A couple years into this partnership, Julie was diagnosed with celiac's disease, a potentially deadly form of gluten intolerance. Because of this, I was rapidly schooled in gluten-free food preparation. Since that time, I have had several other friends develop gluten intolerance; not the deadly kind, just the kind that makes you feel badly and "off" when you consume gluten- usually wheat. This turning of the gluten tide has reinforced my regular sleuthing for good and gluten-free (an oxymoron you say?) baked items.
This year, when we were invited to our dear friends', Jane and Joe's, for Passover and asked to make dessert, I was armed with a couple of pretty-nearly-great flourless cake recipes. These cakes would be welcome additions to any meal where you have to eliminate gluten from the menu. One of them, the clementine cake, I will make often for my gluten consuming friends and family too.
Flourless Almond Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oil
3½ cups ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
14 oz grated carrot
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup slivered almonds,
toasted ½ cup currants
Frosting: 12 oz cream cheese, softened 1 cup confectioner's sugar 1 tsp vanilla. (I added a bit of fresh lemon juice.)
1. Preheat oven 325°F. Grease and Line a 9 1/2 or 10-inch springform pan with parchment.
2. Beat sugar, eggs and vanilla 15 minutes until triple in volume with electric mixer. In another large bowl, combine rest of ingredients well; fold in egg mixture. Pour into pan and bake 1 hr + 20-25 minutes or until cooked (when tested with a skewer comes out with a only a few crumbs). Cool in tin. Refrigerate 2-3 hours til firm.
3. For cream cheese frosting, process the cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla (and lemon juice if using) and process until smooth. Spread frosting on chilled cake.
I made this a couple weeks ahead of time and froze it because we were headed to Morocco and would return on the first night of Passover. It survived the freezing extremely well. I did not have quite enough carrots so I supplemented with grated apple. My friend Jane can not eat coconut so I added chopped crystallized ginger instead. I did not "do" the currants. The cake was moist and, what is more, it seemed like "real" cake.
Clementine Cake easily serves 12
4 to 5 clementines (slightly less than 1 pound total weight)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting, or for making a glaze. (I made a glaze and brushed it all over the top and sides of the cake.)
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Puree the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor or blender.
Preheat the oven to 375°F .
Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the pureed clementines.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 55* minutes, when a skewer will come out clean. You might have to cover the cake with foil after about 30 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan and dust it with powdered sugar. I made a glaze of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of clementine juice. Nigella says the cake is best on the second day, but ours never made it that long.
Variations: Nigella says she’s also made this with an equal weight of oranges and lemons, in the latter case the sugar is increased to 1 1/4 cups.
* The cooking time varied from what the recipe dictated. I suggest checking on it starting about 3/4 of the way through the cooking time. I had to poke it a couple times with a toothpick to make sure it was done. I also put foil on top about ten minutes before it was done because it was, to my mind, getting too brown.
While it is still clementine season, I am going to stew a bunch of clementines, puree them and freeze the mash in appropriate size jars so I can whip it out and make this cake any time of year.
This is an amazingly delicious cake and (for a confection that contains no flour or butter) it has advanced to my "special recipe" file.