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.
Looking over my blog posts I felt I needed some more dessert recipes, especially cake recipes. It is always good to collect dessert recipes ranging from easy to more challenging that you feel comfortable with. To add to my collection, I set out to publish a post for a yellow cake with chocolate ganache recipe today, but things did not work out as planned.
It all started when I made a cake from a recipe from Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar. Baking with less sugar is a goal of mine and a personal passion for Joanne Chang because her husband does not tolerate sugar well. I found, with this recipe, that just because there is less refined sugar does not mean it is low in fat. Quite the contrary.
Her cake was lovely, but the ganache frosting was an epic fail. Ganache is sometimes temperamental depending on the type of chocolate one uses. From my experience ganache sets easily by cooling it on the counter. This time something was off. Everything was fine until I put the ganache in the refrigerator as directed to set the ganache. This was the catalyst that turned everything upside down. The ganache hardened so much I could not penetrate the surface with a spoon. Almost as hard as a bar of chocolate. I whipped it with my hand-held mixer and it looked like seized chocolate mixed with over-whipped cream. It was awful.
Ughhh! I blame it on the butter. Immediately I made a second batch of ganache, without refrigerating it, and finished frosting the cake. Unfortunately, I did not love it. The ganache was very bitter, and I did not love the texture. Also, after a couple of hours the cake dried out.
Instead of coming up with a new layer cake recipe, I decided to put together a post with links to some of my dessert recipes. Also included are a couple of links to dessert recipes from other websites. Everything in one place for easy access.
The spring is a time of celebration whether for graduations, new beginnings, and major life events. Make your celebrations special by making a homemade dessert. Here is a collection ranging from quick and easy to involved. All are tested and delicious.
Dessert Recipes for Cake
Nifty Cake made with a sponge cake and whipped cream frosting with fresh fruit. I used to make this for my Dad’s birthday cake in July. Berries are available now, although not quite in season in my area, so instead of peaches, make the cake with strawberries and or blue berries. It is a cake version of strawberry shortcake and always a crowd pleaser.
If you want a gluten free cake, I have a Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with gluten free oat flour instead of all-purpose flour.
For a special occasion, like for a bridal shower, birthday or graduation, this recipe for Pink Champagne Cake is lovely. My recipe differs from the traditional recipe because I made it with an Italian buttercream not with the traditional American buttercream. Pink champagne cake has a subtle strawberry and champagne flavor that grows on you. I love this cake and can’t wait for a special occasion to make it again. Then again, why wait? My recipe is adapted from the cookbook American Cake by Anne Byrn.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a delicious chocolate cake made with chocolate chili stout. You won’t necessarily taste the stout, but it makes the chocolate more enhanced. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is to die for especially with the chocolate stout glaze.
If a simple chocolate cake is what you are looking for, an old standby for me is Decadent Chocolate Cake by the Silver Palate.
This recipe from Fine Cooking is the one I should have published today because I have made it on several occasions. Four Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream. This cake is a yellow cake with raspberry jam and chocolate buttercream frosting. It is very impressive looking even though it is made with your basic cake components. You will have to click-through a couple of links to the yellow cake and chocolate buttercream frosting.
Dessert Recipes for Pies
On this blog I have a couple of recipes for galettes and one crust-less apple pie. Clearly, I need to make some more. Personally, I love the ease of galettes especially during the summer months. You can use the galette recipes as a base and substitute with seasonal fruit. Lemon plums are in season now and taste great in a galette made with mixed berries. Or make a galette with apples and dried apricots.
For a gluten free pie try Double Coconut Pie. This is like eating a giant macaroon cookie.
Other Dessert Recipes
For the Nutella lover in the family, Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme. This is my husband’s favorite dessert. Smooth and silky with a little kick of sriracha with the chocolate.
For a refreshing custard, Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta. Instead of figs you can substitute pears, or caramelized citrus. The panna cotta has a lovely tang from the yogurt and is silky smooth. This is a gelatin dessert, so it is not vegetarian.
Peaches and Berries with Bourbon Sabayon Traditionally sabayon is made with champagne or Marsala wine, but for this recipe I made it with bourbon to pair with the peaches. Sabayon is an elegant dessert made with whipped eggs combined with whipped cream. Sabayon should not be confused with Zabayon, a similar dessert made from whipped eggs, Marsala and served warm.
