Almond Cake with Orange and Ricotta
My roommate and I went to Ottolenghi the other day and we had the most amazing cake for dessert. It had orange and chocolate, which is one of my favourite combinations and it was made with almond flour. After trying this cake, I just knew I had to experiment with almond flour a bit myself, because I liked it so much. I started to look up some recipes online, thinking it would be kind of similar to baking with coconut flour, but nothing is less true! You do need to use quite a few eggs, but almond flour is not nearly as absorbent as coconut flour. Recipes for one 8" cake often call for 2 cups of almond flour at least, making the cakes very calorie dense. My solution: just substitute 1 cup almond flour for 1/4 cup of coconut flour! Because it's so extremely absorbent, you really don't need to use much of it, so you're left with a cake that's super high in protein but relatively low in calories.
What's more, this recipe is perfect for people out there who like coconut flour because of its absorbing qualities, but don't necessarily enjoy the taste of coconut in every cake they bake. I found this mix of 1 cup almond + 1/4 cup coconut flour did a pretty good job at masking the fact that there was even coconut flour in there. Also, store-bought almond flour/finely ground almonds is pretty expensive (you can make it yourself if you have a decent kitchen processor), so this blend is very economical too. One cup of store-bought almond flour will easily cost 1 pound at the least, whereas 1/4 cup of coconut flour costs around 25 pence. (Of course there is a lot of variation in price depending on the brand and store and your location.)
Although I am a big fan of the chocolate + orange combination, I didn't want to bake a chocolate cake. I wanted this cake to be protein-packed and free of refined sugar, to make it suitable as a breakfast cake. So let me give you a heads up: this cake is really not that sweet and I would not recommend it as an afternoon tea / coffee treat. If you want to serve it that way, definitely consider adding at least an extra 1/2 cup of honey or 1/2 cup of white sugar. It really depends on how sweet you want it to be, it's up to you! It does have the texture of a coffee cake though, because of the creamy ricotta in it. You can use either full-fat or any other ricotta you like (full-fat is probably easiest to find). I chose to use a full-fat ricotta, because I was not adding any extra oil or butter to this cake. If you go with a fat-free ricotta, you might want to consider adding 1/4 cup of butter/vegetable oil.
Orange & Ricotta Almond Cake
Serves: 12 - Preparation time: 30 minutes - Baking time: 45 minutes
¼ cup coconut flour
1 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
handful of almond slivers
1 cup full-fat ricotta (room temp)
4 cold eggs, separated
¼ cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup honey (+1/2 cup extra when serving as a sweet coffee cake)
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest (double for a less subtle orange kick)
Preheat your oven to 150° C / 300° F.
Grate the zest of one orange and set aside.
Separate the eggs (this is easier if they're cold) and beat the egg whites until they are stiff using an electric hand mixer.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks with the ricotta with the hand mixer until smooth.
Add the vanilla extract, honey, orange juice and orange zest. Mix for a minute.
Hold a sieve over the bowl and sift the coconut and almond flour through it into the wet mixture.
Add the baking powder and salt as well. Mix until combined and lump free.
Then, fold in the egg whites bit by bit using a spatula. Be careful not to mix too hard, as you want to maintain the airiness of the egg whites to make for a fluffy cake.
Transfer the mixture to an 8" cake pan and sprinkle with some slivered almond.
Cover the cake with aluminium foil (be sure to spray it with some baking spray so it won't stick to the top of the cake once it rises!) and blind-bake the cake for 30 minutes.
Take off the aluminium foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top looks done and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Did I say this cake is almost completely carb-free? And it's gluten free as well! The perfect thing to serve if you're sharing with people on a low-carb or gluten free diet.