Technology, when it makes life simpler, is a very helpful thing. I've finally, at long last, gotten the latest version of that phone, the one that when first introduced proceeded to revolutionize the world's mobile habits, and I'm so very happy with how much easier it is to organize my life with it. And because it is so much easier, that underlying frustration that comes with having to tolerate something that didn't work well is gone, gone, gone; and good riddance to it.
Similarly, I'd like to suggest that these little cakes might just have the power to make a bad mood go away, or really improve a so-so one. They're an uncomplicated cake to make, turning out very tender and sweet, and appropriately glazed with a lemon zest-tinged chocolate ganache. You'll also find this dessert is an elegant solution to finish a special dinner, should you be making it for two, or four, or just yourself, in which case, you will be very happy.
Mini Almond Cakes with Lemon Ganache
(recipe adapted from the cookbook GEMS of Gluten-Free Baking by Wendy Turnbull)
For the cakes:
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup finely ground almond flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
For the ganache:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, lightly packed
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 60 to 70% cacao content
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 four-ounce ceramic ramekins
A large baking sheet
(Note: Both the cakes and ganache can be made ahead of time and assembled when ready to serve. If making a day ahead, be sure to refrigerate the cakes in a covered container lined with wax paper for easier removal later. Refrigerate the ganache as well, and re-heat when ready to assemble the dessert.)
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Butter the bottom and sides of each ramekin well and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, add the whole egg, egg white, almond extract, water, and turbinado sugar. Stir to blend together. In a separate bowl, sift the almond flour through a medium strainer to break up the clumps, then measure out one cup by scooping the aerated flour into the cup and leveling with a flat knife. Add to the ingredients in the mixer bowl and stir to blend in.
Using the balloon whisk attachment on the mixer, beat the mixture at high speed for about a minute, until it becomes much smoother in appearance and lightens in texture a bit. In a separate small bowl, stir the potato starch, baking powder and salt together. Remove the mixing bowl with the wet ingredients from the mixing stand, and using a whisk, stir in the potato starch mixture until well incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the four ramekins, about three-quarters full for each. Place the ramekins on a large baking sheet, and put the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the cooking time, until the top edges of the cakes begin to turn golden and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the cake. Remove from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack, using a metal spatula in one hand, picking the ramekin up from underneath, and an oven mitt in your other hand to keep it from falling as you move it. Let the cakes cool completely in the ramekins.
While the cakes are cooling, make the ganache. In a small microwave-safe glass or ceramic container, add the cream and lemon zest, and microwave for one minute at 50% power. You can also heat the cream and lemon zest in a small saucepan on the stove over low heat until very warm to the touch. Break or cut the chocolate into smaller pieces, and add to the heated cream, stirring to melt completely. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until incorporated. The ganache should be smooth and glossy. Set aside.
Once the cakes have cooled, carefully run a thin knife around the inside edge of each cake to loosen it. With one hand covering the top of the ramekin, gently turn the ramekin over and gently tap to release the cake. Place upright on a plate lined with wax paper, and repeat with the remaining ramekins.
When ready to serve, use small salad dishes to plate the dessert. If the ganache has become too firm to drizzle, re-heat in a saucepan over low heat or microwave it for 30 seconds on 50% power until pourable. Take a spoonful of the ganache and spread it in a Z-pattern, as you see in the picture, on the middle of the plate. Place one of the almond cakes on top of the pattern. Take another large spoonful of the ganache and spread it over the top of the cake, encouraging little drips to trickle down the sides of the cake. Grate some more lemon zest over the cake and the entire plate. Serve with pleasure.
Makes 4 mini cakes