Third Time's the Charm

Now and then I obsess over a recipe in the kitchen. Here's a perfect example: I made this lemon cake three times!
In the first version, I ground my own almonds in the processor. A mistake. And with the second attempt, I used packaged almond flour.  Moi heaves a sigh of relief! Thank you, Whole Foods.

Compare the two versions. Quite a difference; the first one is darker and has itty bitty annoying pieces of almond that get stuck between your teeth. But the second photo looks exactly like the photo in the book so it was a success!

So what's my problem, you ask? I don't like potato flour. It smells ummm....nasty. Nor did I like the texture of the batter in the first two versions. Now, dear gluten free readers, go ahead and make this version. It's good. Tastes fine. Exactly what it's supposed to look and taste like. And you invert the cake anyway so it's smooth on top. But I had to try the recipe one last time, using all purpose flour to see what difference it would make. And the result is the photo accompanying the recipe below. I don't know why I am fussing so over this one recipe, but I can't help it. There's something about this cake that appeals to me and I wanted to give it one more go.

This post is also about a cookbook. Sophie Dahl's. For one thing, she is Roald Dahl's granddaughter. Don't you adore his books? My kids were brought up on them.

Sophie really is a woman of parts, no pun intended! Of course you've all seen the ad for Opium perfume she did ( HERE) which caused such a scandal at the time. She was modeling in NYC at the time. And she IS rather voluptious. Or she was until she went from a size 14 to a size 6. I hope she has some sort of autobiography in the works because her life (and she's still only 33) would make a good read. It's worth the CLICK just to read about Sophie, especially if you know nothing about her.

Some say her new cooking show in the UK is trying to copy Nigella's. Who cares? is what I say. I think her cookbook is fun. And typically British. I've already made a couple things in it which I loved and this lemon cake makes three. Or five, if you want to count my fiddling around with the other versions.

From Sophie:"I wanted to write a memoir about food, a recipe book that gets over the message that you don't have to starve yourself to be reasonably skinny. You can eat quite happily and the more you obsess about it, the more of an issue it becomes. It's an anecdotal book about how to be slim - and still eat. Healthy breakfasts, lunches and suppers, and some fattening puddings. Easy, simple home cooking that's healthy."

Sophie says she got this lemon torte recipe from a taxi cab driver in Sorrento whose wife hated when he made it because he made such a mess in the kitchen. She's right. It's a lot of bowls. And it kind of shoots out of the mixer if you're not careful. I've never made a cake quite like this and while potato flour smells peculiar, I must admit you can't really taste it when you eat the cake. And her idea of mixing lemon curd with crème fraiche is brilliant. It makes the cake. I don't know squat about gluten-free, but this version with potato flour is, isn't it? Which ought to please some of my readers who are very loyal even if most of my dessert recipes use APF. I suppose there are other substitutes for potato flour that are gluten-free, but I'm calling it quits now. Three times is definitely enough.

And my final version? Sheer delight. Still a dense cake, but somehow lighter. I can see serving it with some lovely fresh fruit, or just go with the lemon curd idea. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Lemon Capri Torte

Adapted from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights

(My changes will be in parenthesis)


1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
6 eggs, room temperature, separated
zest and juice of 4 lemons
2 cups of blanched almonds, toasted and then ground (I used Whole Foods almond flour)
1 cup of potato flour ( I used 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour instead)

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease and flour (using potato flour) a 9 inch springform pan. (I lined the bottom with parchment paper, and then greased the pan. I used fine bread crumbs instead of potato flour)

In a bowl, mix the potat0 ( or all purpose) flour with the almond flour and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks all at the same time. Then add the lemon juice and rind. At this point the batter will look like scrambled eggs. This is OK.

In another bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks appear. Fold the lemon mixture into the whites. It will still look like scrambled eggs and will not combine completely.Slowly add the flour mixture by hand, folding well after each addition. The batter at this point, if you are using potato flour, will be extremely thick with no sign of the egg whites. If you use all purpose flour, the batter will not be nearly as thick.Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes at 400°, then lower the oven temperature to 300° and bake an additional 40 minutes.

