Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recipe: Almond Torte (A Cake Even a Diabetic Can Love)

I've been diabetic for over 10 years.  It's not the biggest cross one could bear, but (as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof), it's no great honor, either.

Sometimes people like to make me what they think of as diabetic desserts.  Usually this means that somewhere along the way they used artificial sweetener instead of sugar.  But this isn't the key to eating properly as a diabetic:  you have to cut down on all carbohydrates and keep your intake of them fairly constant.  So that means everything with starch and sugars must be counted:  grain, fruit, everything.  Not just sugar.  And in fact, you can eat almost anything--but if something is loaded with carbs, you can only have a little.  Usually, that seems more like a tease than anything else, so it's better just to skip it.

There's a further wrinkle:  starting back in April, I paid very close attention to what I was eating.  I cut out almost all carbohydrate for a while, and I began to lose weight (something I've always needed to do).  I've managed to lose about 55 lbs. since then.  But there was an unexpected side-effect:  I lost much of my taste for sweet.  Baked goods generally taste too sweet to me now.  This is actually a pain, because my brain still wants them, but my mouth rebels.

So finding a cake I could make for my birthday was a real challenge.  And then I thought of this really lovely cake that Sue's mother loved so much.  There is less than a cup of sugar in it, just a little bit of bread crumbs, and a tablespoon of flour.  In place of flour, you use ground nuts--almonds are the first choice, but I've made the cake successfully with walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts.  In the entire cake, frosting and all, I estimate there are about 270 grams of carbohydrate.  That means if you get 8 slices out of the cake, each serving will have only 33 grams of carbs.  And if you're really parsimonious and cut the cake into 12 pieces, each serving will have just 22 grams of carbs.  (I say have the bigger piece.)  Basically, that's the same as a medium pear.

So here's the cake, complete with a trick I just recently discovered:  if you add gelatin to whipped cream, it stabilizes it remarkably.  It will keep -- I kid you not -- for weeks.  I made some on January 7, and it's still in my fridge today, just as good, more than 2 weeks later.  So you can frost this cake with whipped cream, refrigerate it, and serve it later.  Terrific!

6 eggs, separated, plus 1 whole egg
cream of tartar, pinch of salt
1 cup ground almonds (or walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts)--measure the nuts after grinding in the food processor
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup white bread crumbs
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
whipped cream frosting (see below)

Preheat the oven to 275* F.  Butter the bottoms of 3 8-inch cake pans (somehow, I could only find 9-inch pans in my cabinet, so I only made 2 layers--3 is definitely better).  Line them with waxed paper, then butter and flour the insides of the pans.  (I use Baker's Joy, which is a spray that combines oil and flour, for this purpose.)  Set the pans aside until ready.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy.  Add a small amount of cream of tartar (1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon will do) and a pinch of salt, then beat at high speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar until the whites form stiff peaks.  Set aside.

Using the same beater, beat the whole egg and the yolks in another bowl until they are thick and light yellow in color.  Gradually beat in 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat until the mixture is thick and pale, almost white.  Beat in the ground nuts and the bread crumbs.  Stir in the almond extract.  This should now form a dense, moist mass.

Mix 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to thin it.  Sprinkle the flour on the batter, then quickly but thoroughly fold in the rest of the whites, deflating them as little as possible.

Divide the batter among the 3 pans--they should be about half full.  Level the tops with a rubber spatula and place the pans in the center of the preheated oven.  Bake for 35 - 45 minutes.  When it is done, the cake will shrink from the sides of the pans and a tester inserted in the center will come out clean.  Cool the layers for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them to greased wire racks to cool completely before frosting with whipped cream.  Chill the cake until ready to serve.  If desired, garnish the top of the cake with more ground nuts, or with chocolate shavings (I do well just using a swivel-bladed peeler on a bar of bittersweet chocolate), or both.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract  (for other purposes, use 2 - 3 teaspoons of vanilla)

Soften the gelatin in the water, then microwave on high for 10 - 15 seconds until the gelatin is dissolved.  Cool for 2 - 3 minutes.  (The gelatin must be liquid, but not hot.)

Using a metal bowl and beaters that have been in the freezer for at least 1/2 hour (you could also put the cream in the freezer for a while--it all works better when everything is quite cold), beat the cream until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and flavoring and beat until you see streaks in the bowl.  Slowly pour the gelatin into the bowl with the beater running (be sure to pour it quite near the edge of the bowl:  if you pour it onto the beater, you'll have flying gelatin) until the cream is stiff.  Chill until ready to use.  This will keep for several days in a covered container in the refrigerator.

There is more than enough here to frost a 3-layer cake.

This is an elegant, light, and very satisfying dessert.

Even for a diabetic, there needs to be a little sweetness in life.  But it doesn't have to kill you, and it can taste delicious!

1 comment:

  1. My mother was diabetic for twenty-five years. Much of her cooking remained the same, but she began to alter a few recipes. One thing she did was cut part of the sugar from the recipe she used for lemon meringue pie. We were used to it, but it was so tart that we couldn't serve it to guests.