I was first introduced to almond flour by Michel Richard in his book Sweet Magic: Easy Recipes for Delectable Desserts. Nuts are part of the French dessert tradition and therefore he naturally seeks to incorporate them in his recipes. Not being French, this idea seemed revolutionary to me. However, now I can’t imagine living without it. In addition to the flavor benefit, I find that almond flour adds a moistness that is devoured by wheat flours. The result: A cake with a soft crumb and an enhanced flavor.
Now everyone, well everyone sane that is, loves a good chocolate cake. Well here is one of, if not the best, chocolate cakes you have ever tried. Even if you are the rare person that travels the globe tasting chocolate cakes (which you may be, afterall, I don’t know you), it will still make your top five. The almond flour tempers the strong chocolate to create a smooth yet very chocolatey taste. It creates a cake that is both dense and satisfying. Inspired by the almond flour and the nectar we call Nutella, I have also made a version of this cake with hazelnut flour.
Because chocolate cake is so versatile, it can be prepared with any frosting you prefer. I have included a recipe below for sour cream frosting. It was inspired by my bestie. She loves sour cream with chocolate cake so I made it for her. I have to say, she was really onto something. It is now my favorite.
Inspired by Nick Malgeri’s Melissa’s Chocolate Pecan Cake
Yields One 9-inch cake, 12 to 16 servings
3 cups flour mix A or B
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon iodized salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut or broken into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 sticks SALTED butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
6 to 8 cups confectioner's sugar
- Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of three round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides with brown or white rice flour.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients and set aside.
- Place the chocolate, water and butter in a large heatproof mixing bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water. Stir slowly and constantly with a spatula until melted.
- Remove the bowl from heat and stir a bit to cool the mixture. Then whisk in the vanilla and sour cream until the mixture is thoroughly combined and smooth.
- Add the eggs and whisk just enough to combine them.
- Whisk in the flour mixture in three parts. Whisk each of the three additions until thoroughly combined. Note: You have to be careful not to "over" mix when using wheat flour. If you activate too much gluten, your cake will be tough. However, over mixing is not an issue when you use gluten-free flours. There is no gluten to over activate!
- Divide the batter equally between the three pans. Bang down each pan a few times to level the batter and burst any air bubbles. Cover each pan tightly with foil. (What!? This is not a roast! I know it seems odd but once you get used to the foreign idea, the result is shocking. The cake is fluffier because it has more time to rise. The foil holds in all of the moisture so the cake stays yummy longer. Usually it is an either/or situation but this method creates both--a light and moist cake. Who thought it was possible?)
- Bake for 50-65 minutes moving the pans from the lower rack to the upper one and vice versa at the halfway point. Bake until they are well risen and the cake has come away from the sides of the pan. If you press the cake lightly with your finger, it should spring back. Tip: If you are not sure if the cake is done, leave it a little longer. It is better to "over" bake a bit than "under" bake.
- Remove the pans from the oven and place them on cooling racks. Remove the foil. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert them to remove the pans. Invert them again so they finish cooling right side up. Remove the parchment paper before frosting. Tip: Chocolate cake is always better the second day. The flavors need to meld. I always wait until the next day to frost it.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with a whisk attachment at medium speed for at least two minutes.
- Add the sour cream and continue to beat until thoroughly combined.
- Turn the mixer down to low speed and add in the sugar gradually, about a 1 cup at a time.
- Place your first layer down on a cake round or plate. Spread the top with 1/4 if the frosting.
- Place the second layer on top of that one and repeat.
- Turn the third layer upside down and place it on the top. Turning that last layer bottom side up gives the cake a flatter top.
- Next, you are going to crumb coat the entire cake. Crumb coating is done by all pastry chefs and will give your finished cake a professional look. Basically, it means coating the cake with a thin coat of icing. Then you put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Finally, frost the crumb-coated cake again with the rest of the frosting.
- Also here are some ideas of how to enhance this classic:
- Add preserves or jam between the layers. First, coat a layer with a thin coat of frosting, then spread the jam on top.
- Ice with your favorite frosting instead of the one I use.
- Take crushed nuts (peanuts, pecans, etc.) and mix them with 1/2 of the frosting. Then spread this mixture between the layers. Or place crushed nuts around the sides or top edge as decoration. Or both!
- Use mini chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chips, mini peanut butter chips or mini marshmallows instead of nuts.
- Decorate with chocolate shavings–white, milk or dark. Cover the sides of the cake or the whole thing!