There’s many things I miss about The Great British Bake Off. Besides the quaintness of the glorified gazebo, the mad contestant that’s been sniffing too much sugar, and the cake deity herself, Mary Berry, one of my favourite elements only really emerged in the recent series’ when they’ve exhausted the British classics and they’ve headed a bit more off-piste. At first, I was a bit torn by the European bakes they had begun to explore- do I really want to watch someone bake a cake I can’t pronounce and have never heard of? How am I supposed to know if it is good if I don’t know what it is? Anyone could get away with that- when your cake collapses, string a few L’s and Y’s together and tell the judges you’ve baked a Welsh masterpiece and it’s supposed to look like that.
But type the bakes into Google, and a whole world of European cuisine opens up. Goodbye tired Madeira cakes and shortbread biscuits, hello punsch-roll and bavarois cream. I found that I was eager to discover what bizarre contraption they had in store to bake the next week.
I’ve had withdrawal symptoms since GBBO ended, and desperate not to go back to boring old Victoria sponge, I wanted to find a cake that was a bit unusual. It was during one of my regular trawls of European bakes on Google (what do you mean, you don’t do that too?) that I came across the Torta Caprese, a sweet, flourless cake traditionally made with milk chocolate. It’s ideal for coeliacs thanks to the substitution of flour for ground almonds. This version switches the milk chocolate for white, and whilst the batter may seem a bit touch-and-go in the middle, the end result is delicious; buttery and sticky, with the creaminess of the white chocolate. It tastes even better once it’s had chance to go cold, so if you can bare it, stick it in an airtight container, leave it overnight and enjoy it with morning coffee the next day.
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MAKES one 21cm round cake
PREP 30 mins
COOK 45 mins
▪ Will keep in an airtight container for three days
150g softened butter
125g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs, separated
250g white chocolate
150g ground almonds
Icing sugar, to dust
1 Preheat the oven to 170°c/325°f/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 21cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Grease both sides of the parchment by pressing the paper down lightly on the greased tin, then turning over and placing greased side up.
2 Using an electric whisk, beat the butter, caster sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks together until pale and fluffy. This will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the speed of your mixer.
3 Melt the white chocolate. You can do this in the microwave easily, by putting about 2/3 of the chocolate in a microwave-safe plastic bowl and heating for short 30 second intervals, stirring well between each. Chop the remaining 1/3 of the chocolate into small shavings, and add this into the melted chocolate. This will help keep the temperature down and stop it from seizing. Fold in the melted chocolate and ground almonds to the egg, butter and sugar mixture using a large metal spoon.
4 In another clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold this carefully into the mixture, cutting through the egg whites and lifting from bottom to top to avoid knocking out any air.
5 Spoon the batter into the tin, level the top with a spatula, and cook for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and just firm. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack. When completely cool, dust with icing sugar. Serve with cream or enjoy with a cup of coffee. ▪