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.
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
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)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- 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.
- Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven and turn the oven heat up to 375°F. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly in order to level the batter.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes. The top might crack a bit; that's okay.
- Wet and slightly wring out a folded towel and place it on a smooth surface. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place it on the wet towel. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.