Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chocolate and almond tart with orange sauce

A Tart with a Past:

Moist, dense, not overly sweet...

I have been bothering my mother to look for the recipe for this almond and chocolate cake for years. I forget, whenever I am in her kitchen in Cape Town, to look for it. Last week I asked again, and managed to describe the layout of the double page spread in the book as I remembered it - a living room scene, a city night outside the picture windows, twinkling lights, a recipe for cracker bread, and this torta di Caprese.

She found it. The book is the Fair Lady Special Occasions Cookbook, by Annette Kessler, long since out of print, and in it this recipe is doubled. I took the liberty of halving it, and of adding the orange sauce. You may thank my Cape Town singing teacher for that. Many years ago, Sarita Stern came to one of our Spring Breakfasts in my mother's garden, where pink umbrellas dotted the lawn, and tables groaned with food my mother had spent days, if not weeks, preparing. Everybody invited their friends, sparkling wine flowed, and nobody left before dessert. One year I made these tarts, and came upon Sarita tucking into a bowl where the slice of tart swam beneath the still-warm orange sauce I had made for crepes Suzette, one of the other desserts. Hmmm, she hummed. Delicious! And it was.

So here it is. In another lifetime.

This is not a light and fluffy cake. It has heft. Just saying. Because of the heft, you don't need much...

Torta Caprese

250 grams/ 1/2 lb ground almonds (almond flour)
100 grams/3.5 oz dark chocolate, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

100 grams/3.5 oz unsalted butter
100 grams/3.5 oz sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 drops almond essence
4 eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar*

This I why I don't bake often. Too Many Bowls.

In a Bowl 1 mix the almond flour, grated chocolate, cinnamon and salt. In Bowl 2 cream the butter and the sugar well, and add the essences. In Bowl 3 whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and whip once or twice more.

To the creamed butter add the egg yolks one by one until well mixed-in. Now begin to pour the dry mix of almonds and chocolate into the butter and egg batter. Keep stirring - it becomes quite thick. Slide in half the egg whites and fold them through the thick batter. This helps to break it up. When they have been smoothly incorporated, add the rest of the whites gently, folding them in again.

Pour into a greased and lined spring form pan or quiche dish. If you don't line the dish with buttered parchment the tart will stick to the bottom. If it's a quiche dish just lay a big piece of parchment over the dish, butter it, and pour the batter in, nudging it to the edges so that the paper is cosy with the sides of the dish, all the way around

Bake at 350'F/180'C for about 25 minute until just set.

When cooked and cooled, slide a knife around the edges and lift the tart out, parchment and all. Peel the paper off and return the tart to its dish, or to a pretty plate.

Orange Sauce

Zest of 2 oranges or 3 clementines- I like to use a rasp, because it makes the zest so fine (watch your thumb; mine has been shredded a few times)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (or other orange-flavoured liqueur)

In a small bowl mix the butter, sugar, and zest. You can do this well in advance and refrigerate. Just before serving the tart, melt the butter mixture in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the Grand Marnier. Cook till bubbling and the sugar has melted. Pour, hot, over individual slices of torta di Caprese.

* Who has cream of tartar in their kitchen cupboard? Nobody I know. I do, though. Why? Because it is an essential ingredient in South African rusks - those dry "biscuits" (in Southern parlance) that we South Africans like to dunk into our tea or coffee, for breakfast. Pioneer food. Made for rough living. And delicious, too. This recipe won't flop without the pinch of cream of tart. It does help stabilize the egg whites. And guess what? It is a by-product of wine making - those crystals you find in the bottle, sometimes? Potassium bitartarte. Cream of tartar. Also useful for cleaning things, if mixed with vinegar or water...


  1. I have all these ingredients in my kitchen now. And I'm avoiding wheat for a while. I think it was meant to be, don't you? Thank you for sharing another gorgeous recipe.

  2. i have cream of tartar (does it ever go bad?), I have Grand Marnier, and I am not bothered by a surplus of dirty bowls. I think it was meant to be for me as well.
    thank you

  3. Can't wait to try this - it has all my favorite flavors (chocolate, almond and orange) so how can it miss? And, besides, Mitchell is still doing the major cooking, altho I am way past able to do it. So the least I can do is make a dessert now and then.

    We do have Creme of Tartar. I add it to almost all whipped egg whites. Mother told me it makes them hold up better (and it sounds like she was right...) and I always do what Mother told me!

  4. So to get a 1/2 pound of almond flour I just grind up a 1/2 pound of almonds?

    Sounds like a delicious cake, just clarifying that bit. Thank you!

    1. Well, not quite.

      I buy my ground almonds from a local store, luckily.

      If you have skinless almonds you'd grind till you have your half pound, yes. Easy. Otherwise blanch almonds with skins, slip their skins off, dry the nuts, and then grind. That is obviously a bit more labour-intensive.

  5. Marie, I was actually fascinated by what you had to say about cream of tartar - I'd actually never wondered where it came from.

    This is a lovely-sounding recipe, and I think the orange sauce sounds divine, a perfect finish. I'll try this one soon.


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