Almond cake with chocolate glaze

A few weeks ago, I was invited to dinner at a friend’s place in my neighborhood, and I’d volunteered to bring the dessert. As the day drew near, I still hadn’t decided what I was going to make but felt I would surely be able to come up with something considering all the ingredients I had in my kitchen. And then, predictably enough, on the day itself I received some unexpected work that left me without much time to prepare the dessert. So I began making my basic cake recipe and was wondering what to flavor it with when my eye landed upon the huge jar of white almond butter I’d recently bought. Almond cake it would be!

The cake was a big hit with my friends, but was super simple to make. The almond butter makes the cake super moist, and a bit of almond extract boosts the almondy fragrance while the dark chocolate glaze adds some contrast and an extra bit of sweetness.

And today, in response to the many requests I’ve received for the recipe, I bring you the instructions to make it! The cake shown in these photos is a bit darker than my prototype because I used unrefined raw sugar rather than white sugar, but either would work. Note that this recipe uses less sugar than for the average cake you would find at a bakery or restaurant, but the maple syrup in the chocolate glaze makes it sweeter. If you want the cake itself to be sweeter, add an extra ¼ cup sugar to the batter.

Almond cake

Dry ingredients:

1½ cups (188 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar (raw or white), add an extra ¼ cup for a sweeter cake
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Liquid ingredients:

1 cup (236 ml) cold water
¼ cup (50 g) white almond butter or cashew butter
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral-tasting oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar or apple-cider vinegar
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate glaze topping:

¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
tiny pinch salt (optional)
handful of almond slivers, toasted

Equipment needed: whisk, cake pan(s).


Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F (180°C) and preparing your cake pan. Line it with baking paper or apply a coat of oil to the bottom and sides.


Combine your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and baking soda). I used unrefined raw sugar (the dark powder), which accounts for the dark golden brown color of the cake, but you can use white sugar if you would like a lighter colored cake.


Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk until completely combined.


Use a smaller bowl for the liquid ingredients. Shown above is the white almond butter. If you can’t find this product where you live, substitute cashew butter (for the same color) or regular brown almond butter, but note that the cake will be a darker color if regular almond butter is used, even if you use white sugar. If your nut butter is dry and stiff, mix a small amount of hot water into it until it has a pourable texture.


Add the rest of the liquid ingredients (vinegar, almond and vanilla extracts and water) and stir thoroughly with a whisk to incorporate it into the nut butter. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Be careful not to stir any more than absolutely necessary as too much stirring of flour can make the cake turn out tough.


Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and tap the sides gently to remove any air pockets. Place it in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Check your cake after about 23 to 25 minutes – my cake needed 28 minutes, but you never know!


Once the cake is done baking, place it on a wire rack and allow to cool for about a half hour. In the meantime, you can make the chocolate glaze. Put the cocoa powder, maple syrup and salt together in a small bowl and stir with a spoon or small whisk. At first it will seem like the powder will never incorporate, but keep going and it will! If you need to thin it out after that point, you can add more syrup. You may also find that it needs to be thinned a bit after it’s been sitting for a little while.


You can also toast your slivered almonds at this point. Put them in a non-stick frying pan without any oil, and heat over medium, shaking occasionally and keeping an eye on it to be sure they don’t burn. Once they’re done toasting, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the almonds immediately to a plate or bowl so they don’t continue to toast.


Apply the chocolate glaze to the top of your cake using a spoon or spatula, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.


And there you have it!


Enjoy with a nice cup of vanilla and almond scented rooibos (I love roobios des vahinés from Palais des Thés).


Variations: Try a different nut butter (hazelnut, peanut?), sprinkle with different toasted nuts, dried coconut, and/or fleur de sel.

Tunisian sorghum pudding

Last weekend, I had a visit from a longtime Tunisian friend who is very dear to me, and who was passing through Paris on his way to the US. There was just enough time for a short visit. In between updating me on his family’s doings and his plans for the upcoming months, he fished some interesting things out of his bag and placed them before me.

One was a mtabga, a sort of sandwich his sister had made that same day—harissa and chopped yazoul (a delicate wild garlic) in a folded-over homemade semolina flatbread. We shared this, and it was divine, although harissa always involves some sweating and nose-blowing for me (of all North African cuisines, Tunisia’s is said to be the spiciest). Next, he produced a box of scrumptious chickpea cookies from a local bakery, which you may already have seen if you follow my Instagram. And finally, he plunked a clear plastic bag containing an unfamiliar gray flour on the table. “It’s drah,” he explained, in response to my perplexed look. This did not help me much. But we did a quick search and found that its English name is sorghum!

