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Chocolate Cake with Almond-Coconut Crust

Adapted from Cooking with the Seasons, Rancho La Puerta Spa & Resort

One of the premier spas in North America, Rancho La Puerta, lies just south of the California-Mexico border in a tiny town called Tecate. It has been there for 70 years, and was started by Deborah Szekely and her husband at a time when spas in America were virtually unheard of.  I was invited to teach gluten-free cooking classes there in 2010 (its 70th anniversary year) and chose a cake recipe from the ranch’s famed cookbook, Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta. I changed it considerably from the original (for example, adding coconut, changing the oil, making it gluten-free, etc.), but this recipe still captures the essence of the healthy desserts served at the Ranch, as we call it.

1/2           cup milk of choice

1              cup gluten-free chocolate chips (Ghirardelli or Tropical Source), divided

1/2           cup lightly toasted almond slices

1/4           cup shredded sweetened coconut

3              large eggs, at room temperature

1/3           cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4           cup canola oil

1              teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2           cup Carol’s Sorghum Flour Blend (see Recipes button)

1/2           cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch or alkali)

1/2           teaspoon baking soda

1/2           teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4           teaspoon sea salt

1/4           cup powdered sugar (for garnish)

Chocolate Sauce (Hershey’s or Schaerffen Berger), for drizzling

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries, for garnish (see below)

[1] Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

[2] In s small saucepan, gently heat the milk over medium-low heat until warm, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup of the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are melted. Set aside to cool.

[3] Lightly butter an 8×8-inch round or square nonstick pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle the almonds, coconut, and the remaining ½ cup chocolate chips evenly over the parchment.

[4] In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined.  Beat in the melted chocolate until smooth. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt and beat into the eggs on low speed until thoroughly combined. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

[5] Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, run a knife around the outside edge, and invert the cake onto a plate. Remove the parchment paper and invert onto the serving plate to cool completely (nut-side down).

[6] To serve, dust the top with powdered sugar and cut into 16 slices. Decorate the plate with back-and-forth drizzles of chocolate sauce. Place the slices on top of the drizzled sauce, garnished with Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (see below).

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

These charming treats may look difficult to make, but are actually quite simple. Choose large, unblemished strawberries (preferably with green stems attached) for the prettiest effect.

8 ounces dark chocolate

1 teaspoon butter or buttery spread, Earth Balance

1 pound strawberries (about 20) with stems on

[1] Wash strawberries and pat completely dry with paper towels. Lay a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet.

[2] Place half of the chopped chocolate and the butter in a micro-wave safe bowl. Microwave on Medium until the chocolate starts to melt. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth, then stir in remaining chopped chocolate until very smooth. If it doesn’t melt, return to Microwave in 5 second increments until it does.

[3] Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the strawberry into the chocolate, twist it slightly, and then lift it out, letting any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Lay strawberry on the wax paper and repeat with the remaining strawberries.  Let strawberries stand for 20 to 30 minutes or until the chocolate sets up. Serve.

6 comments to Chocolate Cake with Almond-Coconut Crust

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