I’m one of those people who skims the dessert menu for chocolate. I will add chocolate chips to anything and everything, and I will have no shame about it. I may or may not have drizzled melted chocolate over banana pancakes for lunch today (it may have been amazing). It’s not so much that things without chocolate can’t be good, it’s just that things with chocolate are so much better.
Like this cake.
It’s rich and fudgy, dense and packed with chocolate. Inspired by the traditional flourless chocolate cake with its short but powerful ingredients list (chocolate, eggs, and butter), this cake replaces the butter with delicious avocado. Which makes this cake both gluten and dairy free. So if you’re looking for an allergy-friendly dessert that will seriously knock the socks off the chocolate diehards in your life, whether or not they’re avoiding gluten and dairy, look no further.
The secret here (not that it’s much of a secret, given the title of this post) is the avocado: at up to 30% oil, this technically-a-fruit makes a great substitute for butter. A whole avocado packs a whopping 23 grams of fat, and we just can’t get enough. Humans are hardwired to want rich, fatty foods because these molecules play an essential role in our metabolism. In addition to allowing us to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, fat gives us the most caloric bang for our buck with nine calories per gram (proteins and carbohydrates deliver four each). In this age of calorie-counting and low-fat everything, it’s easy to forget that early humans needed that boost and that it was relatively scarce.
Probably because of our deep-seated need for and love of all things rich, we have tools for detecting it built right into our mouths. Think about eating a big spoonful of ice cream versus a sorbet or Italian ice, or about why full-fat yogurt is so much yummier than nonfat. Scientists studying humans and fat point out two essential markers that we use to tell the difference: viscosity (how thick or thin is it?) and lubricity (does it feel slippery?). Fat molecules bulk up foods, leading to a thick, creamy sensation–viscosity. The slipperiness comes from oil (fat) and water not mixing–rather than combining with water-based saliva as a water-based food will, fat stays separate in a way we can feel.
So not only do we love fat, we can tell if a food has it just by putting it in our mouths. Luckily, the avocado in this cake brings the rich in a way you can feel good about. Not all fats are created equal, and the unsaturated fat of avocado beats out butter’s saturated fat on the nutrient battlefield. If you need more about kinds of fats and their health benefits, read on! And then make this cake.
Chocolate avocado cake
This gluten- and dairy-free spin-off of flourless chocolate cake will impress the most demanding of your chocolate snob friends (not that I know anything about chocolate snobbery…) The short ingredient list means that each one matters more than usual, and this is a place where truly great chocolate will shine. Also make sure that your avocado is ripe–leave it at room temperature until it feels firm but not hard, giving a little when you press gently.
Yield: four 3 ½-inch mini cakes (or make one in a 9-inch springform pan)
4 oz. high-quality chocolate (70% works great)
1 ripe avocado
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. brown sugar
6 T. cocoa powder
1/2 t. salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Oil the pans.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler.
Whisk the eggs with an electric mixer until more than doubled in volume, about 5 minutes.
Puree the avocado until smooth in a blender or food processor. Add the eggs and pulse until combined. Gently stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla.
Mix the brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the chocolate mixture and fold in until smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the tops loose their sheen and the edge feels firm (the center can still look a little gooey).
Top with powdered sugar and fresh berries.