Otherwise known as the Torte Caprese, this brilliant make-ahead Italian Chocolate Almond Torte can now be your secret dessert weapon! Loaded up with almonds and dark bittersweet chocolate, this classic Italian delicacy arrives tableside with a flaky chocolate meringue top crust bursting with flavor.
Food Historians Unite With Food, Good Food! The Culinary Historians of Southern California (of which I am a proud member) join together each year for a potluck banquet based on historic themes. You might recall that I shared the recipe for Mrs. Roosevelt’s Clove Cake from a prior John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt Yosemite Dinner gathering. This year’s event flew under the banner, “A Journey to the Spectacular Island of Sicily!” and this special dessert hails from that event. How’s this for an amazing Sicilian banquet menu?
Cake Crush! When I say that this Sicilian cake may be “the one”, I think you know where I’m coming from. What this really means is that you simply must try this amazing (and completely decadent) flourless homemade chocolate cake. This torte (or torta, meaning “cake”) is no bigger than a crustless pie but it is quite rich with an amazing top layer of baked chocolate meringue that will send your guests to dessert giddiness at the culmination of a special dinner party.
Adriana’s Chocolate Almond Torte (Torta Caprese) Recipe:
Adapted from a recipe by, and used with permission from, Adriana’s Italian and Sicilian Cookies, Adriana makes Italian all-natural gourmet almond, fig, pistachio and sesame cookies that are baked-to-order in their bakery in Italy and shipped all over the world. Click >>here<< to see Adriana’s heavenly (real-deal) Italian cookies!
The Almond Favor-up Option: Since I hail from California’s Central Valley, where almond orchards are king, I always jump at the chance to serve fresh home-roasted almonds whenever possible. So I started this recipe by quickly blanching whole almonds in boiling water, plopped them into a colander to drain off the water, popped off the skins by pinching one side of each nut and then slow-roasted them in the oven on a cookie sheet pan (stirring occasionally) until they turned very lightly golden. Tah dah! (But you can buy blanched almonds at the market and start from there.)
Home Roasted Almonds in Jars! All packed up in pretty little jars, home-roasted almonds make a lovely hostess gift or kitchen gift for the holidays. I admit that I make almond milk from the saved almond skins, since the skins impart that same great almond flavor (and I can’t bear to throw the skins in the trash). I’ll show you exactly how to make these homemade special holiday kitchen gifts in an upcoming post.
Warning (or Highlight, as you see fit): Slow Food Project! For your first adventure baking this chocolate cake from scratch, you’ll want to set aside perhaps 30 to 45 minutes prep time — but you’ll have a fun DIY kitchen project on your hands (and the more you bake it, the more it becomes eazy-peazy (and the more fun you can have with flavor variations). This little cake requires grinding the almonds and then grinding up some bittersweet dark chocolate chunks separately in a food processor (or lots of hand-chopping works too). It also requires a long cooling time to achieve the perfect serving consistency — but that makes it the ideal bake-ahead cake that you won’t have to tackle on the day of a the cake event. Remember, this cake doesn’t require a traditional frosting so there’s no buttercream or fondant to mess with.
Baking Newbies You Can Do This Thing! Even young ones can do this by following the instructions carefully below ’cause I’m going to show you exactly how to bake this chocolate cake, step-by-step. Here’s Alexandria, my son’s girlfriend, trying her hand at folding egg whites into the batter as she prepares this recipe for her mom’s birthday party.
Some recipe modifications: Although the original recipe calls for various separations of the sugar (to use 1/3 cup with the almonds and 1/3 cup with the chocolate; often used by chefs to achieve a better grind), I removed these separate sugar portions because food processors seem to do a great grinding job and in order to achieve the correct quantities of chopped almonds. I placed all the steps in “prep order” and also added some options for flavoring this amazing torta in various ways, like, using Strega or Amaretto flavorings (even rum or brandy for a more European or American twang). This flavoring enhancement and variation on the almond grind (fine to slightly chunky) is where you can really go to town using your creative cheffing ideas.
