DSC04320smallRsmallerI have a love of all things Italian. From the food to the language to the opera and of course to the gorgeous shoes and bags that come from there. I don’t know why this should be. I have no Italian blood in my family and have only been there once. I took my mother to Rome years ago. I have always meant to go back but as yet have not made it. My father was stationed in Rome during the second world war. I don’t know if looking at his photos as a young child triggered off this love affair with Italy but it is there for whatever reason. I found the recipe for this wonderful cake in Rachel Allen’s ‘Food For Living’. She says she was served a slice of this with a glass of Amaretti while in Italy. Gorgeous almond flavours mixed with orange and chocolate. Absolute heaven. During Roman times, almonds were considered a fertility charm, and newly-weds would be showered with almonds during weddings. There have been documented findings that nutmeats and dried fruits were treated as delicacies of this time, because the cultivation of these foods was not as prevalent as today. Imagine the value of something as small as a nut being a cherished gift for so many centuries! Back to the cake. It is dense and moist with a crunchy top and keeps extremely well. This makes it a great dessert for a dinner party as it can be made in advance. I imagine it would also be lovely served with some berries and /or cream on the side. Perfect. The plate it is served on came from Italy as a gift from a dear forum friend, Carlotta. It seemed appropriate to serve this gorgeous cake on such a lovely platter.

Serves 8-12

150g good dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids, preferably 70%)
50g amaretti biscuits
100g flaked almonds, chopped
175g caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
100g butter, cubed
4 eggs, beaten
Cocoa powder or icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Line the base of a 20cm-diameter springform tin with greaseproof paper and butter the sides.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water.

Place the amaretti biscuits, almonds, sugar and orange zest in a food processor, then whizz until the biscuits and almonds are almost finely ground – I like to leave them a bit gritty. Add the butter and eggs, whizz until blended, then add the melted chocolate and briefly whizz again until well combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and pop straight in the oven. Cook for 35 minutes until the cake is puffed and slightly cracked around the edges. Remove and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carefully transferring to a plate. The top is quite crisp, and cracks easily, so I dust it with lots of icing sugar or cocoa powder before serving, to hide any imperfections.

Notes: I did find this cake to a little longer to bake than the specified time. I suggest the use of a skewer. It is sticky in the middle so don’t over cook.

I used ground almonds as that is what I had.

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