As far as I’m aware, I’m not allergic to any foodstuffs (only wasps!) and I can only imagine what a complete drag it is to have to read every food label or make enquiries at restaurants and other people’s houses as to whether or not something on the menu includes a particular allergen. Anyway, a friend was coming to dinner the other night who is a celiac, which means she can’t eat gluten, so I wanted to make sure she could safely eat whatever I planned to serve. This chocolate and mandarin torte is perfect because although it looks like a posh chocolate cake, it doesn’t actually contain any flour. It does contain almonds though so I’m afraid it’s no good if you have a nut allergy!
The recipe is based on an Austrian Sachertorte. The actual recipe is closely guarded secret so I researched lots of different versions of what people think the recipe might be (I eventually chose the Green & Black’s Lorna Wing version), and then added a further twist of my own using mandarin marmalade instead of the more traditional apricot jam (although you could use apricot jam if you like). It’s pretty easy to make, completely delicious and best if it’s made several days ahead and kept in an airtight container. If you’re racking your brains for a fab ‘make-ahead’ Christmas dessert, this could be the answer to your prayers.
You will need…
- A 23cm loose bottom or springform cake tin, well greased with melted butter and lined with baking parchment
- 6 large eggs
- 310g ground almonds
- 300g golden caster sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground coffee – use a well-flavoured Italian roast for best results. Instant coffee isn’t an acceptable substitute.
- A jar of Bonne Maman Mandarin Marmalade (apricot jam is the usual choice if you can’t find the mandarin marmalade but most good supermarkets – Waitrose, Sainsbury’s etc. stock it).
- 300g dark chocolate, minimum 70%, broken into pieces
- 40g unsalted butter
- To decorate: 40g milk chocolate for grating, or cocoa powder to dust etc.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Prep your baking tin by brushing it with melted butter and lining with baking parchment.
- Melt 200g of the dark chocolate in a pyrex bowl suspend over of a saucepan of just simmering water (don’t overfill the saucepan and allow the bowl to sit in the hot water).
- Separate 5 of the eggs. Put the whites in one bowl and yolks plus the remaining whole egg in another.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Beat the sugar into the egg yolks until it’s thick and creamy and then stir in the ground almonds, ground coffee and then the melted chocolate.
- Add a tablespoon of the egg white into the chocolate mixture to slacken it off and then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. You’re aiming for the mixture to be well blended without knocking out all of the precious air from the egg whites.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Make sure that it is evenly distributed using the back of a spoon.
- Bake it for an hour, cover with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning.
- It will be done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. Ovens vary so if you need to cook it for another 10 minutes or so, just make sure you set the timer again.
- Once cooked, transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Don’t attempt to release it from the tin until it cools slightly or it could crack.
- Mine turned out beautifully but it had risen higher at the centre and the top needs to be flat for icing. I just inverted it back onto the rack using a clean plate and used the bottom instead of the top.
- Melt the marmalade over a low heat, strain it through a fine sieve and then brush it over the top and sides of the cooled cake. The marmalade adds a lovely sharp flavour and texture contrast to the rich dark chocolate of the cake and provides a base for the chocolate icing. The first time I made this, I felt that the marmalade layer wasn’t quite thick enough after just one application so I left the first layer to settle a little and then smoothed over a second thin layer with a palette knife. Leave to set somewhere cool if it’s too warm in your kitchen.
- Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Melt the remaining 100g of chocolate over simmering water as before, add the butter and stir until it thickens slightly.
- To avoid a melted chocolate mess on your worktop (and so you can eat the leftovers!), stand the cake on its cooling rack over some baking parchment. Pour the icing evenly over the cake, smoothing it over the top and sides with the back of a spoon. If you use the grated milk chocolate to decorate, add it now. Leave to set. If you decorate with cocoa powder leave it until just before you serve the cake.
- Store it in an airtight container until you want to serve it. It needs to be kept somewhere cool but not in the fridge or the icing may go a little cloudy.
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