Flourless cakes have become very popular recently, partly due to the number of gluten-free eaters we need to cater for but also because they’re delicious!!
Strangely enough, when I started researching flourless cakes I found loads of recipes (particularly for flourless chocolate cakes) but very little background or theory.
My “textbooks” have no mention of flourless cakes so I had to hit the web to pull together the info below.
The recipes themselves are pretty simple and most only have a handful of ingredients including butter, eggs, sugar, flour substitute and flavouring.
But I really wanted to understand how and why flourless cakes worked.
- Firstly, I should just say that I’m no gluten-free expert and this is not meant to be advice on substituting wheat flour for other flours in regular cake recipes.
- Flourless cakes will generally use nut-based subsitutes such as almond meal, hazelnut meal or ground pistachios which give great additional flavour as well as structure to the cake.
- Some cakes won’t use a nut meal at all, and start bordering on being a set custard/mousse/fudge which is equally scrummy but very dense and rich.
Use of eggs
- Because you can’t use a chemical rising agent in flourless cakes, you’ll often see egg whites whisked in to the cake batter to lighten the cake and give it some height.
- This is almost a soufflé effect, so the cake can sometimes drop in the centre if you’re not careful.
Keeping in moisture
Some flourless cakes can be quite dry, so there are a number of tips and tricks to overcome this:
- Citrus flourless cakes will usually be covered in a syrup that drenches into the cake itself. This not only adds lots of flavour, but also keeps the cake extremely moist.
- Incorporating whole fresh berries into the cake batter (as per the friand recipe below) will add a moist burst of flavour.
- Some flourless chocolate cakes will include a fruit puree made from fresh or dried dates or figs that help to moisten the cake. The recipe will call for you to cook the fruit slowly over the stove in a small amount of alcohol until you can mash it with a fork.
Quality of ingredients
- This is most applicable to flourless chocolate bakes, but try to get the best quality chocolate you can and stay away from recipes that just call for cocoa (which will make the cake dry). Since you’re only using a few ingredients, and chocolate is the star of the cake, splurge on Valrhona or equivalent just this once!
I’ve included a recipe here for raspberry friands which I love, and will do a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake next week.
Friands are small cakes made from egg whites and almond meal that are recognised by their distinctive oval shape. If you don’t have a friand tin, you can use a muffin tin.
They are often flavoured with citrus fruit, coconut or berries and are a great way to use up leftover egg whites. The recipe does include a small amount of flour, but this can be substituted for gluten-free flour.
200g butter, melted
2 cups pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons plain/gluten-free flour
1 1/2 cups almond meal
150g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.
Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl, then stir in the almond meal.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg whites, mixing as you go.
Pour in the melted butter and mix until combined. Gently fold through the berries.
Fill greased friand tins and cook for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with icing sugar once cooled.