Double Chocolate Almond Loaf Cake

Depending on where you live, spring is or is not showing her face. She sure does seem to be a big tease this year, doesn’t she? I remember late February last year walking around the UW campus admiring the cherry blossoms, and this year they’re finally drooping and draping across streets and we’re creeping our way through April. I’ve been on the hunt for local rhubarb and tender asparagus and it seems they’re taking their sweet time, too. So in the meantime, thankfully, we’ve always got chocolate. 
We’re going to an Easter Friendsgiving of sorts this year: a non-denominational gathering of friends who don’t necessarily have family obligations or hard-and-fast traditions but like to get together and share a springtime meal. I volunteered for dessert, and have been mulling my contribution this past week while we’ve been on vacation (more on that soon!). When I think about spring baking, lemon desserts come to mind as do strawberries, rhubarb, and fluffy meringues or pavlova — not necessarily a deep, dark chocolate loaf cake, but then again, this hasn’t been a traditional spring. And chocolate is always reliable, always in season, never goes out of style, and always stands by your side.
So that’s where I started, with chocolate, and from there I thought about using one of my favorite whole grain flours along with almond flour, which I’ve been experimenting a lot with in baked goods lately. If you do much gluten-free baking, you know almond flour is a staple and while I don’t have to bake gluten-free for health reasons, I do always love experimenting with nut flours for the flavor and tender crumb they impart (and the extra hit of protein!). If you’ve never worked with almond flour, I’ve sung the praises of Bob’s Red Mill before and that’s the brand I generally reach for: their almond flour is always fresh and super accessible, and has become a pantry go-to for us this season.
In truth, I made this cake three times to get it just right for you. Again, if you do much gluten-free baking, you know there’s some science with a capital S involved, and I set out initially to do the whole thing with almond flour and the cake was delicious although we lovingly called it Chocolate Pudding Cake, which was a bit generous as it was actually quite raw in the center. But Sam is an eternal optimist and thought that I’d discovered a whole new genre of desserts — that I was really onto something here. While I love his genuine and sincere admiration for new strides in (literally raw) desserts, deep down I knew that one wouldn’t do. The second round was better but the flavor felt one dimensional and not all that exciting, and so commenced further late night cake testing. The third round was spot on: I added espresso powder for depth and a bunch of chopped dark chocolate to the batter at the very end. Because really, why not?
The result is a fragrant, tender chocolate loaf cake studded with chunks of dark chocolate that’s special enough for a celebration, but simple enough to be an everyday dessert, too. It’s unfussy as most loaf cakes should be —  a two bowl, mix-by-hand situation, and is just as good for dessert with whipped cream or coconut whipped cream as it is for breakfast with dark coffee or tea. It’s a cake to get us set up for the next season ahead, to get us poised for rhubarb and outdoor picnics and later dinners with warm breezes. I can almost just sense it all right around the corner.

Cook’s Note: I wanted to say something quickly about the difference between almond meal and almond flour as I know this can get confusing when you’re at the grocery store. Almond meal and almond flour are often used interchangeably — almond flour is just ground more finely. While I did use a finely-ground almond flour for this cake, I think for a forgiving recipe like this one, either will probably be just fine.

Double Chocolate Almond Loaf Cake

Double Chocolate Almond Loaf Cake

  • Yield: 10 slices
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 50 mins
  • Inactive time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 40 mins

A decadent, rich chocolate loaf cake that’s just as comfortable at the casual brunch table as it is as part of a more elegant dessert spread. Made without refined sugars and with a big hit of almond flour, it’s at once delicate and light but also sturdy enough to eat on the go or hold up to the weight of a generous dollop of whipped cream. And the best part? You can mix it by hand and will only dirty two bowls.

Ingredients

1 cup (120g) whole spelt flour
1 3/4 cups (175g) almond flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup (110g) turbinado sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup
1/3 cup (80ml) coconut oil, liquid at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk (or non-dairy, alternative milk)
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup (25g) sliced toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)
Coconut whipped cream or whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, ensuring 1-2 inches hang over the sides (this helps remove the cake after it’s baked).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, banana, sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, milk, espresso powder and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes, then take each side of the parchment paper and unmold the loaf, setting it on the wire rack to cool completely.

Slice the cake and serve with a dollop of coconut whipped cream (or regular whipped cream), sliced almonds and berries, if you’d like.

Comments

  1. sue | theviewfromgreatisland

    There's no way I can resist anything with the name double chocolate almond loaf cake ~ I just want to sink my teeth into a slice!

  2. Lydia

    This looks great! I can't wait for rhubarb either. I never celebrate Easter, but we're doing it this year just for fun. I'm so excited that I'm baking 2 pies- an Italian rice pie and ricotta pie. Also baking a healthy bunny cake for breakfast. Can't wait to hear about Hawaii!

  3. Miranda

    This looks delicious! A must try, tide-me-over-until-rhubarb sprouts its head, treat!

  4. Sueli Cristina Marques Spencer

    That is probably the best gluten and refined sugar free chocolate cake I have ever tried! It turned out great! Thank you for sharing the recipe. Happy easter

    1. megang

      I'm so glad to hear it, Sueli! I love the cake, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to say so. Happy Easter to you as well!

    2. Kristie

      This cake is not actually gluten free because it contains spelt flour. Hopefully you weren't making it for anyone with a gluten allergy/intolerance!

      1. megang

        Hi, Kristie. No I knew this wasn't gluten-free; did I say that it was somewhere on accident? Spelt is definitely not gluten-free. Thanks for the comment / tip-off.

        1. Kristie

          You did NOT say it was GF! I was responding to the commenter who said it was the best GF cake she has ever tried.

          1. megang

            Oh phew, ok! I kept reading over the recipe, thinking DID I SAY THAT?! So glad you enjoyed it and your version sounds delicious. I'm going to give it a try!

  5. Beth Cole

    The only cocoa powder I have on hand is dark chocolate cocoa powder. Would this work? should I alter the ingredients in any way? It sounds right up my alley!

    1. megang

      Do it, Beth! Should be just fine. No need to make other alterations. Enjoy!

  6. Kristie

    What do you recommend subbing for the spelt flour to make this GF? Maybe buckwheat flour?

    1. megang

      Buckwheat flour *could* work but I'm honestly not sure as I haven't tested it with buckwheat. I'd probably go oat flour first and see how that holds up. Spelt is good because it gives it a bit of structure, but the oat may be just fine. Let me know how it turns out if you decide to try it! Thanks, Kristie.

      1. Kristie

        I love oat flour so that is an easy sell! I ended up using 60g oat flour and 60g GF measure-for-measure flour. Turned out delicious! Next time I may try all oat. Mine has a subtle banana flavor, which I enjoy. Thanks!

  7. Deb Hatton

    Absolutely delicious. The espresso power is a really nice touch! Not too overpowering, but adds a nice little kick.

    1. megang

      So glad you liked it, Deb! Have a great rest of the week!

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