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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Chocolate, date & almond torte

This is the cake I made for my birthday back in March...remember, when I didn't have a computer? I was looking for something a little different, and because a friend was going through a period of wheat-free, dairy-free eating, as prescribed by his so-called 'witch doctor', another friend suggested he should make this long-time family recipe for his birthday, which was wheat and almost dairy-free. He didn't get around to it (ultimately buying a very excellent berry & soy custard flan from Silly Yak's), but because the recipe looked so good I gave it a go for my own birthday a few days later.
The whole cake only has 5 ingredients: dates, whole almonds, chocolate, sugar and egg whites and you simply chuck things into a food processor until "chunky" and fold them through a meringue. Incidentally, Kelly from The Occasional Epicure alerted me to the existence of frozen eggwhites, in the supermarket. Excellent idea.
It sounds simple, but this cake blew everyone away. Its texture and taste were so different that it's been one of the most popular things we've had at rehearsal this year (I seem to take most of my baked goods to rehearsals. As does Belinda. Those singers do get very spoilt!)
It's quite dense and chunky, but held together by the meringue and the sticky dates. In a fit of organic awareness, I bought my ingredients at a local organic supermarket, but after I paid $20 for a handful of dates and $10 for a small bag of almonds, I wasn't quite prepared to pay $34 a kilo for dark chocolate. I'm afraid I turned to Nestle Club for that because it was on special at the local shop! Fearing a lack of intense cocoa flavour from my not-quite-70% cocoa solids cheap-as chocolate, I jacked up the flavour with a few spoonfuls of Dutch cocoa powder.

Funny story: after I went out and bought all the ingredients, I came home to find that I'd left the recipe at work. I stood there in the kitchen in a dither. There was no way I wasn't going to make this thing now, after spending a week's salary on ingredients. I considered phoning my friend, until I realised she was off traipsing through mud in the countryside, so that option was out. I turned to my cookbooks to find any sort of tips on cooking similar style tortes with meringue bases, and what do you know...the first one I turn to in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion is basically the same recipe as my friend's long-time family treasure, without the almonds! Saved! I was saved from ignominy!
Because I'm not on a dairy-free diet, I covered mine in whipped cream, and gave my friend his own mini version. Admittedly, his looked a bit like a wombat turd, so keep that in mind when considering presentation ideas....

This piece had been in the fridge for quite a few days. It keeps excellently...apart from the cream!
Read on for the recipe:

Chocolate, date & almond torte

6 egg whites
200g caster sugar
200g dates, stoned
200g dark chocolate
200g whole almonds, with skin on

-Preheat oven to 180c, and grease a 24cm springform tin well
-Place dates in a food processor and chop. Be quick and careful, because dates can turn into mush in the blink of an eye. Remove chopped dates.
-Add the almonds and chocolate and chop until "chunky".
-Beat egg whites until stiff, then slowly beat in sugar to form a soft meringue.
-Fold in dates, almonds and chocolate. Tip mixture into tin and bake for 1 hour.
-Turn off oven but leave cake in until oven is cold. Leave cold cake in tin overnight to soften before serving covered in whipped cream or mascarpone and berries, nuts etc.


  • A simple way to decorate a cake is to dust it with powdered icing sugar. But I'd like to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing it.

    By Blogger Pene, at 5/13/2006 05:02:00 pm  

  • Oh Niki! I can't look at the cake without thinking of that description now! But it does sound delish. And frozen eggwhites huh? I thought that they were only available in America.

    By Blogger plum, at 5/13/2006 11:30:00 pm  

  • Niki - that sounds so good! I'd love to make this for my birthday this summer, but I'm wondering if little kids would eat it. Maybe I'll have to make two birthday cakes. Hmmm... that might not be a bad thing :)

    By Blogger Cathy, at 5/14/2006 12:41:00 am  

  • Hey Niki! Glad to hear that the frozen egg whites did the trick.

    And "wombat turd' - you crack me up!

    By Blogger Kelly, at 5/14/2006 10:07:00 pm  

  • Niki,
    This cake looks wonderful, so light and fluffy. I'm definitely writing this one down.. thanks for sharing!


    By Blogger Dianka, at 5/16/2006 05:07:00 am  

  • Pene - Yes, the original recipe suggested powdered sugar, but I wanted something a bit more glam for my birthday cake

    Plum - Heheh! Yes, frozen eggwhites are in the freezer section at the supermarket (duh) near the frozen berries and pastry etc. Kind of the frozen baking goods section!

    Cathy - I reckon kids might eat it, but perhaps the nuts might be a problem. Safety issues aside, I don't remember liking chunky nuts too much as a child. 2 cakes is never a bad thing! :-)

    Kelly - Yes, thanks for the tip!

    Dianka - I highly recommend it!

    By Blogger Niki, at 5/17/2006 10:38:00 pm  

  • Yours is one of those blogs which makes me wish I had a proper oven so I can bake. That is a faboo cake - I want!

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5/18/2006 12:56:00 pm  

  • I make this cake at my work. Well almost. The recipe I have is 300g of dates, chocolate and almonds and 250g sugar with 6 eggwhites. We process the dates, chocolate and almonds until it's sandy and quite fine and then only bake until it's firm. It turns out lovely and soft and dense meringue-y. Which sounds a little different your end result. I guess what I'm trying to say is isn't baking just magic with how you can take the same ingredients and get so many different results?

    By Blogger Isabelle, at 5/19/2006 10:53:00 pm  

  • I made this cake for Christmas day and it was truly amazing! I made it with dried dates rather than fresh and dusted it with a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa powder and it got rave reviews.

    I make dessert for my family and extended family once a week and this was definitely a favourite. Given the complexity of some of the other things i have made, it's good to have one in the repertoire that is both simple and delicious!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/12/2007 11:23:00 am  

  • I don't think you can get frozen egg whites any more. The Victorian company that produced them has withdrawn them. If anyone knows how to get hold of them, let me know.

    By Blogger mochaval, at 11/01/2008 03:13:00 pm  

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