Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.
So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.
The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.
My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations
In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.
However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.
Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.
Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.
Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake
An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.
Serve with whipped cream
Flourless chocolate cake
- 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
- 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
- 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
- finely grated zest from half a navel orange
- 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
- Zest from half an orange
- 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside.
In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl.
Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate.
Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes.
Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated.
In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using.
Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.
Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving.
Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl.
Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries.
Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Is there such a thing as a healthy snack”? I am not talking about fruit and vegetables, more like a granola bar type of snack. They are so convenient to have for traveling, or just when you are on the go. Recently, I set out on a mission to discover recipes for homemade snack bars that taste great, are nutritious, and low in refined sugar. Not a snack bar that is as heavy as a door stop and tastes like cardboard, (the vegetarian baked goods of the early 70’s still haunt me), but something lighter for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
This all started because I made a pledge several years ago. I promised to myself that if there was a dessert or treat I really wanted to eat, like cookies, I would make it and not buy it. Store bought cookies are not allowed in the house. I do this to control my snacking binges and it really works. Phase two, of my pledge is to add more items on my list, like snack bars. Honestly, I haven’t bought them since I made the pledge, so I am not eating them. However, we need a better stock of snacks in our pantry, so I don’t binge on crackers or chips.
Over the past two weeks I have scoured the internet looking for solid recipes in the granola bar category. Each one had large amounts of sugar and they were all in “soft” snack bar variety. Don’t people want crunchy snack bars? Don’t people crave that crunchy texture and is one of the reasons why chips are so damn good? I like crunchy granola bars so I will table this quest for another day.
One recipe caught my attention from the cookbook “Life In Balance”, by Donna Hay. The cookbook features several snack recipes all made with whole foods and good health in mind. It is not a crunchy granola bar, but all the ingredients are nutritious and foods I enjoy. I choose the Cacao, Banana, Date, and Cashew Bars recipe to test today, because it meets all my requirements, except being crunchy. Another bonus, I had all the ingredients except the cashews. However, I did have a bag of walnuts for an easy substitution. Also, this recipe allowed me to use up some bananas that were getting too ripe.
What I like about this snack bar is there is no refined sugar, no flour, and no dairy. It is filled with natural cocoa powder, bananas, fresh dates, walnuts, and a little vegetable oil. The 4 wholesome ingredients get puréed in a food processor then baked until firm. They taste like a bittersweet fudgy chocolate brownie. The cocoa flavor stands out, but it is not as bitter because of the dates, bananas, and walnuts. I would like them to be a little denser with more variation in texture, but the taste is very pleasing. If you crave a sweet fix for your snacks and love dark chocolate, this is the snack for you.
More snack foods for a light meal or picnic
All the ingredients are nutritious in their own right, but mixed together they make a nutritious snack bar that won’t weight you down with extra fat and sugar. According to My Calorie Counter from Fitness Pal, each snack bar has 228 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, and 4 g fiber.
Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar
- 1/3 cup 35 g natural unsweetened cocoa
- 3/4 cup 180 g firmly packed chopped pitted fresh dates (9-10 dates)
- 1/4 cup 60 ml vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup 200 g chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup 200 g mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
- coconut flakes for sprinkling
Pre-heat the oven for 325°F (160°C). Line an 8 x 8 inch pan (20 cm x 20 cm) pan with parchment paper. Use two strips wide enough to cover the bottom of the pan and long enough to extend up and over the sides of the pan. One strip will crisscross the other, so all the sides of the pan are covered. This is so you can easily lift out the snack bars and cut them.
Place all the ingredients, expect the coconut flakes, in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Plop the cocoa, fruit and nut mixture into the parchment lined pan, then spread evenly across the bottom.
Sprinkle with the coconut flakes.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to touch. Set the timer for 35 minutes to check and gauge the progress. Continue baking as needed.
Cool completely in the pan. Remove the cocoa banana nut snack bar out of the pan by lifting the sides of the parchment paper and placing it on a cutting board. Make one slice across the middle, then six even slices across each half making 12 snack bars. Store the snack bars in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Will last for to one week.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Cranberry sauce is an essential Thanksgiving side dish. I am so accustomed to eating turkey with cranberry sauce it is hard to imagine serving turkey without it. Of all the side dishes made for this yearly feast, it is one of the easiest. The sauce takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare, then chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It is so quick and easy, I do not understand why more people don’t make it. The canned sauce is convenient, but there is no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce.
As a kid, I knew there must be a better alternative to the canned sauce. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mom proudly displayed the solid jellied cranberry sauce on its’ own plate. It’s cylinder shape and distinctive ribbed markings revealed its canned origin and was futile to disguise it. As each person reached over to slice off sections of the jellied cranberry cylinder, one never knew where it would roll. It slid around so much, we needed an extra utensil to hold it still. More times than not you heard the distinctive thwack of a knife hitting the plate when it slipped off the cranberry sauce. I never knew if it was going to slide away and knock over the gravy boat.
Passing the cranberry sauce around the table was challenging as well. It took adept balancing skills to keep it from rolling off the plate and landing on your lap. Every holiday as each family member carefully carved out their portion, I secretly chuckled to myself wondering if this was the year the cranberry sauce got away.
I am happy to say, eating canned cranberry sauce did not turn me off this condiment for good. I did like it, but I wanted something fresher. Once I was on my own, I did not waste time and quickly learned to make it from scratch. In fact, I learned how to make homemade sauce before I learned how to roast a turkey. In my opinion, homemade cranberry sauce is key to tying the whole meal together.
Whenever I host Thanksgiving it is for a large crowd of 30 family members. Everyone contributes a dish for this feast. The cranberry sauce must compliment every and any side dish in the buffet. As a result, my recipe does not have a lot of different herbs, spices or alcohol, but offers the classic pairing of tart cranberries with bitter-sweet orange zest and marmalade. This combination of bittersweet flavors goes with everything.
More holiday side dishes: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
I believe the original recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, probably around the early 1990’s. The publisher and author information are missing, but I believe this is an accurate guess since I subscribed to Bon Appetit at the time. I made one small change to the original.
The original recipe includes frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail. Unfortunately, finding frozen cranberry juice is getting harder and harder with each passing year. As a result, I make it one of two ways: reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice to one cup, or just add one cup of regular cranberry juice. Either way the cranberry sauce has a deep red color with tart cranberry flavor. If you can find frozen cranberry juice, feel free to use it.
I call it Triple C Cranberry sauce because it has three different cranberry ingredients, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, and cranberry juice. It also has three layers of orange flavorings, orange zest, orange juice and orange marmalade. Altogether these 2 x triple layers of cranberries and oranges, makes a tart and fruity cranberry sauce with a touch of sweetness for balance. It is not too thick or too thin, and spoons easily over your Thanksgiving meal. I promise, this cranberry sauce won’t roll away.
Triple C Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) cranberry juice, or frozen juice concentrate thawed
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
- 1- 12 oz (350 g) package of fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries
- 3 TB orange marmalade
- 2 TB orange zest
- 2 TB fresh orange juice
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
Add the cranberry juice and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and the dried cranberries to the juice. Stir and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 - 7 minutes. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reach the desired texture of popped cranberries to whole ones. I think it is nice to have an even ratio of both.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly combine.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a storage container and cool. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Stout Cake
- 1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout or your favorite stout
- 10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
- 2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tb vanilla extract
White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
- 7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate 30% cocoa butter
- 4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1- 225 g package cream cheese
- 1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
Stout Syrup (optional)
- 1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
- 1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
Stout Syrup (optional)
If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
Putting it all together
Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
(optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.