly to shake out any excess crumbs. Set the prepared pan aside.
  4. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 75% melted. Stir and let the residual heat melt the chocolate until completely smooth. Set aside until tepid.
  5. Place the almonds and ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve remaining ½ cup sugar) in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. (Reserve the parchment paper from the nuts for icing the cake.) Process until the nuts are finely ground, stopping the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides. You should process for about one minute total. The mixture will be a little pasty but should not be the consistency of a nut butter. Set aside the ground nuts.
  6. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining ¼ cup sugar) and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed, add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.
  7. Now, the whites should be beaten in the large bowl of the mixer. If you don't have an additional large bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters.
  8. In the clean bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Continue to beat until the whites hold stiff peaks when the beaters are raised. Do not overbeat.
  9. Stir a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle more than necessary.
  10. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly in order to level the batter.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F, then reduce the temperature to 325°F and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes. The top might crack a bit; that's okay.
  12. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place it on a rack. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes.
  13. Release and remove the sides of the pan (do not cut around the sides with a knife—it will make the rim of the cake messy). Now, let the cake stand until it is completely cool.
  14. The cake will sink a little in the middle as it cools. Use a long, thin, sharp knife (I prefer serrated) and level the top. It will seem like you're cutting off a lot; don't worry about it. The finished cake should be about 1-1/2-inches high. Brush away any loose crumbs. Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining.
  15. The cake is now upside down; this is the way it will be iced. Place 4 strips of the reserved parchment paper (each about 3'' x 12'') around the edges of a cake plate. With a large, wide spatula, carefully transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the paper all around (in order to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake).
  16. To make the ganache frosting, heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it boils. Add the espresso or coffee powder and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and remove from the heat. Stir until all the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the ganache stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
  17. Pour the ganache slowly over the top of the cake. Using a long, narrow metal spatula, smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little runs down the sides of the cake (not too much—the icing on the sides should be a much thinner layer than on the top). Smooth the sides with the spatula, then remove the parchment liners.

Reviews & Comments

  • Hi, l don’t see anywhere in the recipe description where to use the sugar, salt and lemon juice???
    Did l miss something?

    - Melinda on August 15, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Melinda, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, you can click the “recipe” button right under the recipe title. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

      - Jenn on August 15, 2016 Reply
  • This cake looks delicious for Father’s Day! My family loves almond flavor, so I’m wondering if there’s enough almond flavor from the ground almonds or whether almond extract can be added? Thanks for your perfect recipes!

    - Andy on June 16, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Andy, I think you’ll be happy with degree of almond flavor with the recipe as is. I don’t think it’s necessary to add almond extract.

      - Jenn on June 16, 2016 Reply
      • Thank you, Jenn! Just one more question — do you think almond meal can be used to coat the cake pan instead of matzo/breadcrumbs?

        - Andy on June 18, 2016 Reply
        • Yes, I think that should work Andy!

          - Jenn on June 18, 2016 Reply
  • how many days in advance can you make this cake and how do you store it? Thank you

    - harriet on April 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Harriet, you could make it up to about 2 days in advance and you can just store it covered on your kitchen counter. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on April 21, 2016 Reply
  • We have a tree nut alergy in our family. I was wondering if this delicious cake can be made with Hazelnuts instead of almonds. If so, would the quantity remain 11/2 cups?

    - Tzipi on January 16, 2016 Reply
    • Tzipi, I think the same quantity of hazelnuts would work well, just be sure to rub off the skins (they are bitter). Here’s how. Hope everyone enjoys, and please let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on January 17, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    How far ahead can you bake this cake and can you freeze it?

    - Rose Lynn Scott on September 8, 2015 Reply
    • I haven’t actually tried freezing this cake but it should work (it will keep well wrapped for a few months) — but I definitely wouldn’t frost it until you are ready to serve.

      - Jenn on September 10, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    A fantastic cake…served it at a Labour Day family dinner and it was a hit. Even non-cake / dessert eaters were going back for a second piece! The cake does take a long time to make, but it completely worth the effort.

    - Steven on September 7, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    The cake was amazing! But I suspect there is more we need to know about the ganache, especially how to stop it splitting. Thanks, love your site.

    - Diana on June 13, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Diana, Sounds like your ganache may have gotten too hot. Did you remove it from the heat right after you added the chocolate?

