Emily’s Birthday: Chocolate Almond Brown Butter Lime Tea Cake


Last Friday, my friend Emily turned 22.  Emily is my poet friend.  Literally.  She likes to spend evenings with a glass of wine, writing poems.  We met because we were both interested in The Pop Culture of Early Modern Europe, one of my favorite class topics at Hopkins.  I like witchcraft and charivari and carnivals and all those fun things.  Also my favorite childhood story was called Cat’s Carnival.  Go figure.

This is how Jethro would act at a carnival.

This is how Jethro would act at a carnival.

A friendship developed once I accepted her lunch invitation (it took awhile).  She visited me for a weekend when I was abroad in Paris.  We watched Heathers while drinking wine in my apartment.  We even took a second class together.  One about John Locke.  And afterwards we would get burgers.

This semester we have no classes in common, but we seem to be seeing each other more than ever (which is a great thing, Emily’s the best).  And so, of course I had to make her the best birthday cake I could.  Her only stipulation was that it have chocolate in it.  Easily done, since I have a bit of Scharffen Berger chocolate that’s been burning a whole in my pantry.

Like most normal people (excluding my mother and my roommate, Sluggy) I like chocolate.  I’m not obsessed with it and I tend not to use it too often in cooking.  When I do, I want it to be the best chocolate possible.  Also, I want it to be the centerpiece of the dish, not just thrown in there for extra flavor.

This is how Slug ate while I made cake.  She shunned my chocolate.

This is how Slug ate while I made cake. She shunned my chocolate.

This Chocolate Tea Cake with lime and almonds and browned butter comes from The Sweet Life cookbook, from which I’ve taken multiple recipes on this site.  The cake was perfect.  A little under baked, but that is my impatience, nothing to do with the recipe.


Here it is! I couldn’t capture any images of the cake with its rum sauce at the party, but this is the form it traveled in.

When I first looked at the recipe, I thought to myself, well that’s just too much for one cake.  But I was also intrigued.  Because how could a cake balance all of those flavors?  I trust Kate Zuckerman and her recipes.  Not a single one has ever let me down.  So I made it.  And I was happy.  Very happy.  The lime shines through brilliantly, highlighting the already acidic quality of chocolate.  The browned butter adds a nutty quality that helps to melange the chocolate and almond flavor.  Most of all the cake is wondrously chocolaty.

Lime, sugars, and egg whites.  Delish.

Lime, sugars, and egg whites. Delish.

Jethro, sadly, could not enjoy the cake.  His food choices are limited to organic cat food for outdoor cats (all other things upset his delicate tummy), so he may not have been too upset.  He’s content now that I am home for a few days, even if he does think 4 AM is the perfect time for feeding.  And chasing mice loudly.

Jethro says,  "I am perfect."

Jethro says, “I am perfect, even if I drool.”

Chocolate Almond Brown Butter Lime Tea Cake

Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle

225 grams (8 ounces, 16 T) grams butter

85 grams (3 ounces) grams high quality bittersweet chocolate

140 grams (5 ounces) almond flour or blanched almonds

120 grams (1 cup minus 2 T) flour

9 egg whites

355 grams (2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) powdered sugar

Zest of 2 limes

2 tablespoons honey

50 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, Dutch process or natural

1/2 T salt

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Butter or oil a 9 or 10 inch cake pan (or make mini muffins, about 45-50)

In a small frying pan or a medium saucepan brown the butter over medium high heat.  The butter will begin to form a foam on top.  Turn the heat down to medium.  The foam will start to have flecks of brown in it.  The liquid underneath the foam will transform from yellow to clear golden, and the butter will emit a rich, nutty, caramelized scent.  Once the butter is at this point, remove from the heat and set aside.

In a glass bowl set over simmering water or in a double boiler (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), melt the chocolate, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat, but allow the water to keep simmering.

If using whole almonds, in a food processor grind the almonds and 1 tablespoon of flour until they become a fine powder.

In a large bowl over the simmering water, whisk together the egg whites, powdered sugar, lime zest, and honey until the egg whites are warm to the touch and all of the sugar has dissolved.

Slowly whisk in the remaining flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, and salt into the egg whites.  Smooth the mixture out, as it will become thick and clumpy, with a few turns of your whisk.

This next part is very important.  You must emulsify the brown butter, that is add it very slowly to the egg white mixture so that it all becomes incorporated.  Add in about a quarter cup at a time of the brown butter, making sure it is COMPLETELY incorporated before adding in another quarter cup.  Once all of the butter is incorporated, add in the chocolate.

At this point, you can refrigerate the batter for up to 4 days.

Pour and scrape (and taste) the batter into the prepared pan or pans (if using mini muffin tins, I suggest using a spoon or a piping bag to get the batter in the tins).  Bake the cake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, rotating at least once for even baking.  If making mini muffins, only bake for 15 minutes, but still rotate.

Serve this cake on its own and warm or with some sort of caramel sauce.  I used rum caramel sauce.  Zuckerman also recommends blood orange caramel sauce.  If you’d like either of the recipes, let me know!

The cakes will keep for about one week, if they last that long.

  1. Stephanie Cascio said:

    Excellent portrait of Jethro double pawed feet. He IS perfect. Imaginary mice at 4 am, I hope!

    • Eliza B said:

      Sadly, the mouse is real. But Jethro is not a good a mouser- we have to wait for Bentley to get here.

  2. Emily is SO fortunate!! Lovely post as always. The cake is intriguing. And Dr. Pookie (my cantankerous Siamese) is inspired by Jethro, and wondering when he’ll get to feature in my posts. That’s a very good point. Last thing – Jethro – you are GORGEOUS!

    • Eliza B said:

      The cake is very intriguing and very good! I was really shocked by how much I liked it. Dr. Pookie should definitely appear from time to time. Cats are such wonderful beasts!

      Jethro says thank you for the compliment. He can be a bit smug about his looks though.

      • SMUG?! You haven’t met smug yet! 😉 I’ll show you smug. Dr. Pookie is coming up in my next post…

  3. Would love the recipes for the two sauces you recommended,the rum caramel sauce and the blood orange caramel sauce. Thanks wonderful recipe.

    • Eliza B said:

      I will get them to you tomorrow when I get home. They are very easy to make 🙂

    • Eliza B said:

      Jeesh this took me a long time! Okay so for the rum caramel sauce you need: 1 cup sugar, pinch of cream of tartar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 2 T rum. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar. Cover and cook at high heat until it boils rapidly. Remove cover, cook until it becomes golden brown. Add the cream slowly. Return to the heat and whisk the caramel until it comes to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and add the rum.

      For the Blood Orange, you need 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 cup plus 2 T water, and 1 cup blood orange juice. Combine water, sugar, and cream of tartar over medium high heat. Cover and cook until rapid boil. Remove cover and cook until it becomes golden brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the blood orange juice. When the bubbling has subsided, return to the heat and whisk until it comes to a rolling boil.

      Let me know if you have questions and again sorry for the delay!

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