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A Chocolate-Almond Cake That's Rich & Jammy—Even Without Butter

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Scan the ingredient list for the gluten-free chocolate-almond cake in Elisabeth Prueitt's new book Tartine All Day, and you'll notice there's no butter. Or oil. Is it a typo? An egregious error? Or a bit of magic?

Tartine Chocolate-Almond Cake
Tartine Chocolate-Almond Cake

The cake, as Liz writes in the headnote, exemplifies the "reward of recipe development [that comes] when you hit upon a method, ratio, trick, or particular combination of ingredients that makes all the failures worth it." It relies solely on the almond flour's natural oil for enrichment (helped along by eggs, milk, and cocoa, of course).

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In developing the recipe, Liz—who is the co-founder of San Francisco's Tartine Bakery, Bar Tartine, and Tartine Manufactory—fiddled with ratios for other classic chocolate-almond cakes. After just two or three adjustments—a remarkably small number of trials, she told me—Liz realized that she didn't have to add any additional oil for a rich cake with a moist crumb. "Even though of course we know almonds have a good amount of oil in them, it still surprised me that I didn't have to add any additional oil."

Dimples of jam, covered up with whipped cream.
Dimples of jam, covered up with whipped cream. Photo by Julia Gartland

The second surprise came with the cake's texture. While other flourless cakes are fudgy and squat, with a velvety squish you might mistake for a truffle, this one has an airier crumb, like that from your favorite boxed mix. "I thought this recipe would be much more of a dense, classic flourless chocolate cake," Liz told me, "and so when it baked up much lighter, with a classic cake structure, it was not initially what I was expecting, but so much better."

And if all of that would have been enough—dayenu!—to get you into the kitchen, let me regale you with yet another attribute: Jam is polka-dotted all over the batter's surface so that in the oven, when the cake rises around the jam drops, you get divots of soft, fruity sweetness. If you slice the cake strategically, every wedge can can have a pocket or two of jam. And if you cover the cake in soft peaks of whipped cream, those jam pockets come as a welcome surprise.

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Elizabeth David's Chocolate Cake

Elizabeth David's Chocolate Cake by Sara Jenkins

Torta Caprese (Chocolate and Almond Flourless Cake)

Torta Caprese (Chocolate and Almond Flourless Cake) by Emiko

If you're looking for places to play, you might start with different jams. Liz has used almost everything they preserve at her restaurants, from strawberry jam to orange-passionfruit marmalade. Lemon curd would be welcome here, as would kaya (coconut jam) or guava jelly. You could also branch out with the type of nut flour—hazelnuts would be closest to almonds in terms of texture and fat content, says Liz, but you might also experiment with walnuts, pistachios, or pecans.

It could take a few attempts, sure—but when you hit on the right combination of jam and nut, all those trials will be worth it.

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Tartine Chocolate-Almond Cake

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Makes two 9-inch cakes
  • Unsalted butter, for the pans
  • 4 cups (480 grams) almond flour (sift it if there are lumps)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (70 grams) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed (90 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) whole milk
  • 2/3 cup (200 grams) raspberry, peach, strawberry, or apricot jam (optional)
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons water
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream, optional

Where did you find your favorite cake recipe? Share with us in the comments below.