      - Jenn on June 14, 2015 Reply
  • Hi Jen
    Looks like a fabulous recipe. What changes and cooking times would I ues to make cupcakes instead of cake. Thank you for any help you can give! Anne

    - Anne on May 26, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Anne, That’s a tough one — I’ve never made this cake as cupcakes but I would guess the cook time would be about 25 minutes.

      - Jenn on May 28, 2015 Reply
  • I will be making the cake and frosting the day before it is served. Does it need to be refrigerated?

    - Judy on April 2, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Judy, No, it’s fine to leave it out at room temp.

      - Jenn on April 2, 2015 Reply
  • Hi,
    Is it possible to make the ganache without coffee grinds as we don’t like coffee or coffee flavored desserts?


    - Michaela on March 31, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Michaela, Yes, It’s fine to just leave it out :)

      - Jenn on March 31, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Love this! It’s a Passover must and a favorite of my sister with Celiac disease.

    - Blair on March 19, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Lovely way to please your ‘gluten-free’ guests without risking flavor and texture. Divine! I have substituted toasted ground pecans for the slivered almonds. Also I nut up the sides of the cake after the glaze sets. Decorating the top with a thin drizzle of white or milk chocolate and then combing adds to the visual appeal. I give it a dollup of whipped cream & raspberries to brighten the cheer!

    - Georgianna Goetsch on December 7, 2014 Reply
  • Jen,
    I would love to make this cake but I do not have slivered almonds — only a massive amount of sliced almonds. Do you have any idea how many cups of sliced almonds I would need to use??
    Thank in advance for your time. I love you recipes!!

    - Ashlea on November 23, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Ashlea, Thank you! So glad you’re enjoying the recipes :) I actually think the quantity would be about the same; just watch the baking time as the sliced almonds will cook faster. Please let me know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on November 24, 2014 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Hi Jenn!
        Thanks for your quick reply. So I did make it and used approximately the same amount of almonds. The cook time was maybe a touch less than described. It was delicious and everyone was giving it rave reviews!
        Thank you!

        - Ashlea on November 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn!
    I made this cake for a birthday party and this was the best chocolate cake I have ever had. – Raquel

    - Raquel on November 18, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent chocolate cake recipe. Just made it tonight 6/17/14 nice rich flavor and very easy to prepare. I have to commend the way the recipe is written because it makes it so easy to follow. I will be making this again and again. I am very excited to try some more recipes from this site. It will be very easy to give this a 5 star rating!

    - Richard Zwick on June 18, 2014 Reply
  • This turned out fabulous. Maida Heatter is my most favorite bakers so this was perfect. I planned to use Callebaut chocolate but surprisingly couldn’t locate any. I used Guittard instead with a low % cacao semisweet for the cake and a higher % cacao for the ganache.
    Really wonderful!

    - Kim on April 28, 2014 Reply
  • This cake is excellent and turned out exactly as in the photos. If you have a hand mixer and a stand mixer, you can use the former for beating the egg whites in a metal bowl so that you do not need to disturb the stand mixer bowl and its contents. You can also skip the towel thing and just cool the cake on a regular rack. Instead of using parchment to prevent the icing from reaching the plate, you can use short sheets of waxed paper or, if you’re careful, you can even use plastic wrap as I did. Finally, I took a serrated cake decorator (looks like a plastic ruler with teeth on the side) and I twirled it around the top of the ganache for a nice pattern. For cutting, a large serrated bread knife works great. We made Passover dishes, including this one, for Jewish friends staying with us during the holiday. Over the weekend, the four of us could not get enough of this cake.

    - Baker on April 21, 2014 Reply
  • Hi

    This is my first Seder where I’m doing all the preparation. I just placed this cake in the oven to cook. I looked online at various recipes before making this one. In one recipe that I looked at, it called for orange zest to be added. I added a small amount to the top before cooking. I’m excited about doping this Seder this year.

    - Bette on April 17, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Bette, Chocolate and orange are a great combination. Please let me know how it turned out!

      - Jenn on April 17, 2014 Reply
  • Excelente

    - daly on April 14, 2014 Reply
  • Jenn: I would love for my slices to look as perfect as the one in your photo. Can you share your technique for slicing the frosted cake?

    - Liesel on April 14, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Liesel, This cake slices easily. Just wipe the knife in between slices :)

      - Jenn on April 14, 2014 Reply
  • Looks delicious, if i use almond meal/flour instead of grinding up almonds myself, how much should i use?

    - jen on April 11, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Jen, I haven’t measured it myself but another reader googled the question and the response was 3/4 cup, which sounds about right. Please let me know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on April 12, 2014 Reply

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