Credit: Photography: Earl Carter

Flourless chocolate torta caprese

Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.

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This dish is named after the island of Capri, like the salad of tomatoes and mozzarella, or the mid-calf pants, or the shoes. The torta caprese is the original flourless chocolate cake. There are different stories about how this happened. One story has a baker accidentally adding almond meal instead of flour to a chocolate cake, and the accident being well received. Another has a woman cooking for a gangster and becoming so perturbed about her dinner that she forgot to add flour to the cake she was making. In all of them, it is agreed the cake is a mistake.

The reason I come back to this recipe is its simplicity. It is a cake made with two bowls and a whisk. Eaten fresh, it is as good as any chocolate cake. The key, I think, is in undercooking it. Almonds are not forgiving when overcooked, and that is especially true in this cake.

For as long as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been making an almond-based chocolate cake. The almonds do a few things – they bring a great flavour to the chocolate and they seem to absorb moisture and expand. Not having flour also makes the cake lovely and delicate.

The cake doesn’t last well, so it is important to eat soon after making it. Because of its simplicity, it is best served unadorned with black coffee. At a stretch, one could also add some cream.

Freshly ground almonds are not essential but I find it helps to grind your own. The cake develops a stronger almond flavour and interesting texture when I grind fresh. Ground almonds are a cinch to make. If you have a food processor, simply pulse the nuts until they form a powder.

1 . Torta caprese

Serves 8-10

It is important that the chocolate be 70 per cent cocoa solids.

– 275g bitter chocolate, broken into pieces
– 250g unsalted butter, softened
– 230g granulated sugar
– 6 eggs, separated
– 250g almond meal

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Butter a 20-centimetre, round spring-release cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of baking paper.

To melt the chocolate, place the chocolate pieces in a stainless-steel bowl and place over a saucepan of gently simmering water until melted.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and light. Add the egg yolks one by one, then the ground almond and melted chocolate.

Beat the egg whites separately until they form soft peaks. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it a little, then fold this into the remaining egg whites.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until just set. It’s better for it to be slightly undercooked than overcooked, which will render it dry.

Test the cake by inserting a skewer; if the cake is cooked it will come out clean.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 5, 2015 as "Torta lesson".

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Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.