I have always loved birthday cakes. When I was a kid, my mom would make a two-layer devil’s food cake with shiny white marshmallow icing. My friend Polly brought a version of this cake to my birthday party, modified to be gluten- and sugar-free. I’ve modified it even further, melding her recipe (originally from Lindsay Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts) with one from my friend Angela’s blog.
I was at Angela’s in Provence on my actual birthday this year. I studied French in 5th, 7th through 11th grades, and in college. It has been a lifelong dream to visit France. But life—and other travel opportunities—intervened. It wasn’t until my Big 5-0 that The Husband and I got to France. And it was incredibly special, because Angela made me this cake to finish off a beautiful lunch at their home. Angela’s recipe (which is not vegan) is from Provençal chocolatier Joel Durand.
I served it with fresh strawberry sauce and no ganache (frosting). I love how the tart acid from the fruit cuts the richness of the chocolate. I used melted strawberry-vodka sorbet. You could make a quick, easy sauce with strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries and a splash each of water and brandy or cognac whizzed in a blender.
Flourless Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake
4 T. (40 g) flaxseed meal
8 oz. (225 g) unsweetened baking chocolate
½ C. (125 ml) coconut oil
½ C. (75 g) poppy seeds
1 ½ C. (125 g) ground hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts
1 ½ C. (375 ml) agave syrup
2 t. (10 ml) vanilla
1 t. (2 g) cinnamon
Grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with coconut oil. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and a ribbon of parchment as wide as the pan is tall. Stick the paper to the pan, then oil the paper. Sift a small amount of cocoa powder to cover the inside of the pan, tapping out excess. Set the pan aside.
Preheat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas mark 3.
Put the flaxseed meal into the work bowl of your stand mixer, food processor, or a deep mixing bowl. Add ¾ C. (190 ml) filtered water and let sit while you work.
Roughly chop the baking chocolate. Add the coconut oil (melt the coconut oil in a microwave if necessary to measure it).
Put a pan of water on the stove, with a metal bowl that fits on top, but is not touching the water. (Congratulations! You just made a fancy double boiler.) Heat the water to a simmer, then add the chocolate and coconut oil, mixing with a whisk until it melts.
If you have a spice grinder or mill, grind the poppy seeds to release their flavor. If you don’t, no worries. (A blender doesn’t work, they just spin around.)
Zest the lemon into the large work bowl, add the lemon juice, then add all the other ingredients and beat until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan on the center shelf of the heated oven. Bake 35 minutes. The edges should rise and crack a little bit. The center of the cake will be wiggly; it will set up as it cools.
Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack. It will separate from the sides as it cools. When it is completely cool, remove the springform sides. Place a plate on top of the cake, flip it over, remove the base and the parchment paper and place a serving plate on the bottom of the cake. Flip again, so that the cake is right side up.
Sift cocoa powder lightly over the top (you can use a paper doily or cut shapes into wax paper to make the top look fancy) and serve with berry sauce or sorbet. Cut in very thin slices, as this cake is super rich!
Store the cake in the refrigerator, and slice it cold for best results. It will get soft on warm days.
Notes: If you grind your own flax seeds in a blender, try putting the poppy seeds in with them. If you don’t have a springform pan, use a round cake pan and follow the pan preparation instructions. I feel pretty certain that it would work just fine. I got my hazelnuts (also known as filberts) from Freddy Guy’s in Oregon. They are fabulous!
To celebrate my blog-iversary, I’m giving away a copy of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures. See tomorrow’s post for details!
Someone asked me if this cake is “healthy.” Well, yes, for a dessert. It offers healthy fats, anti-oxidants from the chocolate, is low on the glycemic index, and also offers protein and fiber. But it’s still a special treat, as it’s a calorie-dense food. In that same category are some other healthy(ish) birthday cake ideas:
Rosemary and Olive Oil cake from Domestic Divas
Gluten-free lemon almond polenta cake from A Food Centric Life (I have had this and it is g-o-o-d!)
Vegan chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut ganache from What Would Cathy Eat?