Lemon Mousse is one of my favorite desserts. This recipe is very light and airy from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts. This mousse is perfect for this time of year when we are between winter and spring fruit availability.
Ever since I first made a pavlova, I put this dessert in the Five Star category. A classic dessert like early Hollywood actresses such as Catherine Deneuve and Grace Kelly It is exquisite with exceptional taste. Here is a recipe for Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit sauce. You can get the passion fruit pulp at your grocery store located in the Latin American food section of the frozen foods aisle.
Try making a vegan pavlova using Aquafaba Meringue with berries and coconut whipped cream. This recipe is from one of my first recipe posts when after three trials I could not whip coconut milk for the life of me. Since then, I have made whipped cream from the fat of full fat coconut milk with great success, especially when using Trader Joe’s brand.
My promise to myself and my readers is, I will post nothing on this website that I am not satisfied with. Even though my son and husband thought there was nothing wrong with the cake, I just did not love it. I did not feel this was the type of cake that people will find irresistible and sneak in a slice for a midnight snack.
On the other hand, the above recipes are tried and true. I am looking forward to a new season and learning new dessert recipes to share with you.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
One of my pet peeves is how early product commercialization for the winter holidays begins. Just last week, when I walked through the electronic doors of a grocery store, the potent artificial scent of cinnamon pine cones accosted me. These pine cones were prominently on display at the entrance of the store. Why now? Is there really going to be a run on scented pine cones that you need to start selling them in August? I did not see pumpkins for sale, so why are scented pine cones available now? Instead of pine cones, grocery stores should feature the best produce that is in season now, like figs.
I am pushing figs for several reasons, they are delicious, can be prepared for any type of meal, and I believe they are exquisite. In the Northeast US, figs have two short seasons in early summer and in late summer. In places like California, the season extends over the course of the summer. So, get them while you can because they will disappear soon.
Eat them ripe and fresh as is, or serve with any number of cheeses. Figs and cheese are a classic pairing. I particularly enjoy figs with blue cheese or goat cheese. The sweetness of the fig mingles nicely with the sharp flavors of each cheese. Another great pairing is fig jam and brie. Figs are also delicious for dessert in cakes and pastries like an almond and fig tart. Or, make figs for a savory sauce for pork.
I wanted to make an easy and elegant dessert and decided to simmer the figs in a simple syrup with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and black pepper. Along with the spiced figs, I made a yogurt panna cotta. Together, the figs and panna cotta created an exquisite dessert with creamy, tangy and warm flavors. The silky texture of the panna cotta is so smooth and nicely contrasts with the vivid pink color and warmth of the spices in the sauce. I realize I complained about the cinnamon scented pine cones earlier, but this sauce has a natural cinnamon infusion along with other spices. It has just enough spice for the early fall. What is great about this simple syrup recipe is you can use whatever spices you like. Freshly grated nutmeg, allspice, star anise, thyme, and rosemary are all wonderful choices to infuse this light fig sauce.
Along with the fig sauce, panna cotta is one of the easiest desserts to make and has a lusciously silky texture. My recipe is based on one from Food and Wine magazine. There are no eggs, just cream, yogurt, sugar, and gelatin. You can adjust the flavor of the panna cotta with a number of sweeteners and spices. Because sugar is not important to the structure of panna cotta, it is easy to vary the amount of sugar when you make it. You can adjust the amount depending upon how sweet your sauce or fruit is.
I am always looking for ways to use my homemade yogurt, so I included yogurt in my recipe. If you do not like yogurt, you can use a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream. I have also seen recipes for using goat cheese, yogurt, and milk. Or, use a plant based milk product such as almond or coconut milk. I have read from TheKitchn, that unflavored Vegan Jel by Natural Desserts works very nicely for panna cotta. Currently, Vegan Jel by Natural Desserts is unavailable on Amazon. However, other vegan gelatin alternatives are available. Also, I read Whole Foods carries Vegan Jel. If anyone has used it I would love to know how you like it.
