Sometimes a story is so good, you start telling it on behalf of someone else, adopting it as if it’s your own.
Sometimes that story takes place in a dreamlike setting, making the vicariousness all the more appealing.
When my Special One was not quite yet my “Special One,” he went on a family trip to Italy. After concluding an amazing Mediterranean meal overlooking the bright blue waters and cliffside homes of the Amalfi coast, the server asked if the family might want to conclude with some “lemon jello.” “When in the Amalfi coast..,” he thought, and he agreed to have a citrus flavored dessert we associate with the jiggling, cutout creatures of our childhood. The server returned with a bottle of yellow liquid and small glasses, and my very confused Special One took his first sip of limoncello.
A friend invited me to a gathering featuring his homemade pizzas (read: amazing pizza after pizza after pizza!!!), so I offered to bring a dessert. Often when I think of Italian cuisine, I think of a fresh, tart, lemony finale, so my contribution was a dark, chocolate, sweet, tart lemony conclusion. Plus, with a name like “Chocolate Almond Lemon Cake,” this rich dessert is far less confusing than limoncello.
Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Cake
1/2 cup good-quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon organic lemon extract
1 3/4 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pure cane sugar
3 large organic eggs
2/3 cup regular olive oil (plus more for greasing)
Preheat your oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9-inch springform tin with a little oil and line the base with baking parchment.
Whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a glass measuring bowl until smooth. Whisk in the extracts, then set aside to cool a little.
In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal (or flour) with the baking soda and pinch of salt.
Put the sugar, olive oil and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or other bowl and whisk arrangement of your choice) and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.
Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in you can slowly add the ground almond mixture.
Scrape down, and stir a little with a spatula, then pour this dark, liquid batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very centre, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its tin, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the tin. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm with some ice cream, as a pudding.
Candied Lemon Slices & Syrup
3/4 cups pure cane sugar
1/3 cup water
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add the lemon slices and bring to the boil.
Cook for 12-15 minutes or until the syrup has thickened and lemon slices are translucent.
Pour some of the syrup* over the cake and top with the lemon slices. Allow to cool and serve.
*You can use any leftover syrup as a simple syrup in cocktails or add to homemade whipped cream and then dollop into your morning coffee.