Chocolate, Almond and Ricotta Cake

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Winter is a dangerous time. It’s a time for hearty dinners, loads of red wine, and dense, decadent desserts. This chocolate, almond and ricotta cake is a perfect example; even though it’s not served warm, it fits perfectly into a winter menu. Served after dinner with coffee, or more red wine. And because it’s very dense and rich, it serves a lot of people, and can be made well ahead of time. Leaving your hands (or hand, assuming you’re holding a glass of red wine in the other) free for other last minute food prep. It can also be dressed up in a variety of ways, depending on the occasion. It’s delicious and relatively healthy, all things considering – it has no flour or butter (just don’t look at the volume of sugar). And it’s very straightforward – as it was pointed out to me, it “looked like I had never baked before” and was just “throwing ingredients in a bowl”. Cheeky, very cheeky.

Chocolate, Almond and Ricotta Cake

*adapted from the Woolworths Taste Magazine

500g ricotta
4 eggs, separated
300g light brown sugar
250g ground almonds
250g dark chocolate, melted
2 tblsp cocoa
3 tblsp icing sugar, to dust
coffee beans, to decorate
creme fraiche, for serving
serves10-12 people, easily

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 23cm springform tin with baking paper, and spray the base and sides well with a non-stick cooking spray. Drain the ricotta of any excess liquid and combine with the egg yolks and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix the ground almonds and cocoa together, and add to the ricotta mixture. Pour in the melted chocolate and beat with an electric beater until all the ingredients are amalgamated. (Hmm – I use ‘amalgamated’ a lot). In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Make sure the bowl and your beater things are very clean and very dry – egg whites won’t beat up if there is any oil or water anywhere near them.

Now – here’s the tricky part. If you are making this cake in winter, and your house is anywhere near as cold as mine, the chocolate ricotta mixture might be quite set by now. This is problematic because you need to fold in the beaten egg whites. So what I did was put the bowl of chocolate ricotta mixture into the microwave for a few seconds, before folding in the egg whites. But seriously, it has to be seconds. You just want a little bit of warmth, not any actual nuking. I’d say put it in and check every 5 seconds until it looks slightly…moister. It shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds, give or take. Then fold in the beaten egg whites, a third at a time, until everything is mixed together.

Spoon the mixture into the springform tin, and smooth the top over with the back of a spoon. Bake for 55min, and then leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Viola! The cake is done. Loosen the sides of the cake with a blunt knife, and then gently undo the springform. Balance a board on top of the cake, invert it, and remove the base of the tin and gently peel away the baking paper. The cake can now be inverted back onto whatever you would like to serve it on. I recommend a cake stand – the cake is quite flat and plain on its own, so it deserves a little extra on the presentation side.
Pop it on the cake stand, and just before serving, dust it with icing sugar and make a pretty shape with coffee beans. And serve with creme fraiche on the side.  Or pipe whipped cream into fun patterns on the top. Or spread creme fraiche all over the top and dust wth cocoa and edible glitter. Yes, I just said that. Edible glitter makes everything prettier. This cake is very rich, more like a giant brownie than a cake, so cut small slices – it’s horrible to have to leave some behind. Horrible.
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