March 14, 2010 2:30 PM
Flourless Almond and Porto Cake
POSTED IN: Recipes , Desserts
TAGS: Almonds , Butter , Cake , cake , Egg , Gluten-free diet , Marzipan , Mexican , Mexico , Oporto , Passover , pastel , Port , Porto , Sugar , Vanilla extract
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This cake is a treat. What's more, being flourless, it is perfect for both gluten free eaters and the coming Passover week.

As a fan of marzipan this cake feels like a fluffy, smooth, tasty piece of marzipan that has turned into a cake to become a bigger, lighter and longer lasting version of itself. It can be served as a dessert, with some whipped cream on top. If you are lucky to have some leftover, it makes for a decadent breakfast with a side of berries and some hot coffee or tea.

The recipe comes from the Mexican convent of San Jerónimo, where Mexico's most famous nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was settled. It dates to the late 1600's. Spanish nuns who came to help establish the different convents, had an indomitable sweet tooth, which paired with Mexico's exotic ingredients, made for some of the country's dearest and sweetest desserts. Centuries later, these desserts are staples in Mexico's kitchens.

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There are many kinds of nut cakes or tortes in Mexican cooking, with pinenuts, pecans, and hazelnuts amongst some. They can be sweetened with sugar or in some cases with sweetened condensed milk. I find that when trying and testing desserts inherited from convents or nuns, I need to pump down the sugar a bit. So if you want the original flavor, add an extra 1/3 cup sugar to the recipe below... 

For this cake, almonds are used, and a couple other ingredients. It is a snap to make in the food processor or blender.

Just grind the already slivered almonds and sugar, less than a minute. Once ground, add the butter at room temperature, the eggs, vanilla and if you want a hint of alcohol, like the nuns from San Jerónimo, add some Porto wine.  

Flourless Almond and Port Cake 3.jpgPulse again, until well combined. Less than a minute too... 

Flourless Almond and Port Cake 4.jpgPour the batter over a buttered pan with its bottom lined with parchment paper.

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The batter will look rather thin, barely filling the pan, but that is ok... Put it in the oven... 

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Take it out about 30 minutes later. Once it has a nicely tanned top and a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool a bit and turn it onto a plate. Remove the parchment paper and turn onto another plate, just to have it right side up.

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Mix some apricot marmalade with lime juice (the nuns from San Jerónimo only used apricot marmalade, but I wanted to pump up the acidity... up to you) in a sauce pan and let it heat for a couple minutes. Until it dissolves.

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Brush the glaze, wherever you want to decorate with some lightly toasted sliced almonds... Here is a photo of the decoration process, halfway through...

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And away you go!

No doubt, one of the tastiest parts of my job, as I research through the history of Mexico's cuisine, is to test centuries' old recipes in my kitchen. In this case, the flavors of the convent of the Jerónimas traveled directly to Washington DC, helping me taste a bit of their history. You can get a taste of it in your own kitchen too...

Adapted from the Convent of San Jerónimo
Serves 12-15

3/4 cup sugar
2 cups slivered almonds
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Porto wine, optional or more to taste
1/4 cup apricot marmalade
1 tablespoon lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped cream, optional

Butter a round 9 to 10 inch spring-form pan, and cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the almonds and sugar into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Crack the eggs on top of the mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and Porto wine, if you will use it. Drop in the butter chunks, and process until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the mold. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The top will be nicely tanned, and the cake will feel springy to the touch and a toothpick should come out clean if inserted in the cake.

Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold the cake, invert onto a platter and remove the parchment paper. Invert the cake again onto another platter to have the top of the cake right side up.

In a small saucepan, mix the apricot glaze with the lime juice. Set over medium heat and simmer for a couple minute.

With a brush, spread the apricot glaze on the outer circumference, about 1 to 2 inches, on the top of the cake. Sprinkle the glazed area with the toasted sliced almonds. You may serve the cake with whipped cream on the side, or on the top of the cake.

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Pati, this looks delicious! La próxima vez que hagas experimentos, ya sabes a quién llamar para que los pruebe...

Monica | March 13, 2010 5:59 PM

Monica, OK! I will be sure to let you know...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Monica | March 13, 2010 6:09 PM

P.D. I am forwarding this to a friend who is gluten-intolerant. She is going to love it. ¡Gracias!

Monica | March 14, 2010 11:00 PM

Cant wait to try this cake this passover. Looks easy and delicious.

ZOe | March 19, 2010 6:36 AM

Delicious. Thank you for the gluten free recipe, and for the fascinating information about the origin of the cake.