The most difficult thing when making panna cotta is unmolding it from your ramekins or cups. I recommend a ramekin with smooth sides as it is easier to run a knife around the edge. Also recommended, is a light coating of canola or vegetable oil. The oil and a quick dunk in a warm bath will eventually release the panna cotta from the dish to present on a plate. Or, forget about unmolding it and serve it directly in the container you set it in.
Save the scented pine cones for when it is cold enough to build a fire in the fireplace and threatening to snow. Now is the time to set our sights on fresh produce, recently harvested and ripe. Fresh figs are a real treat so get them while you can.
Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta
Yogurt Panna Cotta
- Canola or vegetable oil
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 2 1/4 tsp 7 g
- 2 TB cold water
- 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
- 1/3 cup 68 g granulated sugar
- 1/2 - 1 tsp real vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped
- 1- 17.6 oz 500 g tub Greek yogurt, about 2 cups
- 1/3 cup 36 g walnuts halves
- 1/2 cup 100 g granulated sugar
- 1 cup 250 ml water
- 3 whole cloves
- 1/2 stick cinnamon
- 1- inch 2.54 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
- 3 black peppercorns
- 1/8 tsp anise seed
- 12 fresh figs
Yogurt Panna Cotta
If you are planning to unmold the panna cotta, lightly grease the sides and bottoms of 6 - 1/2 cup (4 oz /125 ml) ramekins. Set aside. No need to do this step if you are keeping the panna cotta in the serving container.
Add the gelatin and 2 Tb cold water to a small bowl. Let the gelatin rest to soften for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan add the cream, sugar, vanilla or vanilla bean, and bring to a slight simmer Once the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and add the gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is melted.
Pour the yogurt into a medium mixing bowl and whisk out any lumps. If using, remove the vanilla bean. Slowly add the cream into the bowl with the yogurt. Stir, or whisk, as you add the cream to help temper the yogurt.
Once combined, pour the yogurt mixture into the greased 1/2 cup ramekins, or other serving containers and refrigerate, uncovered, at least 3 hours until set. It should look and feel solid with a little bit of jiggle. Once the panna cotta is set, cover each dish with plastic wrap until ready to serve.
Heat an 8-inch (20 cm) skillet over high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, but not smoking, add the walnut pieces and toast until the oil releases. Keep the walnuts in motion, by stirring them or flipping the nuts in the pan like a pro. You will know the walnuts are toasted when you see a slight sheen on the pan’s bottom surface and on your walnuts. Also, the aroma of the walnuts will be slightly more pronounced. Be careful not to burn the walnuts, or they will taste bitter. Remove the walnuts immediately from the skillet to cool.
Add the water and sugar to a saucepan just large enough to fit all the figs. Turn the heat to medium-high and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the spices and simmer for 10 minutes.
Clean and trim the figs. Clean the figs by wiping them gently with a damp cloth. Remove the stems and discard. Add the figs and walnuts to the syrup and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the figs and place on a plate and turn off the heat. Cool the figs and syrup separately so the figs do not fall apart. After 15 minutes or so, strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and add the figs. Serve warm or chilled.
Store the figs in the syrup in the refrigerator in a covered container. They will last for two weeks, covered in the refrigerator.
Assemble the panna cotta and spiced figs
Remove the panna cotta from the ramekins. Run a thin sharp knife around the inside edge of the ramekin. Dip the container into warm water for 10 seconds. Remove the ramekins and place upside down on your serving dish. Tap the sides and top of your ramekins and jiggle them to encourage the panna cotta to slide out. If no movement occurs, dip the ramekin right side up in the warm water again. Try again. Repeat until the panna cotta are all unmolded.
If you are not serving them right away, loosely cover each panna cotta with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, spoon the spiced syrup over and around the panna cotta. Arrange the figs and walnuts on top or around the panna cotta and serve.
Use any spice combination you like. Cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, freshly grated nutmeg, allspice berries, vanilla bean, black peppercorns are all good suggestions. The spices in the simple syrup are subtly blended and not an overpowering taste experience.
I realize not everyone likes yogurt, so substitute the yogurt with 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk. and continue as directed. Any ratio of yogurt, to heavy cream, to half and half, to milk will work if you use the specified amount of gelatin for 3 cups (750 ml) of dairy.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.