I’ve written before about Torta Caprese – a delicious flour-free chocolate and almond cake – which is a family favourite. We regularly make it for birthdays and other celebrations. It’s the celebratory nature of the cake for the family that made it come to mind when my son Jonathan was discussing with me that he was one of a few friends who’d volunteered to make some cup cakes for his friends Jo and Pete’s wedding tea a couple of weeks ago, and did I have any ideas what he could make. Cup cakes really aren’t my thing and so I was a bit stumped until I suddenly remembered eating little Torta Caprese cakes in a service station near Naples. Now that doesn’t sound very promising, I know, but given the family’s addiction to Torta Caprese you can imagine my surprise and delight while queuing to buy a snack on a drive from Puglia to Naples three years ago, seeing some on display, and I just had to buy one. Or maybe I bought two as my daughter was with me. Thus, I suggested we follow an Italian service station’s example and try putting our usual recipe into muffin-sized cases.
Jonathan came round to my house that day and we made our usual mixture but were uncertain how long the smaller-sized cakes would take to cook. Fortunately having a glass-fronted oven meant we could keep taking a look but I have to say they did take longer than we’d guessed. They were such a success however – both at the wedding and our own test tasting – that I decided to make some for a family meal yesterday. I thought some mascarpone ice cream would go well with the cakes (please see my Strawberry Shortbread with Mascarpone Ice Cream for the recipe) and got that made and in the freezer the day before. I was going Italian for the whole meal with Tagliata di Manzo for the main course.
I made the little chocolate muffins yesterday morning so they were really fresh. It’s a very easy recipe which I’ll repeat here, coming from Sophie Grigson’s Organic that’s been on my shelves and much used for over 10 years. First of all get 200g butter melting in a pan. Then chop 200g dark chocolate in a food processor until quite small pieces but still pieces rather than a mush.
Then beat 4 egg yolks (keep the whites) with 175g caster sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract till pale and thick. Add the melted butter (warm still but not too hot), the chopped chocolate and 250g ground almonds. Whisk the 4 egg whites till they form soft peaks and gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
Then divide the mixture into 12 muffin cases in a tray. Put into a preheated 180C/160 Fan oven for about 30-35 minutes until just firm to touch. Ideally they should retain a little bit of gooeyness in the middle so they’re soft and moist.
When we were ready to eat dessert I removed 5 from their cases and dusted them with icing sugar. I put them on a plate with a raspberry on each for prettiness and colour. Then I spooned a scoop of mascarpone ice cream onto each plate. They looked pretty fantastic I have to say, especially on my nice Italian plates.
But by this time it was dark outside although still warm, so no one wanted to come inside. We had some candles on the table but Nicola took a torch out with the plates of dessert so she could show everyone how wonderful they looked. But of course the real test was in the eating. And they ate very well indeed. Everyone loved them, especially with the mascarpone ice cream, and we decided this was a great alternative way to serve our favourite cake.