A couple weeks ago, we decided it was probably time to change to winter tires. I offered to go with Alex; we could get brunch while waiting for the car and make a morning of it. So we woke up early on a Saturday and made our way there. We knew there was trouble as soon as the guy at the desk couldn’t find our name on the list. Apparently our appointment was incorrectly booked for the day before, and we were stuck with no car, hoping that it would at least get done before closing at 7pm.
It was a miserable day: cold and rainy, so we went shopping, but everything I tried on either looked terrible, didn’t fit, or was too expensive. By the time 3 o’clock rolled around, I was super grumpy.
We decided to stop in at Buca for a coffee and snack. It was there that we encountered the torta caprese, which they described as a chocolate hazelnut cake. It was delicious: nutty and rich but with a surprisingly light texture. I decided to try and recreate it at home.
The torta caprese is actually a flourless chocolate cake. Instead of flour, we use a large amount of ground nuts. Many recipes use mostly or all almond, but because of the description at Buca, I changed the ratios and used mostly hazelnuts. The lighter texture is achieved by folding in egg whites at the very end.
This cake is delicious on its own, but a sprinkling of powdered sugar makes it more festive, and a scoop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream makes it downright decadent.
Shortly after we ate the cake that day, we got a call that the car was done! Chocolate cake to the rescue. Let it rescue your bad day!
Adapted from La Mia Vita Dolce
6 eggs, separated
200 g/7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
200 g/7 oz unsalted butter + more for greasing pan
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder + more for dusting pan
200 g/7 oz granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
200 g/7 oz finely ground hazelnuts
100 g/ 3.5 oz finely ground almonds
Powdered sugar or whipped cream for serving
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 or 10 inch cake pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper lightly. Dust the bottom and sides of the greased pan with cocoa powder.
In a large bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt butter and chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder. Let cool for 3 minutes, then add egg yolks, whisking constantly to incorporate. Add the sugar and salt and whisk to combine. Add the ground nuts and stir together with a rubber spatula.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter. My batter was very thick, so it was hard to fold the egg whites in at first. I did it in 4 additions and it got easier with each one.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap on the counter several times to get rid of any trapped air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs on it.
Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out of pan, remove the parchment paper and let cool on the rack completely.
To serve, dust with powdered sugar or eat with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.