Count me among the millions that wanted to recapture the beauty of Amalfi back home. Including that slice of Amalfi — Torta Caprese (pun intended). A chocolate dessert that just seemed to have just a little bit more flare to it. Made with lots of chocolate and almonds, and usually no flour, it has also grown as a gluten-free favorite.
But sadly, early attempts to make this dish, left me feeling I hadn’t captured the essence of what I enjoyed about the dish. I can only describe it as missing the views and the sea breezes.
Using data analysis techniques, I did a detailed analysis of Torta Caprese recipes and believe I have perfected it — capturing the memories, views and sea breezes. Feel free to read the details, or the summary of the issues and solutions below.
Notes on the Ingredients
Issue: Balancing the main ingredients
Torta Caprese has five main ingredients: chocolate, almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs. I found that various authors used significantly different proportions of those ingredients. Early experiments with attempting to make Torta Caprese made me realize how important this was.
Solution: Main Ingredients
My analysis showed that most recipes had an almost equal amount by weight of chocolate, almonds, sugar, and butter. Some exactly equal. My tests confirmed this was wise. However, I increased the amount of almonds using both almond flour and almonds as discussed below in techniques.
I also found that four eggs seemed sufficient, if I separated them and beat the egg whites.
Issue: What flavor enhancements should be used?
Reviewing a variety of recipes revealed several thoughts of liqueurs, extracts, and flavor additions. My testing revealed that most of these left an unpleasant aftertaste. However, a touch of something is needed to separate Torta Caprese from just another good chocolate cake
Solution: Vanilla and Lemon Zest
Vanilla extract enhances chocolate and clearly is needed. But the rare touch that distinguished my recipe I believe is lemon zest. A shout out to David Rocco, who’s recipe first gave me this idea. But of course what could be more obvious for a dish from the home of Amalfi Lemons.
Hint: If you like to use printed recipes, print below, and use these photos on your mobile device.
Notes on Technique
Issue: How should the almonds be prepared?
Not using flour, it is usually recommended that the almonds are finely chopped. There is a contradictory requirement though. Much of the almonds need to be finely processed, to replace the flour while leaving large chunks of almonds for the final texture.
Some recipes recommend processing in a food processor. Some recommend using the processor while admitting it is hard to do without turning the almonds into almond butter. The reality is, it is hard for the home cook to get the almonds right without special equipment.
Solution: Using almond flour and whole almonds
La Cucina Italiana suggested an alternative, acknowledging the issues for the home cook. The solution to the dilemma is to use both almond flour and whole almonds. The whole almonds still need to be chopped quite a bit, but this does reduce the burden. Plus commercially prepared almond flour is more consistent than what you can do at home. Note: Don’t have both almond flour and whole almonds available? Fine. You can use close to the full weight of almond flour, you will have the taste, but not the crunch of the almonds. You can also use only whole almonds, however, you will need to chop a lot and take to heart the recommendation below to prepare a day before serving.
Issue: How should the eggs be added?
My research showed almost equally mixed opinions on whether the eggs should just be creamed with the sugar and added, or separated with beaten egg whites.
Solution: Separate and beat the egg whites
My recommended recipe uses only four eggs. Using less eggs and separating to beat the whites works well.
Issue: Getting the final texture right
The right texture for a Torta Caprese is to be a little chewy, crunchy (the almond bits), but moist. Accomplishing this while getting it to hold together is not straightforward.
Solution: Care and the end of baking
The solution for getting the right texture requires care. About 50 minutes of baking is required. This can cause the outside of the cake to get a little hard if not watched, but the middle may be too soft. I have found three things that help. (1) Testing to see if a toothpick comes out clean works, but touching the middle for resistance may be required. (2) Removing the outside of the springform pan after about 5 minutes keeps the outside from cooking too much. (3) Lastly, let it cool completely before serving, and frankly waiting to serve the next day is optimal.
- 200g (7 oz) Chocolate
- 200g (7 oz) Butter
- 4 eggs, separated
- 170g (¾ cups) sugar
- 150g (1 cup pre-chopped) Whole Almonds
- 100g (1 cup) Almond Flour (see note 1)
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- Zest of one lemon
- Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
- Preheat an oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper and the sides.
- Chop the whole almonds on a chopping board. Chop the almonds to produce various textures. You want to find chunks of almond in the finished torta. (see note 1)
- Use a double boiler big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Begin by slowly melting the chocolate and butter, and let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugar and the vanilla extract. Then, fold in the chopped almonds, the almond flour, and lemon zest, and mix well until combined. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time, mixing after each.
- In a separate bowl (or your mixer) beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Fold about a third of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Then, fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the side of a pan. Check at about 45 minutes to make sure it is not overcooking. You can test it by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean and the middle appears set, it is done.
- Let cool about 5 minutes on a rack, then remove the sides of the springform pan.
- Let it cool completely, and sprinkle the top with confectioner's sugar. Serve with some fresh whipped cream and berries. (see note 2)
Note 1: If both almond flour and whole almonds are not available you may use all of either.
Note 2: The cake can be served after completely cooled. The texture is best if you can wait a few hours, or optimally, overnight.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 341Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 155mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 6g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.