Kick up the Kitchen Tunes Cause We’re About to Bake This Cake! This recipe makes about 8 pie-sized slices — so double it up in 2 pans for a larger crowd (or if you want second helpings).
Tools needed for the Italian Chocolate Almond Torte:
10″ x 3″springform pan with removable bottom
Small bowl (for melting butter)
Zesting tool or grater
Food processor (or lots of hand chopping with a sharp knife works too)
2 cups (for separating egg yolks and egg whites)
1 large bowl (for the main batter)
2 deep medium bowls (or wash between, for beating 5 egg yolks then 5 egg whites)
Electric mixer (for beating yolks and egg whites separately)
Measuring cups and spoons
Whisk (or fork)
Wire cooling rack
Optional: Cake lifting tool (to move the tender cake to the cake plate)
Optional: Small sifting tool (for powdered sugar topping)
Optional: 10″ doily for creating a powdered sugar pattern on top of the cake
Ingredients for the Italian Chocolate Almond Torte:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing pan
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (1 cube) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel from 1 fresh medium lemon
1-1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds, fine ground (but not as fine as almond flour)
8 ounces chopped bittersweet dark chocolate (not un-sweetened) (substitute about 1-3/4 cup bittersweet dark chocolate chips)
1 cup granulated sugar (separated as follows: 2/3 cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine quality almond extract (substitute: 1 whole teaspoon almond extract for a real “hit” of almond flavor or 1/2 teaspoon special Italian flavoring or 2 Tablespoons of Italian Strega liqueur or 2 Tablespoons of Amaretto…or rum or brandy…or?)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: 2 teaspoons (or more) sifted powdered sugar (for decoration)
Directions for Preparing the Italian Chocolate Almond Torte: Because this recipe is laid out below in “real-time”, you won’t have to go back up to the top to re-read different parts. That means that you can slap your smartphone or digital tablet on the kitchen counter and scroll through this recipe as you work along the various steps.
1. Pre-heat the oven: Pre-heat oven to 350°F, setting rack at center position.
2. Butter the pan: Butter a 10-inch diameter x 3″ high springform pan using:
about 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
3. Separate some eggs: Using 2 cups or small bowls, carefully separate and set aside:
5 large eggs
Tip: Separating the eggs and setting them aside at this early stage will alleviate some of the refrigerator chill to allow the eggs to rise a little higher when they are whipped.
4. Melt the butter: In a small bowl, use the microwave to melt, and then set side to cool to room temperature:
1/2 cup (1 cube) unsalted butter
Tip: You can also do this by melting the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
5. Zest a lemon: Use a zesting tool or grater to zest/grate and then set aside:
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (gently packed) from 1 medium fresh lemon
6. Rough-chop the chocolate: Use a knife to chop into small pieces (about 1/4″), and set aside:
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) dark chocolate
Tip: We used 1-1/2 packages of Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet baking chocolate or you could use about 1-1/3 cups bittersweet dark chocolate chips. If you use chocolate chips, you can skip this rough-chopping step.
Start Your (Food Processor) Engines, Please! A food-processor machine is a great tool for this cake but is not required if you have a sharp, flat-blade knife and a little patience.
Grind It, Grind it Good!:
1. Use a food processor to grind to produce:
1-1/2 cups fine-ground blanched almonds
Tip: Pulsing the food processor works well for this purpose.
Double Tip: Process until almonds are finely ground and just beginning to clump but not as fine as almond flour. (We like this cake with a little crunch so we didn’t super-fine grind the nuts.)
Triple tip: Measure the resulting ground almonds to ensure 1-1/2 cups, not more or less.
2. Transfer ground almonds to a large empty bowl.
3. Use the food processor to fine-grind (but not clumping):
the prepared chopped bittersweet dark chocolate
Tip: We used 2 packages of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Dark Baking Chocolate and it worked well. You may also substitute: about 1-1/3 cup bittersweet dark chocolate chips (we also tried the chips and they work great too, and they don’t need pre-chopping.)
