The timing couldn’t have been more awful. I haven’t had so much as a sniffle in 3 years and then I came down with a whopper of a flu right in the middle of our short visit with our daughter. Yesterday I boarded the return flight armed with a wad of kleenex the size of a carry-on bag and settled into a hellish four hours of being sick as a dog but trying desperately not to show it. I hate to admit it but I’m one of those people who glares at hackers, coughers, and sneezers on planes. I would have been shooting daggers at myself for sure.
Hopefully none of you were on Virgin America flight 233 from Chicago last night. It was bad.
But now I’m home and I’m ready to cook. Something easy so I won’t keel over in the middle of making it. Those soft pretzels that I was planning to make the minute we touched down will have to wait.
This cake is based on my absolutely insanely delicious Belgian Chocolate Cake, and if you haven’t taken a look at that one, I suggest you do asap. You’ll want to make it for the holidays, I promise you.
I’ve always had a fascination for opposites. In this case the deep rich Belgian chocolate of the original cake is switched out for an equally moist and rich vanilla. I was planning to swap out the snowy white confectioner’s sugar for cocoa powder but when I saw how golden brown the top of this cake got in the oven, I decided to stick with the confectioner’s sugar topping.
You can either dust the cake all over or you can get fancy and sift your sugar or cocoa powder through a doily to get a beautiful lace pattern. Both vintage crochet or paper doilies will work, you just need to find one that fits your cake and has enough cut-out work so the design will show through. It helps to experiment a bit beforehand so you know what works and what doesn’t. I find that old crochet doilies leave the best patterns, but work with what you have.
Lay the doily flat on the top of the cake and sprinkle the cocoa or powdered sugar liberally and evenly across the entire top with a sifter or small strainer, going around the outside of the doily so you will get an impression of the outer edge, too. Then carefully lift the doily off without disturbing the pattern. (It helps to have an extra set of hands here).
This cake is very moist, with a chewy, almost pecan-pie-without-the-pecans type of texture.
Flourless Vanilla Bean Cake
- 9 ounces good quality white chocolate cut in chunks
- 1 stick 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut up
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup almond flour or regular flour
- 5 large eggs preferably room temperature, beaten with a whisk until well blended
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract don’t skimp
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder for sifting on top
- set the oven to 325F
- Put the butter and then the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir again. If it’s not completely melted, put it back in for another 30 seconds, and stir until the chocolate completely melts.
- Add the sugar and flour to the chocolate, then the eggs, extract, and vanilla seeds and blend well. The mixture will thicken. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Pour into a well oiled 9 inch spring-form pan. Bake for about 55-60 minutes, until firm on top and cracks form across the surface. Cool on a rack briefly and then remove the outer ring.
- Sift confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder over the top.
notes and variations
I can’t say I wasn’t glad to get home last night. My head was exploding and every bit of my body ached. But I’m feeling a little melancholy after leaving my daughter. Maybe it was because she’s now living in a part of the country that’s new to us all. Or because there was a gentle drizzle the whole time we were there, or that the last coppery leaves were swirling down from the oak trees. Maybe it was that the sun came out suddenly just as we were pulling out of town, and gave everything an achingly beautiful golden tinge. The slightly scruffy streets of Madison, lined with vintage homes re-purposed for student housing, with all the bikes and couches propped up on the old porches reminded me of my own early days with my husband. And somehow, seeing the coop where my daughter and her boyfriend shop, the places where they work and study, the streets and bus stops they’ll be traversing every day for the next years left me with a simultaneous feeling of connection and distance from them. Anyway I’m at least glad to have left my daughter in such a vibrant and creative place; Madison is lovely and I wouldn’t mind living there myself. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to leave.
Or maybe it’s just that this flu is kicking my butt.
Note: In response to reader’s comments I’ve adjusted the amount of butter and almond flour in this cake.