Mary | August 17, 2010 2:02 AM

Dear Mary, My pleasure!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Mary | August 21, 2010 1:36 PM

Hi Pati, I saw your show today on PBS, and you featured this recipe. I am excited to prepare this for my mom for Mother's Day, as she cannot have gluten. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe, and I can't wait to try it!

Laura Canton | May 7, 2011 2:10 PM

Pati, I saw your show for the first time today and I am so exhilarated by your beautiful recipes. I can't wait to make the almond cake!!

Victoria | May 16, 2011 7:31 PM

Patti, I saw this recipe recently on my PBS station and the next day, I gave it a try. It was DELICIOUS! My wife ate 3 slices the first night and it was all gone within a day or so. No, she didn't eat it all...I certainly got my fair share!

Jeff | May 18, 2011 10:33 PM

Hi Jeff,
I'm glad you two were able to share! Haha, I'm so glad you enjoyed the cake!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jeff | May 23, 2011 1:05 PM

Pati this cake recipe is perfect! My mom is gluten and dairy intolerant; do you think it would turn out as good if I substitute the butter with oil?

Jennifer | June 18, 2011 5:15 PM

Hey Jennifer, I have always made this cake with butter, but if I were to try a non-dairy substitute, I would replace the butter with vegetable shortening. Of course you can also try oil instead, please let me know how it turns out!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jennifer | June 28, 2011 10:25 AM

I made the Flourless Almond and Porto Cake and it was delicious. Thanks for the recipe! I am going to make it when it is my turn to take a snack to Bible Study.

Eleanor Valdez | July 3, 2011 12:50 AM

I tried your Almond cake recipe. In one word, DELICIOSO!!!!! Loved the fact that it's even easy for us, the no-good-at-baking population!
Now there's one thing that concerns me: The recipe mentions that it serves 12-15. How do I explain to myself the fact that there is less than 1/2 left, even though I made it today??
These recipes are truly wonderful, I will keep trying more!
Mil gracias,

Michelle | November 24, 2011 10:51 PM

Hola Michelle,
So glad you like it!! Truth is: I can eat one entire cake by myself...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Michelle | November 25, 2011 3:20 PM

Hi Pati,

I will like to bake this cake for this coming weekend. Instead of the slivered almonds I have almond flour. How many cups of almond flour should I used?

I appreciate your recommendations. Love your recipes!!

Gracias un Millon!!

Maribel | January 10, 2012 10:04 AM

Hola Maribel, you can try it with 1 1/2 cups almond flour. Gracias un millón a tí!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Maribel | January 13, 2012 11:45 AM

Hi Patti,
Love your show, recipes, and your personality. In California I used to buy my sweets from a Mexican bakery, my favorites were vanilla cake like cookies that they called guayabas. They were 2 to 2-1/2" in diamter and were either plain or with chocolate chips and my favorite, with raisins. Does this sound familiar to you, if so, could you share the recipe? Thank you.

Vicki | February 19, 2012 1:46 PM

OMG I love requests and questions like this Vicki! You have sent me on a mission, and I will post the Guayaba recipe soon!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Vicki | February 24, 2012 5:15 PM

Hi Patti love the idea of this cake will be attempting this creation today. I am always looking for healthier options in Mexican food. My children love there abuelitas food and it's so much fun to cook with them. I also wanted to suggest a great mexican salad that my mom makes." Ensalada de Nopales". The whole idea that a cactus that grows in the desert can be so juicy always amazes me!. I haven't seen anyone make this on TV. It's a great vegetarian dish super healthy. Fairly easy to make as long as you can find your cactus ha ha. I also love mixing it in with eggs. Nopalitos con huevos casserole. Thank you for the recipe!

Minerva Guerra | April 1, 2012 1:13 PM

That salad sounds delicious Minerva! I actually have a recipe using cactus paddles coming up in my next season. I will keep you updated on when it will air :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Minerva Guerra | April 5, 2012 5:10 PM

Pati... this recipe is DIVINE! I have been holding on to this since I saw you on PBS and found it as I was going through my stack of printed recipes to try. I am recently gluten free and casein (dairy) free and thought it would be a perfect introduction to GF/CF baking. What a hit! I did use Earth Balance Spread (Original) instead of butter and it came out perfect. The most ideal level of decadence but lightness, touch of sweet but not over-sweet. I took it to work and it is gone... everyone loved it! I cannot wait to make it for my Colombian mother who will be visiting in the next couple of weeks. This will be one I use again and again (and again)... I know it! Easy, simple and most of all delicious!

Suzette | June 25, 2012 5:10 PM

I wish this recipe had been posted with the cooking time.

Tim W. | September 28, 2012 2:20 PM

Hola Tim, You bake the cake at 350 degrees for approx. 30 minutes; then cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Let me know if you try it!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Tim W. | October 2, 2012 2:03 PM