4. Transfer the ground chocolate to the large bowl containing the chopped almonds.
5. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend into the almond-chocolate mixture:
2/3 cup sugar
Egg yolk mixture:
1. Using an electric mixer with a medium-sized, deep bowl, beat on high-speed until light and ribboned (about 5 minutes):
the prepared separated 5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Tip: Set the timer for this step to ensure that you have the proper amount of fluff going for the yolks.
2. When the yolks are whipped to perfection, beat into the egg yolk mixture on low-speed just until incorporated:
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, fine quality (substitute: 1 teaspoon almond extract for a real “hit” of almond flavor or 1/2 teaspoon special Italian flavoring or 2 Tablespoons of Italian Strega liqueur or 2 Tablespoons of Amaretto …or 2 Tablespoons of rum or brandy)
the prepared lemon peel
3. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the almond-chocolate mixture (now called “the batter”).
4. Using a spatula, fold into the batter:
the prepared melted butter (cooled to room temperature)
Egg white mixture:
1. Using clean dry beaters in a clean, medium-sized, deep bowl, beat on high-speed until stiff peaks are formed, but not dry (about 1 to 2 minutes):
the prepared separated 5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until thoroughly blended.
Pack it and bake it:
1. Gently transfer the final batter with a spatula to the prepared buttered springform pan.
2. Bake this cake on the center rack at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes.
Tip: The cake will rise during baking but will sink substantially to pie-size after removed from the oven. The meringue shell may crack, and that is fine and expected, but try not to touch the tender top of the cake to prevent additional cracking.
The Long Cool Down:
The cake is not ready to serve until it is thoroughly cooled down for at least one hour, preferably longer, or until the next day. So…cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour.
You will notice that the cake will sink considerably and the texture will firm as it cools and you will also notice that the layers have separated during baking so that the nuts and chocolate are on the bottom and the top is a nice golden brown lightly-chocolate meringue. The height of the cake will be similar to a pie with that traditional Italian torte look.
After the cake has cooled for an hour, slide a knife around the inside of the spring-form pan sides to loosen, then fully open/release the spring clip of the pan. You may leave the cake on the flat bottom of the springform cake pan for decoration prep or for serving. To remove the cake from the bottom flat pan to a cake-serving dish, when it is thoroughly cooled, slide a long knife carefully around the bottom of the pan to release the bottom of the cake from the pan disc and use a very large spatula (or 2 spatulas) or, better yet, a cake-lifting tool to slide the cake carefully over the to a waiting cake platter.
Decorate and serve:
Sift a little powdered sugar over the cooled cake or decorate the top of the cake by sprinkling powdered sugar over a large doily (we used a 10″ foil doily with a full cut-out pattern throughout).
Remove the doily to display the powdered sugar pattern. You can brush off the doily around the edges and place it under the cake for presentation for a tiny showing of gold around the edges of the cake (since the cake shrinks a bit at the edges when baked and a 10″ doily should peek a tiny bit at the bottom). Here’s Alexandria’s creation for her mum’s birthday party. Isn’t it cute?
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream or let it take center stage on its own.
Perhaps you’ll want to serve an excellent cup of Italian espresso with this dessert, or an amazing dark-roast coffee or even a fine Italian after-dinner drink (digestivo). Ch-ching! You’ve got a cake party in the house!!
Thank you for joining us on this kitchen DIY baking project. I do hope you’ll let me know how you craft your torta. If you have some great ideas for adding to the flavor quotient, please share your ideas with us in the Comments section.
You may also enjoy reading:
Betty’s Old-fashioned Layer Cake (bakethiscake.com)
Heirloom Custard Frosting Recipe (bakethiscake.com)
Bake This Bread by Following the Photos (bakethisbread.com)
Mrs. Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Pound Cake (bakethiscake.com)
Homemade Maraschino Cherries (bakethiscake.com)