Flourless Vanilla Bean Cake

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. set the oven to 325F
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sift confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder over the top.

Notes

The cake will puff up and then settle back down right about when it's done. It will be golden brown and shouldn't be jiggly in the center.

https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/home-the-three-year-flu-and-flourless-vanilla-bean-cake/

 

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.

 

39 Comments

  • Reply
    Melissa
    July 11, 2017 at 5:47 am

    Making this today! Can you use parchment paper so it wont stick to bottom? Using it in a number 7 shape pan and not spring pan.

    • Reply
      Sue
      July 11, 2017 at 7:45 am

      This is an older recipe, Melissa, and as I recall it is quite moist, not sure it will be easy to get out of a regular pan. Imagine a flourless chocolate cake, they are so fragile, and this one is too. I don’t want you to be disappointed!

  • Reply
    Lynn
    March 16, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Oh my goodness, just when I am good at making your chocolate belgian cake, I see this!! I use coconut flour on the chocolate cake- will that work here? The chocolate cake is now requested for family birthdays!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 16, 2016 at 7:39 am

      These bars don’t contain any flour at all, Lynn, it’s crushed cookies for the crust, so maybe you could find a gluten free gingersnap, in fact, I remember that Tates has one, and I bet it’s delicious.

  • Reply
    angie ellisor
    June 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    First time I’ve posted a coment. This cake looks great. Planning to try it. Is it possible to make a vanilla ganache. The La Bete Noire cake is fantastic but thought this vanilla cake might be even more special. Thank you, Sue

    • Reply
      Sue
      June 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      It is possible to make white chocolate ganaache! You would make it the same way you make regular ganache, just substituting white chocolate.

  • Reply
    Bijouxs
    September 11, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Just lovely Sue! Vanilla cake is my favorite.

  • Reply
    Becca Strain
    June 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I made this cake and forgot to let it sit before I put it into the tin. The sugar seemed to drop to the bottom and when I cooked it I inadvertently created caramel on the bottom! So I flipped it over and voila! Caramel Upside Down white chocolate cake! :)

  • Reply
    Robin
    August 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    If you hate white chocolate, is there anything you can substitute?

  • Reply
    nerdwithtaste
    November 7, 2012 at 6:25 am

    I love what you did with the decoration! Did you use a doily? Genius! LOVE IT!
    ~ nerdwithtaste.wordpress.com

  • Reply
    Laura Dembowski
    November 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Hope you’re feeling better! The cake looks totally awesome. Wish I could see the inside of it, though. I want to see the goodness that lurks behind the exterior.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    October 29, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Get well soon. Love this cake and the doily impression on top.

  • Reply
    Amy
    October 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Ah sorry to hear that you got sick, Sue. What crummy timing! And I’m one of those people who glares at others hacking/sneezing on planes or in small rooms. As if, “I KNOW you can control that.” Haha I guess we get a reminder to be more understanding we happen to get sick ourselves. Well I hope you feel better soon! And this cake looks so incredibly beautiful! I have wanted to try a pattern like this for awhile…don’t know why I’ve been holding off. And very cool idea to go the opposite way of your chocolate cake. A vanilla bean cake sounds divine right about now.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks Amy, isn’t that hilarious, I think the same thing, and of course when you have a cough, it’s anything but controllable. I have been wanting to try the doily thing for a while now, and I was surprised how easy it was.

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    October 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

    So pretty and yummy looking Sue! I’ve had flourless chocolate cakes but never thought of making one with white chocolate, brilliant idea!
    So sorry to hear you were sick! I almost always come home from visiting my daughter in England with a bug of some type. I never mind too much except one time it was intestinal, and on the plane! At least at that time they lived in Memphis so it wasn’t an eight hour flight – but it was nevertheless Horrible :(
    Hope you had fun in Wisconsin, my old stomping grounds!

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    October 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Not having the kids around is hard, isn’t it! This cake looks delicious and I must remember to use my doilies. Bracing for Hurricane Sandy!!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I’ve been pining for the East coast for so long, but I don’t envy you having to deal with this. I’ve been thinking about you, and hoping for the best.

