Flourless Spice Cake

method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease eight 6-ounce ramekins and then sprinkle them with sugar, tapping out the excess. Place the dishes into a roasting pan that has an outside edge that is taller than the ramekins.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until it has melted. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter, ¼ cup of the sugar and the orange zest until it is fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in the melted chocolate. Stir the almonds and the 5-spice powder and add this to the batter, mixing until blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar while whipping, continuing to whip until the whites hold a soft peak. Fold the whites into the batter and ladle this into the prepared ramekins. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the dishes. Cover the roasting pan with foil and bake the puddings for 45 minutes, until they spring back when gently pressed. Let the puddings sit, still covered for 15 minutes.
  5. To serve, run a spatula or knife around the inside edge of each dish and invert it onto a dessert plate. Serve warm with a spoonful of Vanilla Cranberry Compote.

Alternatively, the dessert can be prepared a day ahead, and warmed in their dishes in a water bath (as they were baked) for 15 minutes at 325°F.

NOTE: Chinese 5-spice powder is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seed that matches very well with chocolate. The spice blend adds sophistication without being overwhelming, but if you prefer a basic chocolate dessert it can simply be omitted.