Gluten-free berry almond torte

IMG_3192When is a cake a cake and when is it a torte? Sachertorte is the one that everyone knows, and it turns out that ‘torte’ is simply a German word for ‘cake’, though Sachertorte originated in Vienna of course.

It seems that if a cake contains luxury ingredients, such as ground nuts and fresh fruit, rather than just flour, butter, eggs and sugar, then it may well be a torte. Tortes also tend to be more dense in texture and less tall than their cakey cousins, so I’ve decided today’s offering qualifies on all counts. It contains ground almonds and fresh fruit, it has a deliciously fudgy texture, redolent of marzipan, it is under-tall and it looks pretty posh, even though it is extremely simple to make.

I made this before our return to Turkey last week, when we were invited to a charity cream tea at a farm near our home in Cornwall. It was a gorgeous sunny day, we had an amazing view over the countryside towards the sea, tea served in proper china and a fantastic array of delicious sandwiches, cakes… and scones and clotted cream, of course. I’m still on the wagon where cream teas are concerned, after spending a year getting my derriere back to its normal size after three months of intensive Cornish pasty-munching last summer, so I did manage to pass on that particular temptation.

My small contribution to proceedings was to provide some suitable cakey temptation for anyone looking for a gluten-free treat. As this cake/torte is made largely with ground almonds anyway, it was easy to adapt. I used Doves Farm gluten-free flour, which seems to give consistently good results and I could honestly spot no difference between this one and its gluten-filled cousin that I normally make. I made one with blackberries (of course) and the other with golden plums. You could also use cherries, apricots, ripe pears, rhubarb, apples or pretty much any kind of berry.  Do make sure your baking powder is a brand which does not contain gluten – Dr Oetker, Doves Farm and most of the supermarket own brands are fine, but Borwicks uses wheat flour as its anti-caking agent, so avoid that one.

Here’s the recipe – bear in mind that I was making two at the same time, which is why my bowl will appear to have more mixture than yours. Of course, if you are not following a gluten-free diet, you can just use normal flour.

Gluten-free berry almond torte

Serves 8 generously

You will need a Victoria sandwich tin, approx 20cm, base-lined and greased

150g very soft margarine or butter
150g sugar
2 eggs
100g ground almonds
100g gluten-free plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
A couple of handful of blackberries or other fruit of your choice (see note above)
Flaked almonds for scattering
A little icing sugar


Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the softened butter or margarine with the sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is smooth (if it looks slightly curdled, don’t worry, it will be fine once you add the almonds and flour).

Add the ground almonds, flour, baking powder (if using plain flour) and the almond extract. Fold in gently until everything is well combined.

Scrape roughly half of the mixture into the tin and spread evenly. Scatter around half of the blackberries over the mixture, then spoon the remaining mixture on top of the berries and spread evenly over the fruit.

Arrange the rest of the berries on the top and then scatter over some flaked almonds. Sift generously with icing sugar then bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Check after 40 minutes and if the edges are getting a little over-done, then cover loosely with foil and return to the oven.

This is delicious served just fractionally warm or completely cold. A dollop of Rhodda’s clotted cream on the side could only make things better, though obviously I have no first-hand experience of this.

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