I don’t know about you, but sorghum is not a grain I could have identified in a line-up. I had heard of it, of course, but could not have guessed at how it is used. Turns out it is native to Africa, although the US is now its largest producer, and it’s used as both human food (in part to make sorghum molasses) and as animal fodder. It is the world’s fifth-leading grain crop. As it doesn’t have an inedible hull, it is usually consumed as a whole grain with all its nutrient-rich outer layers. It also happens to be gluten-free and is apparently a common ingredient in gluten-free baking mixes. And after making this dish, I can understand why—the flour gelled easily into a thick flan consistency without any binder.

And now a brief aside for the linguistics enthusiasts among you. The Tunisian name, درع, is sometimes transliterated dro3 with a number 3 at the end to represent the ayn, a pharyngeal consonant that is notoriously difficult for non-native Arabic speakers to pronounce—having studied the language for two years, I can confirm this! The ayn creates a sound almost like an extra syllable (although it is actually not) and, to my ears, the word comes across as something like drah-ah. Elsewhere in the Arabic-speaking world, sorghum is called سورغم, which sounds very similar to the English word. An etymology search revealed that our English word comes to us from Modern Latin via the Italian sorgo, “a tall cereal grass”.

I now bring you a recipe for an easy Tunisian sorghum dish that my friend’s mother makes. Called simply drah after its main ingredient, it’s most commonly eaten as an energy food for breakfast and so can be considered a sort of porridge. But since the consistency is similar to that of flan, I think it would also make a very nice light dessert.

I made mine with rice milk so it would have some extra natural sweetness, but in Tunisia some make it with water only. Flavorings can also vary, but I chose orange-blossom water for its subtle floral notes (ginger is another popular ingredient). In Tunisia, this dish is most often eaten topped with some crumbled halwa chamia, a dense sesame-based confectionery, but almonds and honey are another common way to enjoy it. For a fully plant-based dish, I used Bee Free vegan apple honey, and I imagine that maple syrup, agave syrup or molasses would also work well. Because the honey is so sweet, I did not put any sugar in the pudding itself, but you could add 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar to the mixture as it cooks if you prefer a sweeter taste or don’t want to use a syrup on top.

Sorghum pudding can be eaten either shortly after it’s made (allowing some time for it to cool, as it immediately forms a skin underneath which the temperature remains molten for a time) or room temperature/chilled. Wait until just before serving before adding the almonds and syrup to ensure that the almonds remain crisp.

Tunisian sorghum pudding

Makes two servings of one cup each


  • 5 tablespoons sorghum flour
  • 1 cup rice milk (or any plant-based milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons orange-blossom water
  • small pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons flaked or slivered almonds, toasted (see directions below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan apple honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or molasses

Equipment needed: strainer, hand whisk


Begin by sifting the sorghum flour through a strainer into a medium saucepan to break up any lumps. The burner should not be turned on yet.


Add the (cold or room-temperature) rice milk, water and pinch of salt and whisk to thoroughly combine BEFORE turning on the heat. Note that once the liquid heats, any additional sorghum flour added will turn into lumps and it will be next to impossible to break them up.


Turn on the heat to medium and heat to simmering, stirring constantly or at least very frequently. When the mixture begins to boil, add the orange-blossom water and continue stirring until it thickens. You will want to stand right there and watch it until it’s ready, whisking to prevent the formation of lumps. It takes about five or six minutes for it to reach the desired thickness and could boil over quickly, so stay put! Make sure you have your serving bowls nearby.


When it’s ready, it will look pretty much like this and be making dramatic glopping sounds as the mixture boils. When it has the consistency of a thick potato soup, it’s done. Pour it into the serving bowls right away because it begins to form a skin as soon as it’s taken off the heat.


After the pudding has been poured into the serving bowls, and while it cools a bit, toast your flaked or slivered almonds. Place a dry non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat and stir or toss occasionally until lightly browned. You will want to stick around for this step too as lightly-browned can become far-too-browned or even burnt in very short order. Have a small ceramic bowl ready to transfer them to when done.


When they look like this, they’re ready. Transfer them quickly to the bowl or (as I have done) a cutting board or other heat-resistant surface. If you leave them in the hot pan while searching for a bowl, you run the risk of the almonds browning even further.


If the pudding’s surface seems firm (by now it should have cooled enough, but check the top to be sure), drizzle your honey or syrup on it and finish with the almonds.


And there you have it! Once the honey or syrup and almonds have been added, it should not sit around too long as the almonds will gradually get soggy and the syrup watery (becoming like a flan with caramel sauce, which is not bad but not the intended presentation either). You can see this effect a bit in the photo below because I got distracted by something between the preceding photo and this one. 😉 But the taste is still good, however it looks. Enjoy!


Variations: top with halwa chamia or any type of chopped nut (pistachios would be great) or even dried fruit such as golden raisins. Sprinkle some gomasio in with the nuts for a salty contrast to the sweet topping.