PhotoRecipe: Chocolate Flourless Cake

Dear Friends & Eaters,

I am have many friends who lead a gluten free lifestyle. When I entertain in my small urban kitchen, I always ask my guests if they have food allergies or special dietary requirements.  I have found that there is an increasing amount of cases that my guests are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive.  A good hostess wants to make guests feel comfortable so I have been tweaking my recipes to accomodate the needs of a gluten free audience.

Over the summer I have rediscovered a chocolate flourless cake that has been a large part of my Italian upbringing.  My Aunt Annamaria made it very often and brought it over for parties and celebrations.  Of course my veryu health conscious mom would only ever allow me to have a wafer thin slice when my aunt would bring the cake.  My mom is not fond of chocolate…. let me rephrase that… My mom powerfully dislikes chocolate and its potentially fattening nature), so she never made the cake, preferring something a little less decadent. Aside from this quick look into the Palumbo family history, the  name of this cake is what will really make you cringe: the cake is called Torta Caprese.

In America the adjective “caprese” is associated to mozzarella and tomatoes. When I mentioned this cake to a couple of American friends and even a friend from Turin (who reads this blog but shall otherwise remain unnamed), they all assumed that there was some tomato and mozzarella in the ingredient list. Trust me these two ingredients are not included in Torta Caprese! (seriously people? yuck!)

To learn about this cake and find the perfect recipe and maybe a little bit of history, I did my research in the place where this cake was born: Capri.  You know, a girl needs a side project every now and agaian…. side project because the main project was sitting in the sun for 3 days and swimming in the crystal blue water, of course!

Here is a little bit of history: on a summer night in the 1920s a very famous mobster was dining at a restaurant in Capri with his entourage.  At the end of the meal, when asked if he wanted to have dessert the mobster looked at the menu containing lemon based cakes and pastries then said he didn’t like lemons… he only wanted chocolate!  The waiter frantically goes to the pastry chef and explains the situation: the mobster is irritated that there is no suitable dessert and wants the pastry chef to make him something with chocolate…. or else.  The pastry chef (aptly name Carmine) whips together a mixture of chocolate, eggs, almonds, butter and sugar.  After the cake has been cooking for quite a while Carmine realizes that there he forgot the flour! The frantic pastry chef pulls the cake from the oven and decides to serve it anyway.  Needless to say the cake  is a big success and the mobster and the entourage ask for seconds.

See? A crafty pastry chef can save your life!


  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 oz. of semisweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 7 oz. gr sugar
  • 11 oz almond meal
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven at 375F.  Cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and incorporate until the mixture is perfectly combined.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave at 30 seconds increments until it is completely smooth.  Let the chocolate cool until it is room temperature and fold it in the butter and eggs mixture.  Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt and finally the almond meal.

In a separate bowl whip the egg whites with the lemon juice until it reaches softpeaks.  Fold the egg whites in the mixture 1/3 at a time.

Pour the mixture in a cake mold lined with parchment paper and bake for about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before cutting it. Serve it with powdered sugar or whipped cream.