Flourless almond traybake: an Italian classic with an Irish spin
Rhubarb makes this tasty gluten-free cake very Irish but you can use all manner of different fruits
Flourless almond traybake. Photograph: Harry Weir
By this time of year, the shocking pink of the early forced rhubarb has mellowed to a reddish green. The rhubarb plants have had some sunshine and are producing sturdy fat stalks. While they might not be as decorative as February’s crop, they are just as tasty and worth snapping up if you find them.
This week, I only had a couple of rhubarb stalks left, so I roasted them and mixed them with apples to make this flourless almond traybake. Rhubarb and apple is a classic combination for good reason. The sweetness of the apples balances out the astringency of the rhubarb without the need to add quite so much sugar.
If rhubarb isn’t your thing or it is difficult to get hold of, this traybake works perfectly well with just apples. In fact you could swap in all manner of different fruits, depending on what you have available.
This traybake contains no flour, using ground almonds for its structure. It is perfect if you need to avoid wheat or gluten, or if there is no flour in the shops, but it is worth making even if you have cupboards full of flour.
The Italians are masters of delicious cakes made with ground almonds, often flavoured with lemon or orange. If you added melted chocolate through the cake batter, it would be called a Torta Caprese.
This cake is inspired by the Italian originals, but the rhubarb and apple filling gives it a very Irish spin. However, if you want to swap a cup of tea for a glass of Vin Santo on the side, don’t let me stop you.
Variation: Other fruit, such as tinned apricots, would also be delicious.
FLOURLESS ALMOND TRAYBAKE (Gluten free)
2-3 rhubarb stalks (mixed with 1 tbsp sugar)
2 dessert apples
4 eggs, room temperature
200g soft brown sugar (or caster sugar)
1 tsp almond essence (or vanilla extract)
200g ground almonds
25g flaked almonds
60g apricot jam (approx 3 tbsp mixed with 1 tbsp water)
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius fan oven and line a rectangular baking tin (18cm x 28cm) with parchment paper.
2.Melt the butter, and allow it to cool.
3. Prepare the rhubarb by washing it, shaking off excess water and cutting the stalks into large chunks . Combine the rhubarb with 1 tbsp sugar and place in an ovenproof dish or baking sheet.
4. Cover with a sheet of tinfoil and slowly roast it for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven, removing it while the rhubarb pieces are starting to soften and before the chunks collapse and lose their shape.
5. Peel, core and cut the apples into chunks (if you do this in advance, toss the chunks in lemon juice to avoid them discolouring).
6. Using an electric whisk beat the eggs, sugar and almond essence together until the mixture is very thick, pale and mousse-like.
7. Gently fold in the melted butter so it is fully dispersed, then fold in the ground almonds (once combined avoid leaving the mixture to sit at this stage or the butter will separate).
8. Pour two-thirds of the mixture into the lined baking tray, cover with the baked rhubarb pieces and most of the apple. Pour over the remaining cake batter, then gently press in any remaining apples on the surface.
9. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
10. Once cool, heat the apricot jam with water, sieve away any pulp and brush the warm apricot syrup liberally over the surface of the traybake. Best eaten within two days.