One of the key principles of an anti-inflammatory diet is to choose foods that are as nutrient-dense and low in sugar as possible. This principle makes navigating dessert options particularly treacherous. I usually stick with dark chocolate (no more than 1.5 ounces of 70% or higher cacao content) or fruit, but sometimes I just really want a slice of cake. One of my favorites is an Italian torta di mandorla, or almond cake, traditionally scented with citrus and topped with a brown butter icing and sliced almonds. Some recipes use almond meal alone, but I’m not a fan of the gritty texture — I like the recipes with a softer crumb, attained by blending almond meal with all-purpose flour.
However, not only do I need a cake that’s gluten-free, I need to avoid refined sugars and seriously restrict the amount of even natural added sugars, without sacrificing the torta’s moist texture. This recipe delivers: it’s loaded with essential nutrients, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, and still manages to taste absolutely wonderful, too. I avoided the icing altogether by sprinkling the batter with sliced almonds before baking, so their toasty flavor deepened as the cake baked. A bit of honey, a humectant, in the batter helps the cake retain its moistness, but you could also serve it with a bit of jam on the side (both raspberry and apricot pair beautifully with almond). The cake would make a lovely addition to a brunch as well as a sophisticated dessert.
I recommend using very sticky, soft medjool dates (they stay softer longer if you buy them with pits and remove the pits yourself). If you can find only pitted dates that have dried out, then soak them in hot water for 15 minutes and then drain them before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
A Healthier Torta Di Mandorla
3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup GF wholegrain oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted
2 Tbsp raw honey (buckwheat is very nice!)
1/2 cup olive oil
zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup sliced natural almonds
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan (I use coconut oil) and dust bottom lightly with oat flour.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl to break up any lumps.
Combine the eggs and dates in a high-powered blender or food processor and puree until mostly smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (except the almonds) to the blender or food processor and puree until smooth and emulsified.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk lightly just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the surface of the batter. Bake for 34-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, and then remove the sides of the springform pan, and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Delicious served plain, or with coconut whipped cream or a dollop of jam.