Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Humble, Gluten-Free Cake ~ A Love Affair with Chocolate & Cross-Stitching

Ohhh chocolate.....I've had a love affair with it for most of my all its glorious dark-rich-creamy-fudgy-cakey- warm-molten-melt-in-your-mouth forms. As much as I love to cook, I'm not into baking fancy desserts. This cake, from Beatrice Peltre, is uncomplicated baking at its best.   

This cake paired with vanilla ice cream and mixed berry sauce is divine. Gluten-free baking mix gives it a surprising lightness. The chocolate is rich and deep. The berry sauce is lively and fresh.   

Besides cooking and making chocolate desserts, another passion of mine is flower arranging and French/European cross-stitching. I'm drawn to anything soft and romantic. 

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem or saying a prayer. 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

Dried flower wreath with freeze dried roses, lavender, wild daisies, hydrangea and lemon leaves

I never thought I could learn how to stitch or fashion dried flowers into wreaths. But I'm so happy I did! Winters in New England are long. It's essential to find pleasure in interior activities. 

In my 20's,I had the opportunity to work on the weekends at a dried flower shop in a sleepy little Pennsylvania town. The owner let me use her studio when the shop wasn't busy. Back then, I had my own small business making dried flower garden wreaths. The wreath pictured above was named "Evette's Garden."   

Stitching is so repetitively soothing, especially after a long week at the hospital. My breathing slows, my mind clears, my cares vanish with every pass of the needle. After I first laid eyes on hand-dyed linen fabric and luminous silk embroidery floss, I was hooked. 

I credit picking up my first needle with stumbling upon this absolutely wonderful blog: Have you been there yet?  I've been reading Alicia Paulson's blog for years. I've even purchased her cross-stitch patterns, embroidery scissors and hoops. Her writing alone is worth the visit. Alicia even has a wonderful cross-stitch tutorial on her blog. Cross stitch patterns can also be found at The French Needle   or my favorite French company for pretty monograms and floral patterns here: 

French Floral Cross Stitch Pattern with Orchid Colored Silk Thread On Antique Linen  

Baking, flower arranging and stitching with silk keep me busy on cold December weekends. 
Candles glowing, watching a good movie on the TV, sipping a cup of herbal chai and eating a piece of this dark chocolate cake is good therapy. Moist, chocolaty... I think you'll enjoy it, finding it hard to resist cutting another slice.  


Simple Chocolate Cake Recipe: 

Minimally Adapted from Beatrice Peltre's recipe in her beautiful cookbook La Tartine Gourmande.  

Some Notes:

A tiny sprinkling of sea salt, both in the batter and sprinkled on top really enhances the dark chocolate flavor. Love the combo of dark chocolate and sea salt immensely. 

Eat it plain with a cup of tea or coffee or with a little whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. It's nice with vanilla ice cream and my mixed berry sauce or my raspberry sauce too (recipe below).    

Pamela's Gluten Free Baking Mix can be found at Whole Foods or online at   

You'll Need:
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus more for the pan.
  • 3.5 ounce bar of best quality dark chocolate. I used Green and Black's 85% organic. It's an intensely dark chocolate. Use a quality brand with 70% cocoa or more.    
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of sugar. I use my Vanilla Bean Sugar  
  • Pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • Sprinkle of course or flaky sea salt, fleur de sel or grey celtic salt are good choices.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of Pamela's Gluten-Free Baking mix (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup ground almond meal
  • To Serve: powdered sugar and/or whipped cream for serving. Also great with vanilla ice cream and berry sauce (recipe below.) 

The Rundown: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan with a piece of buttered parchment paper. 

Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it just until melted, stopping and stirring the mixture as you go. 

With a handheld mixer beat the eggs with the sugar and a pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt until the batter is pale yellow and doubled in volume. Fold in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Gently fold in the baking mix and the almond meal.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 8 minutes. Quickly sprinkle some coarse sea salt over the top of the cake and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the blade of a knife comes out dry. All ovens are different, so try not to over-bake.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.Remove from the pan.  
Dust with powdered sugar and/or serve with whipped cream and mixed berry sauce.

Mixed Berry Sauce Recipe: 

Makes a small bowl full
Double this recipe if you want extra for pancakes, crepes or oatmeal the next morning. It reheats well. Store in the fridge in an air tight container for a few days. Enjoy!       

You'll Need:
  • 12 oz package of frozen mixed berries. 
  • 6 tablespoons of my Vanilla Bean Sugar or regular sugar 
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Chambord Black Raspberry liquor (optional) 
  •  1 teaspoon of corn starch mixed with 1 teaspoon of cold water to thicken the sauce a bit and make it glossy. Add more of the corn starch and water solution if you want it thicker. 
The Rundown: 

Put the sugar and water in a pot and heat on medium high until boiling. Take the pot off the heat and add the raspberry liqueur (if using). Put back on the heat and simmer on low until syrupy (about 3-5 minutes). Add the frozen berries and gently heat, being careful not to mush them up too much. Once they start to get warm and release their liquid, add the corn starch and water solution. Cook an additional one minute or so until glossy and slightly thickened. 

Serve with pound cake, ice cream, yogurt, cheesecake or chocolate desserts, yogurt, light ice cream, gelato or stir it into oatmeal.      

*** If making this sauce for your morning oatmeal, leave out the liquor*** 
More Recipes from Jilly:

Looking for a Fresh, Sweet Summer Raspberry Sauce That You Can Make All Year Round: Click here:

Venetian Hot Chocolate ~ Tastes like a warn, liquid chocolate truffle in a cup. Make it with dairy-free or regular milk. 


  1. Thank you Jill -- I really appreciate your kind words! xo, a

    1. You're welcome. You inspire me with every single post. Thank you for your lovely blog. It's such a wonderful place to visit! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment too!