In my experience as a food blogger, one of two things happens when you sit down to write a post. The first is that some sort of intro pops into your head, you start typing, and it all pretty much works out from there. The second is that you sit down, you stare at a blank screen for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, and you literally come up with… nothing. Scenario #2 is my reality right now. I have a cake that deserves to be shouted about, but NO idea what I want to say.
I guess all this is just my way of asking, can we skip the small talk and cut to the cake? I’m pretty sure it’s what we’re all here for anyway. ;)
If you’ve never had financiers, you might want to check out these apricot ones and these chocolate ones for a little background, but the most important thing to know is that they’re naturally gluten-free teacakes (made with almond meal) that taste like mini bites of heaven. All I did here was bake the chocolate financiers in two mini cake pans rather than a muffin tin, and you end up with the perfect base for a gluten-free layer cake that doesn’t require any crazy ingredients. Since the financiers have this soft and dense texture – a bit like a cross between a cake and a brownie – some whipped cream is the perfect compliment and keeps the cake lighter than your more traditional layer cake. It’s perfect for summer, especially with all those fresh berries thrown into the mix.
Other reasons why I love this cake?
There’s the mascarpone in the whipped cream, which just adds a little more dimension without altering the flavor dramatically, AND goes really well with the chocolate and berries. Plus, there’s the whole naked look – no frosting on the outside – and I’m really diggin’ it. It’s 100x faster and easier to assemble but every bit as stunning (in my mind at least)!
A naturally gluten-free chocolate cake that's dense but soft with an intense chocolate flavor, layered with a light mascarpone whipped cream and fresh berries.
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 2 ounces (1/3 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) almond meal*
- 5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 ounces (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg whites
- 4 1/8 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) mascarpone
- fresh berries*
- confectioner's sugar
- fresh mint sprigs(optional)**
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter bottoms and sides of two 4" cake pans and line bottoms with parchment rounds.
- Place butter in a small skillet set over medium-low to medium heat. Cook until the butter melts, foams up, and turns golden-brown, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and cool briefly.
- Add chocolate chips to browned butter to submerge and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk until smooth, and then whisk in vanilla extract. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment, pulse almond meal, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt together until evenly combined. Transfer to a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add to dry ingredients and fold in until partially incorporated. Add chocolate mixture and fold in until completely incorporated and even in texture.
- Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350ºF and bake another approx. 20 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
- Let cakes cool in pans for 20-30 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely before assembling.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a bowl and handheld electric mixer), beat the cream and sugar together on medium-high speed until thickened. Add mascarpone and continue to beat just until cream holds peaks.
- Carefully slice domes off of cake layers to level tops.
- Place one layer cut-side down on cake stand or serving plate. Use an icing spatula to spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top. Top with berries.
- Spread a light layer of whipped cream on cut side of second cake layer and stack over first, sandwiching berries between cream. If needed/desired, using icing spatula to wipe off any excess cream around edges of cake.***
- Spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top of cake and pile with berries. Dust entire cake (including sides) with confectioner's sugar and garnish top with mint sprigs if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
*I used raspberries and blueberries, but blackberries would work well too as long as they aren't too large.
**I used chocolate mint as a garnish.
***Depending on the look you're going for, you can leave the edges of the cake as-is rather than cleaning off the sides.
Optionally, you could make two single-layer cakes and just top each with a generous amount of whipped cream and a pile of berries. Then, dust with confectioner's sugar and garnish with mint as described above. This would be an easier and cleaner option for slicing and serving.