“the stark disappointment of words” and an easy flourless chocolate truffle cake

I’m a fan of writer Ann Patchett, whose book, Truth and Beauty, is one of my favourites. This week, thanks to the website, Brain Pickings, I came across a fantastic Patchett quotation that hit very close to  home, especially the last line:

“The journey from the head to hand is perilous and lined with bodies. It is the road on which nearly everyone who wants to write — and many of the people who do write — get lost… Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.”

The stark disappointment of words is something I know a little too much about. So often the idea in my head, which initially seems so good, falls apart once I begin to try to assemble the words on paper.  Suddenly my remarkable idea becomes frustratingly ordinary.

Luckily, the same thing cannot be said for cooking. Not always, but often, the thing I envision cooking is as good or better than I could have imagined. Perhaps it’s because cooking and eating are such a multi-sensory thing. There’s the visual impact, the fragrance, the tactile experience of the texture and taste. Words aren’t necessary.

Maybe, just maybe, this is part of the reason I love food and cooking so much.

This flourless chocolate truffle cake – or torte  – is a fabulous example, the finished product is every bit as you might imagine, sophisticated, dense yet still light. a beautiful delicate texture, moist, rich, very chocolate-y, and not overly sweet. It’s simple to make. It’s perfect if you need a gluten-free cake. I’m not going to ruin it by saying anything further. Serve it in thin wedges with or without whipped cream.

Chocolate Truffle Cake

  • 1/2 cup of butter or dairy-free margarine
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
  • 2 tbsp rice flour

Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment. Set aside.

Melt together the butter and chocolate chips over low heat or in the microwave on low power. When melted, stir in the coffee and cocoa powder. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, begin whipping the eggs, sugar, and salt together. I don’t have a stand mixer so I set the timer for 5 minutes and use my hand mixer. The mixture will lighten and increase in volume.

Add the chocolate mixture to egg mixture and gently combine. Fold in the almond meal and rice flour.

Bake at 350 deg F for about 20-25 minutes. I took mine out of the oven at 22 minutes but check this at 20 minutes. The top should be set and slightly risen but you want to remove this before it becomes overly cake-y. Don’t risk drying it out.  In my oven – this takes about 22 minutes. Remove the pan and set to cool.

When the cake is sufficiently cooled, remove the ring of the spring-form pan. Invert the cake onto a flat plate or board and remove the bottom of the spring-form pan and then peel off the parchment. (If you scatter a few almonds on top before you do this – you’ll make the process even easier because you are less likely to have the top of the cake stick to the surface it is inverted on.)

Invert again onto a cake platter so that the top of the cake is now right side up.

Decorate any way you like – chocolate curls, fresh fruit, slivered almonds. Serve in thin wedges with whipped cream on the side.



25 thoughts on ““the stark disappointment of words” and an easy flourless chocolate truffle cake

    1. Cynthia – that’s so interesting – I find cooking so much easier than writing. And practical too – I can eat the results! I would have guessed you to be a natural in the kitchen.

      1. Sorry to disappoint! I am trying again and enjoying it, but I went through several years of failing! I’m great at breakfasts and brunches and salads, but if a recipe is complicated, I get completely lost.

    1. Stacey – thank you. That’s heartening and I appreciate it! The gap between what I want to achieve and what I do achieve is still so far apart. Funny that you’re here commenting today. I was thinking about how my dog Lola has never written a blog post. And about how some of my favourite blogs posts of all time were written by your dogs! Did you know Tolstoy wrote a story from the perspective of a horse? 😉

  1. I’ve never heard of that story by Tolstoy. Come to think of it, I’ve probably only ever read War and Peace. But then again, I do forget how much I’ve read. And I used to write (almost) every day. What happened? Dunno! I find these days that I’m constantly clicking on Collins to double-check particular words I might read within articles (the only reading I do now). That’s how bad things have got. Oh, to assuage my sorrows with a slice (or, in my case, or two) of your delicious torte. I know just how good they can be. 🙂

    1. Hilda – I think there are probably a million recipes for similar tortes and to be honest – it’s basically a modified brownie recipe. But somehow, I do love this version, such a lovely texture. If you try it, I’d be interested to hear how it compares.

  2. I have everything on hand except rice flour. I have coconut flour though and wonder if it will work here. I just may go home and get started on this. We’ve run out of store bought cookies (I know…my poor son, I never bake for him!) and I know he’ll will be asking for dessert after dinner. And he and I both loved your coconut cream chocolate mousse. 🙂

    1. Coconut flour will work a treat Seana. Or really – any kind of flour – even that scary old wheat kind 😉
      Imagine a teen-aged boy having to live without cookies in the house?! I’ll have to start sending care packages. xo

  3. I really like Ann Patchett too. I loved the Best American Short Stories that she edited in 2006 I think. What a beautiful quote. I love it. I agree that where my writing sometimes fails, cooking almost always brings joy. I love how you tie what’s on your mind into the cake. And boy does this look good. How can a chocolate cake made sturdy by almonds and enhanced by coffee powder ever disappoint? Not. Possible. Love it. Hope you’re well! xo

    1. Amanda – I know I replied to this but have just seen that my reply is nowhere in sight. As always, I’m behind in the blogosphere. But I’m thinking of you and as soon as I get through walking my dog and afternoon chores, I’m coming to visit you and see what you’ve been up to in your kitchen. ❤

  4. You’re right, it’s a miracle that everything can be communicated in cooking without words. I’ll have to celebrate this by trying your mouthwatering cake!

    1. Hi Mary Frances – what a wonderful line – you are so right – “it’s a miracle that everything can be communicated in cooking without words.” It really is! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

  5. Another beautifully written post, whether you think so or not! Many years ago I announced to my snotty sister that I wanted to try being a food writer, because it seemed so easy. She responded with, “everyone and his dogs wants to be a freelance writer, but it’s nearly impossible.” and because of that I began sending out queries and received 5 offers in 4 months, and also got little blurbs in bon appetit and Gourmet. I had to quit after that because I had just begun home-schooling and got a paying job writing a food column in our local newspaper, but I did prove her wrong. My point? I’m glad i’m not a real writer! Food writing is quite straight forward, and when it’s not, when someone turns it into complicated prose (one gourmet editor comes to mind) I don’t want to read it. Love Ann patchett. I’ll stick to reading!

  6. I think I’ll try this chocolate truffle cake and serve with berries. My little nieces might like it when they come for a picnic next week. I love an easy cake! Recently, I’ve tried a moist” mug” cake for just my own use ( eggless)…make it and in the microwave for about 90 seconds and magically a wee moist and yummy cake!
    I just read Ann Patchett’s book about her friend Lucy Cready…, Truth and Beauty. It was one of those books that spoke to the heart.

    1. Isn’t Truth and Beauty a wonderful, powerful, beautiful, and memorable book? I loved it so much. Patchett was in such trouble after writing that book – condemned by so many. I agree that it spoke to the heart.
      And yes, make the chocolate truffle cake for your nieces. It’s my favourite go-to cake. I made it again last night to bring to a dinner. It’s just so easy and elegant and delicious. I hope you love it. xo

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