Dessert Course : Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cake

Beverage Suggestion : Coffee and Water

With the arrival of dessert, my seven course formal dinner comes to its sweet conclusion. This walnut cake is rich and decadent and can be served with or without the glaze. The binding ingredient is the walnuts! Just a thought, but after all of the wine, it is wise to serve this course with coffee or water.

for the cake:

cooking spray
3 cups walnut halves
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates

for the glaze:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted margarine (for kosher) or butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon honey
chopped toasted walnuts, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Put the walnuts, cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely ground but not powdery. Whisk the egg yolks, orange zest and vanilla, if using, in a small bowl.

2. Beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until foamy. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until soft peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in the yolk mixture and dates, then fold in the ground walnut mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack, then run a knife along the sides and invert the cake onto a platter.

3. Make the glaze: Put the chocolate, margarine and honey in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave until the margarine melts, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Cool slightly, then pour over the cake. Top with walnuts (optional).