This almond flour cake, made with finely ground almond flour and with no refined sugar, has all the light and tender texture of a sponge cake—but healthier!
This sponge cake is made with almond flour in place of a standard gluten free rice flour blend, but it's still light and tender and just rich enough. Top it with some coconut whipped cream and a few berries, and you've got the perfect springtime dessert for your holiday table.
A few bowls…
Although I absolutely love a one-bowl recipe, this Paleo almond flour cake just isn't one of them. If the switching of bowls is upsetting as you read through the recipe, I really recommend you scroll down and watch the 70-second video first.
When I find myself afraid to tackle a task, it's often because I don't have a vision of it. I need to see it in my mind's eye. Sometimes, a video is exactly what I need, which is why I try to provide a video for each of my recipes. Other times, a few words about the overall concept even before I hear about the exact ingredients is what it takes.
How to make a sponge cake
Since this recipe is essentially a Paleo sponge cake, it has some baking soda but most of the rise is provided by eggs. A sponge cake is similar to an angel food cake, which is made entirely with whipped egg whites folded gently into flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt, but no fat at all.
Sponge cake is essentially the same, but it's a richer cake since you use the whole egg—but separated. Egg yolks (with one whole egg, to make the original batter a bit looser and easier to beat) are beaten with vanilla, then combined with a mixture of almond flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.
That mixture will be thick and rather stiff. Since granulated coconut palm sugar is generally quite coarsely ground and doesn't melt into a batter as well as refined sugar, we grind it finely with some tapioca starch.
Whipped egg whites are then folded into the thick egg yolk and almond flour batter in two parts. The first half of the egg whites will deflate at least by half when you add them to the batter, as you'll have to have a heavier touch to combine everything. The egg yolk batter is just that thick. The second half of the whites can be folded in much more gently.
You must keep the egg whites separate from all of the other ingredients, especially the egg yolks, before they're whipped or they simply won't whip. But once you've whipped them, you can transfer them to a separate bowl and use the original bowl to beat the remaining ingredients together.
The easiest way to separate egg whites from yolks is to do it when the egg is cold, right from the refrigerator. The membrane around the yolk is much more likely to remain intact when it's cold.
Egg whites whip best, though, when they're at room temperature. The cream of tartar that's added to the egg whites after they've been beaten to a froth helps to keep the egg whites stable as you beat them.
If you don't mind a bit of lemon flavor in your almond flour cake, you can use a teaspoonful of freshly squeezed lemon juice in place of the cream of tartar.
Just like with whipping cream to stiff peaks, egg whites that are beaten more slowly are more stable. Since we're folding these egg whites into a stiff egg yolk batter, we want them to be as stable as possible.
Ingredients and substitutions
Since this recipe is Paleo, it's already gluten free, grain free, dairy free and refined sugar free. I haven't tried it with any other substitutions, but here are my best guesses:
Egg-free: There are four eggs total in this recipe, which is double what I'd ever recommend using an egg replacer to replace. If you can't have eggs, I think this recipe just isn't for you.
But if you're feeling really dedicated and adventuresome, you can try replacing the egg whites with aquafaba and try following the recommendations for replacing egg yolks on this site.
Almond flour: You should be able to successfully replace the finely ground blanched almond flour in this recipe with cashew flour. If you need the recipe to be nut-free, you can try using sunflower seed flour, but the chlorophyll in the sunflower seeds reacts with baking soda to create a greenish tint. You can try adding a teaspoonful of an acid like apple cider vinegar to help offset the reaction.
Coconut palm sugar: The coconut sugar can easily be replaced by an equal amount, by weight, of granulated sugar if you're okay with a refined sugar. If you need to make the recipe entirely sugar-free, I like Swerve brand granulated sugar substitute (and have had some success with Lankato brand white granulated sugar substitute), but that tends to be very drying so you might need more moisture.
Since the recipe as written doesn't contain any particular liquid, try adding some smooth unsweetened applesauce. This is really going out on a limb, though, so it will take some real experimentation and I make no promises at all!
Tapioca starch: The tapioca starch can easily be replaced with arrowroot or even cornstarch if you don't need the recipe to be entirely Paleo-legal.
Watch this short (about 70 second) how-to video
Click play ▶ below to watch me make this almond flour cake. Then make it yourself!
Almond Flour Cake | a Paleo Sponge Cake
1/2 cup (115 g) coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons (18 g) tapioca starch/flour
3 egg whites (75 g), at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 whole egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 4 egg yolks (100 g), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (180 g) blanched finely ground almond flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut whipped cream and berries, for serving
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease a round 9-inch cake pan generously with cooking oil spray and set it aside. In a food processor or blender, place the coconut palm sugar and tapioca starch, and pulse or blend until the sugar is finely ground. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large clean bowl with a hand mixer, place the egg whites. Whip until frothy, add the cream of tartar and continue to whip until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Transfer the whipped egg whites to a separate small bowl and set them aside. In the same large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the almond flour, ground coconut sugar, salt, and baking soda, and whisk to combine. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the egg and egg yolk mixture, and the vanilla. Beat until smooth and fully combined. The mixture will be thick. Add about 1/2 of the whipped egg whites to the thick batter, and mix until fully combined. The batter will still be thick, but the whipped egg whites should have lightened it a bit. Add the remaining whipped egg whites, and using a spatula, carefully fold them into the batter, taking care not to deflate them too much. The batter should be smooth and relatively light.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or another flat spreader. Smack the pan on the counter once or twice to break any very large air bubbles.
Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 22 minutes, or until the cake is set in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs attached. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The cooled cake can be wrapped tightly and stored in the freezer, or topped with some coconut whipped cream and berries, and served immediately.
Adapted from my recipe for Gluten Free Sponge Cake.
Connye Hartman says
I use Google as my search engine and the video was not there. Rest of pictures okay. Hope you can resend?
Nicole Hunn says
Hi, Connye, are you using an ad blocker? You won’t be able to see the video if you are, since it’s embedded through my ad network. Please try turning that off, first. Beyond that, my ad network is looking into it and hopefully I’ll have another suggestion soon. The video is embedded in the post and I don’t have any other way of providing it other than uploading it to YouTube. I do plan to upload my videos to YouTube as well, but it will take some time!
I am not finding the “play” button to press for the video. Where should I be looking?
Nicole Hunn says
If no photo with a play button is visible, are you using an ad blocker? You won’t be able to see the video if you are. Beyond that, it’s most likely your browser. Try a different browser, like Google Chrome. I understand that some browsers, like Internet Explorer, block videos!
This was really good! We had it last night after church with whipped cream and strawberries. Some were a little skeptical about the gluten free and almond flour, but after the first bites, all I heard was “Yum!”. I used white sugar ( by weight) for a lighter colored cake, but will probably try the palm sugar, yet, too! Thanks for a special dessert for when the kids are home!
Nicole Hunn says
I’m really glad to hear it, Tere!
When do you put in the sugar?
Nicole Hunn says
Hi, Tere, I’m so sorry! You include the ground coconut sugar and tapioca starch with the almond flour and other dry ingredients. I’ve edited the recipe to include that instruction. Thank you for your question!
Mary Jo says
This recipe looks much like one we came across in
Galicia in Spain while we were walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. I’ve made it many times since with great success and will certainly try your recipe. The Spanish one is called a Torta De Santiago.
Nicole Hunn says
That’s so interesting, Mary Jo. I’ve never heard of that cake! That sounds like an amazing trip. I spent a semester in Spain in college (in the north of Spain, though) and visited Galicia but never walked the Camino de Santiago but always think about going back to do just that. Thanks for such an interesting comment!