Ch. 34: Gluten Free Chocolate Tea Cake- a bittersweet symphony


In the world of baking, gluten-free desserts aren’t really something I make a lot of. Mostly that’s because gluten-free baking involves using alternative flours that are typically pretty expensive. I ended up picking up a bag of almond flour by mistake– thinking it was far cheaper than usual (which ended up being the product of a decimal point in the wrong place). Make sure to pay attention at the check-out line, kids! And so I started looking for more recipes to utilize almond flour that didn’t involve making macarons- or the Devil’s cookies as I call them. I stumbled upon this recipe from Chris Morocco of Bon Appetit for a gluten free chocolate tea cake that promised to be really good. Chris had blessed me with the incredible miso almond butter cookies a few weeks ago, so I didn’t question him. If you’re wondering what a “tea cake” is, then you’re in the same boat as I was. Not sure if this is meant to be served with earl grey and crumpets, but this “tea cake” is basically just a chocolate torte. 

The recipe starts off with freshly ground almonds which I ended up replacing with the almond flour I picked up. That gets mixed with cocoa powder to make up the dry ingredients that act as our flour replacement. The recipe then takes an odd turn by melting down semisweet chocolate along with water. Typically, chocolate and water don’t mix as the latter tends to make chocolate seize up into a clumpy mess. Still, I went on, getting that oddly diluted chocolate mixed together with olive oil, some sugar and egg yolks. In true flourless chocolate cake fashion, the next part of the recipe calls for making a meringue before being folded into the base batter. The meringue provides the lightness and leavening of the cake- giving it it’s structure. Folding is a technique that involves incorporating two mixtures of different densities- in this case, we’re looking to lighten up the dense chocolate batter with the airy meringue. Once the batter is cohesive, it’s poured into a greased loaf pan and sprinkled with chopped almonds and some raw sugar. The cake gets baked for an hour before being removed from the pan to cool completely. 

If you’ve ever had a gluten free chocolate cake, then you’ll know there’s a distinct texture to them. This one was no different, having an almost custardy interior more like an underdone cake. It’s worth noting that I even had to bake this about 15 minutes longer than the recipe calls for- something I often find with flourless cakes. The flavor was rich but under-whelmingly sweet- a bit odd considering the use of semisweet chocolate and that amount of sugar. It has a prominent bitterness that’s not bad in any way, however if you don’t care for a darker chocolate flavor, then this cake isn’t for you. Perhaps next time I’ll increase the amount of sugar within the batter and maybe coat the inside of the loaf pan to act as a sweet and crispy cake release. The last thing worth noting is that the cake is a bit difficult to slice which holds true for a lot of flourless chocolate cakes. The top is crispy similar to the tops of really good brownies which leaves little shards of cake- perfect for snacking, but difficult to get a clean cut. I do recommend chilling this in the fridge for a couple hours to help set the cake to make for cleaner cuts. The flavor and texture also improve with time- tasting great the next day with a scoop of ice cream. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that this is a bad cake in any sense. More-so, it’s a bit of a forewarning on how gluten free desserts can yield different results as their standard counterparts. With changes, I can totally see myself making this again. Perhaps the next time it’ll be less bitter, more sweet. 

Full Recipe | Method by Chris Morocco of Bon Appetit

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