This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation sale— everything must go!
This is my season for chocolate. Not around Valentine's Day, when chocolate feels so cliché and overdone that I turn to other alternatives. Not in December, when the sight of another sweet makes me cringe and swear to myself that I will definitely, absolutely, hit the gym this week, seriously. And certainly not in summer, when anything chocolately seems impossibly dense and heavy and no way am I turning on my oven to bake in this heat.
Ergo: this cake, in late March.
The beauty of this chocolate almond cake is in it's simplicity. It bakes in 25 minutes. It doesn't leave you with a countertop full of dishes. It allows you to use those cake-baking components that have lived in your pantry for so long, they better start paying rent (I'm talking about you, squares of baking chocolate from 2009).
And my favorite bit of simplicity— it's so good, it doesn't even require icing. Eat it with just the faintest dusting of powdered sugar, or plain like a brownie, warm and gooey from the oven.
Simple Chocolate Almond Cake (adapted, mostly just simplified, from the revered Ms. Julia Child)
4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate, chopped into smallish and more-or-less uniform pieces
3 tablespoons rum or coffee
1/4 pound or 1 stick softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted (if you don't have cake flour, try adding 1 tablespoon cornstarch to regular all-purpose flour)
1. Set oven rack to middle and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully butter and flour a 8 x 2 round cake pan or other 4-cup cake pan; tap out the excess flour.
2. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in the top part of a double boiler (if you don't have a double boiler, use a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water). Turn the heat to low and let melt while you proceed with the recipe.
3. Cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until they are yellow and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended; reserve egg whites in a small bowl.
4. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds and almond extract. Gently stir in a third of the whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour; alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
5. Turn the batter into the cake pan, smoothing to ensure a level surface. Bake for about 25 minutes. The middle of the cake should remain slightly underdone for a creamy, almost fudge-like consistency. A toothpick inserted an inch from the edge of the cake pan should come out clean; a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out The center may move slightly if the pan is shaken.
6. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. If you plan to ice the cake, allow it to cool for an hour or two; otherwise, dust the top with confectioner's sugar if you like, or just enjoy plain.