  • Reply
    DaniBP
    October 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    My heart turned for you when I read about you leaving your daughter. I have a very hard time being away from my children, my son is close by in Toronto but when I leave him after visiting I feel awful.
    I’m very sorry you’re sick on top of it, that sounds dreadful poor you! And to have to go through the flight feeling self-conscious too, I hope you are better soon. You know what they say: feed a cold!
    xo

  • Reply
    Yasmeen
    October 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Sorry to hear you’re under the weather, Sue! What a drag and I’m sure not the way you hoped to end your visit with your daughter. That aside I hope you had a great time!

    I love the sound of this cake and I’m adding it to my Aussie Thanksgiving menu this year. Gorgeous and original decorating idea too. Lovely all around.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      I’m honored to be a part of your Thanksgiving through this cake. It would be really good with a liqueur flavored whipped cream, like Amaretto, or Grand Marnier or Kahlua or something, since it’s such a simple vanilla cake.

  • Reply
    grace
    October 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    love the doily trick–i’m totally stealing that! i’m sick to death of flourless chocolate cakes; hallelujah for a white chocolate version!

  • Reply
    Lisa - respect the shoes
    October 28, 2012 at 1:31 am

    The cake looks delicious.

    I, too, am one of those people who glares daggers at sick people on planes but I may be joining them as I am feeling the tickle of a cold right now and have a biz trip later in the week!

  • Reply
    thyme Sarah
    October 28, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Oh, Sue…drink hot yummy things…like apple cider. Splurge on tissues “with lotion”! And have you husband wash all of your sheets so you can sink into bed with wonderfully fresh sheets!! M. is home for the weekend because P. had surgery. We were supposed to visit her this weekend for Parent’s Weekend. I asked her if she is glad she stayed “in state”. She said she couldn’t image herself so far away at this point…and I can’t imagine it either, yet I prepared for it so much. You mentioned she has a boyfriend. I need to steel myself for that one. When I see someone take over a position of nurturing, I’m not sure how I will feel. We haven’t crossed that bridge yet but I’m sure it’s coming up over the hills. Take care…adore the doily pattern…and the simplicity of the cake.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks Sarah, sometimes I don’t notice the distance so much until we visit, or one of the kids comes home. Then the saying goodbye is really tough. Hope the surgery went smoothly and all is ok in your house…

  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    October 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I love the doily method..I hate the flu..and pain..and not being well..and leaving daughters..
    But they remain..forever our “bestest” friends..you will see:)

  • Reply
    Gerlinde in Dallas
    October 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I’m sorry you’ve come down with the flu and impressed you were able to make this lovely cake despite being sick! I’d probably stay in bed feeling sorry for myself.

    It’s difficult at the best of times to return home from a trip.. especially after seeing family… wishing you a very speedy recovery.

  • Reply
    Rose
    October 27, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    So sorry to read you are sick! Hope you feel better soon.

    The cake looks delicious!

  • Reply
    Tabitha
    October 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Oh you poor soul, I haven’t even had a cold for about ten years, I will feel like I’m dying too next time I catch something. I did chow down on a pretzel for lunch and I’m trying to take a break from baking as I’m squelching out of my clothes.
    Madison sounds beautiful. I really want to move but it ain’t happening.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Squelching out of your clothes? You have such a way with words, and the last time I looked, there was no squelching whatsoever!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    October 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I totally just started crying reading this post, Sue. First, I am sorry you are sick. I am the CLASSIC person of won’t get sick for a year and then the day before a big event or during! the big event, I get sick. It’s something about adrenaline keeping me going and then my body crashes when it thinks we’re in the clear. But the part about your daughter and her new life in Madison, that it’s so far away from Cali, but that it brings you back to a former and earlier times with your husband. And seeing where they live, shop, study, I know the UW campus well. I can picture the houses and neighborhoods and campus life. I wonder where my daughter will want to go to school. I have 12 years til it’s a reality. But I know it will go so fast.

    And the cake. Stunning! The flavors, flourless, easy, the doily idea!

    This is my fave post in a long time. Thank you very much, Mrs. Hallmark cards :)

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      October 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      It’s funny because my other daughter actually going to the college I went to, and that comes with a whole different set of emotions, no wonder they sell so many Hallmark cards!

    Leave a Reply

    Pin
    Share
    Tweet
    Stumble
    +1