Valentines’s Day is around the corner and Carnevale (in Italy) is in full swing, ending next week with Ash Wednesday. These are good times to celebrate one of my favorite cakes, La Torta Eritrea, and share it with you. It is a densely chocolate almond flour “torte” which in its simplicity, knocks your socks off! True to its name, it is a flourless cake that makes use of ground almonds and consequently it is heavier in texture and heft than a regular cake made with flour, intensifying the chocolate flavor. In Italian the word “torta” is a generic term for cake and does not refer to any particular type. But if you want to read more about the difference between cake and “torte”, the following article at Food 52 https://food52.com/blog/16595-cakes-versus-tortes-what-s-in-a-name will give you an entertaining look at this question.
The recipe for the Torta Eritrea comes from the classic Italian cookbook Il Talismano della Felicità that I have quoted many times on this blog. But as usual when faced with baking from an old cookbook written in Italian with different ingredients and terms, I had to make some modifications and adjustments to meet my readers’ understanding and usage. And so here it is after much testing and tasting, for my friends far and wide!
La Torta Eritrea
1 ¾ cups or 8.8 oz raw almonds
1 cup sugar
5 whole eggs + 2 egg whites room temperature
10.5 0z. dark chocolate (three 100 gr. tablets)
18 oz. (2 sticks +2 oz) butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbl. potato starch (optional)
¼ tsp salt
Flour to dust the pan
Powdered sugar to decorate
1. Heat the oven to 350°F and prep the pan. If you do not have a non-stick pan, it is best to place a parchment disk at the bottom of the pan. Use 2 tbl. to grease the bottom of the pan and sides, flour lightly.
2. Organize your ingredients according to how you will use them.
- Eggs, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, salt, potato starch
3. Separate 4 eggs, the yolks in a small bowl and the whites in a mixing bowl. You will need 2 more egg whites (reserve the extra egg yolks for another use). Whip them in the mixer at high speed until they are firm and light. Set aside.
4. Lightly toast the almonds in a pan or oven. Place them in a food processor, add the sugar and pulse until the mixture has the look of a fine flour. Add 1 whole egg and the 4 yolks and pulse again until the mixture resembles a paste. Remove and place in a large bowl.
5. Melt the chocolate gently in a double boiler. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the heat and add the butter. Whisk until smooth and silky. Cool approximately 5-10 minutes.
6. Add the chocolate mixture to the almond mixture incorporating it gently until the batter is smooth and uniform. Add the vanilla, the potato starch (if using – this is optional), and salt.
7. Gently add ⅓ of the whipped egg whites to the batter being careful not to lose its lightness. With a spatula, fold in the next ⅓, then the next making sure the batter remains light. Spread the batter into the greased pan. Tap gently to remove any air pockets.
8. Bake in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. Watch that it does not burn on the sides. Remove from the oven, cool, and dust with powdered sugar.
My father loved this cake so much it became his birthday cake even though my mother made it for other festive occasions as well. In fact it has become a legendary part of our family lore so much so that my sister just made it for her son’s wedding. The photo you see above is her lovely decoration with roses and all.
The cake is best served with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. It is befitting then as we enter the season of joyful celebrations whether they be Valentines’s Day or Carnevale, to enjoy a little chocolate without too much guilt, some whipped cream with it, spreading the warmth that comes with it and a glass of wine, port or vin santo! Salute!