I have a friend coming over to watch the Oscars on Sunday who is gluten intolerant. I have a great snack plate planned, heavy on the fruit, cheeses and nuts, but really am craving a rich, chocolate cake to serve in the latter stages of the awards; something simple, quick and easy to make, but still divine and decadent. Luckily I have just the answer, an amazing chocolate cake based on Laura Calder’s recipe for Picnic Chocolate Cake that appears in her wonderful cookbook, Paris Express.
This is one of my go-to recipes that always makes me look like I know what I’m doing; a pastry chef I am not, but this six ingredient cake comes together in no time and is guaranteed to wow even the most jaded critic and make you look like a star. Ms Calder’s “Picnic Chocolate Cake” actually calls for ¼ cup of flour, but when making a gluten-free version of this cake, I substitute a cup of ground pecans or walnuts for the flour, which takes it out of the cake category and slides into the torte world. Toasting the nuts before grinding will release a little more of the volatile oils and gives it a nice, roasted nut flavor which will further tweak the pleasure centres.
To toast the nuts, put them in a frying pan over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring and or shaking them around frequently to ensure even toasting and no burning. You can tell they’re ready by the deeper colour and gorgeous toasty warm aroma. Warning; they will burn easily if toasted too long, so be vigilant.
I always find using a springform pan for these kinds of desserts makes the job a little easier. It only takes a couple of minutes to prepare the pan, parchment paper and all, and since this recipe is so easy, getting a little helper to prep the pan can be a fun task for them to do; cutting out the right size parchment for the bottom and sides of the pan is a “big help”! In this case we will use a nine-inch springform pan. Just trace the size of the bottom and cut it out of your parchment. The circumference of a nine inch pan is twenty eight inches (you’re welcome) The width of the side strip can be measured by using the pan minus an inch, so about two inches thick as the cake will not rise all the way up. Lastly, before applying the parchment to the pan, butter the pan a bit to keep the paper in place.
The beauty of the springform pan is that it allows you to take the cakeout of it completely hassle free. Once the cake comes out of the oven, place it on a wire rack for half an hour, then unlatch the rim and let totally cool. This lovely torte deosn’t need much embellishment, but a little fresh orange zest works beautifully as a garnish. Maybe a small dollop of whipped cream in a supporting role. Served at room temperature or chilled, this is a sure bet for Oscar gold!
Chocolate Nut Torte
Makes 1 nine-inch torte
1 ½ cups 70% dark chocolate, chipped
¾ cup butter
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare springform pan by buttering base and rim and lining with parchment paper. Toast the nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor until fine; avoid making nut butter. In a double boiler melt chocolate and butter and stir until combined. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice, ground nuts and salt. Set aside. As it cools combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat for three minutes until creamy and fluffy. Add chocolate/nut mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. The centre will continue to cook a bit as the cake sets and cools. Place torte on a wire rack and let cool for half an hour. Remove rim and side parchment and let cool to room temperature before cutting. To serve, invert on a plate, remove bottom parchment, and replace torte bottom side down on serving plate.