The Cake Stand

There is a new addition to my kitchen: The Cake Stand. Look at it- don’t you just love it already?

I’ve been daydreaming of cake stands for a long long time, but they are one of those things I never could justify spending money on since there was no practical reason for having one…  but for Christmas this year, my sister Marta gave me this vintage cake stand that she found in some good old junk store in Alfred, NY, where she goes to college.

Even though I’m trying to eat a healthier low-sugar diet in this post-holiday cleanse time of year, all I want to do is bake cakes to put on The Cake Stand. It’s been sitting on top of one of my kitchen shelves looking down at me in a lonesome kind of way, as if to say that it has missed having a cake to hold. Who knows how long it’s been since The Cake Stand held a real cake…. so I couldn’t resist any longer. Last night I had five dear friends around my table for black bean chili and cornbread and a big cucumber-yogurt-mint dressed salad. After they were all so stuffed with dinner that I knew they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, I presented them with this cake.

There’s always room for cake, and we polished off half of it with some vanilla ice cream. (Now what am I going to do with the other half!) What with all the beaten egg whites, this flourless cake weighs next to nothing. It’s like biting into a meringue that is surprisingly moist and full of little chocolate pockets. Because the recipe calls for ground chocolate instead of melted, the cake is studded with small chunks of chocolate and almonds, creating a delightfully nutty texture without being heavy. The recipe is adapted form Alice Medrich’s cookbook Pure Dessert. If you don’t have almond flour you can use whole or sliced almonds, just make sure to grind them extra fine in the food processor.

Flourless Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte
serves 10-12

1/2 cup slivered almonds
7 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond flour
7 egg whites (1 cup)
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Combine the almonds, chocolate, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a food processor and pulse until the almonds and chocolate are finely chopped but not completely pulverized.
Add the almond flour to the food processor and pulse until just combined.
In the (clean and dry) bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tarter until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
Add half of the nut mixture to the egg whites and fold in with a large rubber spatula until almost incorporated, then fold in the other half of the mixture.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake until the torte has risen and is golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.
Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a rack and let cool completely.
To serve, transfer to a platter (or The Cake Stand) and dust with powdered sugar or cocoa. I made a paper heart, lay it on top of the cake, dusted powdered sugar over it, then removed the paper.
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.