Cool and invert the cake onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.You can serve with fresh fruit, or a mixture of crème fraiche and lemon curd.

For a printable recipe, click


  1. good for you perfecting a gluten free recipe I tried to make a gluten free bread recently wow the smell but your a star

  2. Now I actually know what almond flour looks like!!!!!Ms Dahl..looks so interesting..I will read up soon..Thank you.I applaud your perseverance.

  3. I love that you made this three times! you are too funny.

    All of the version look delicious. I would like a piece of each! Thanks.

  4. Your lemon torte looks amazing. So great it's gluten-free. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 times to perfect recipes. Well done!


  5. It just too bad that almond flour is so $xpensive! I can understand why you would try to make it yourself but the proof is in the torte :)

    My goodness, it looks delicious!

  6. O' Boy does that recipe look go-ood! I have neither used potato nor almond flour. Interesting!

  7. this looks like a very worthy recipe to obsess over! they look delicious!

  8. You're so adventurous in the kitchen! I've tried almond flour before (made my own), but not potato flour...

    Oh, I've got to check out Sophie! I've never heard of her until now, but I loved Roald Dahl's books.

  9. I obsessed about getting my Snickerdoodle bread just right too. I'd never heard of potato flour. I bet it would make a great roll. Love the final cake with the lemon curd - it looks moist and delicious!

  10. Barbara
    It is funny that you brought up potato flour; I just saw a box of it at the store and thought after the fact that I should have bought it and made something with it! Love lemon anything and this cake sounds fab!

  11. Wow - you are dedicated to this recipe! But I'm glad to see you can buy almond meal - I need some for an upcoming recipe. now I just have to see if I can find some here!

  12. I never heard of Miss Dahl, and because yes, my family adore her grandfather's books went ahead and checked your links. How is her book typically british? The lemon cake of southern italian recipe is quite similar to the carrot cake we make: lots of almonds, eggs, lemons, sugar and little flour. My boy will soon turn 13 (and I'll be the mother of a teenager!!!), he loves anything lemon, perfect occasion to try a southern italian cake published by a brit and tried out by a great american cook and blogger!

  13. That last photo looks delicious---makes me want to pick up the fork and dive right in. I can understand becoming obsessed with a recipe. It doesn't happen often, but it has happened (much to the chagrin of my family, "What? That recipe? AGAIN?"). That tidbit acknowledged, there is something to be said for perseverance ;)

  14. This lemon cake looks absolutely luscious! I would love to try making this, I need to have a good lemon cake in my repertoire.
    I have been avidly watching Sophie Dahl's show here in the UK. It comes on every Tuesday. She does try a little too hard to be like NIgella (you'll see, I'm sure it will end up showing in America), but its still a fun show.
    *kisses* HH

  15. How I wish to have a slice of that cake! I can almost smell it here... those lemony aroma ...mm ...mm really something to die for!

  16. if gluten isn't a problem for you, there's no reason NOT to use all-purpose, especially if the potato or almond flours don't give you the texture you want. i'm the same way--i'll tweak and tweak until i have any given recipe the way i think it should be!

  17. I can't tell you how much I empathized about the cake trials... I just hate it when it's not right. Sometimes it really is a badly tested recipe. Others... well I wanted to share with you about odd flours. I once got chestnut flour from a very very fine store in NYC. I made the dish with it and it tasted nasty. The flour did not smell very good. I felt awkward but I returned it since it was like $18 for a small bag. The guy was fairly snooty about it but when he smelled it he said... oh my that's rancid. He apologized. We tried the 3 others they had and they all were bad. I wonder if potato flour is like that... too long on the shelf?? Just a thought.

  18. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors. I've been fascinated with Sophie for awhile!

  19. Sophie sounds intriguing, I'll have to check that book out! I've made the mistake of trying to grind my own almonds into meal for baked goods...it never works out, lol! Your cake is stunning, Barbara.

  20. Looks terrific! Well in the end anyway. Sometimes I find myself attempting new recipes several times before it I get one that suits my needs.

    I followed a recipe for Blueberry Muffins once that was so embarrassing I wouldn't even feed them to the birds in my yard, for fear of angering them. Sure they look docile but…

  21. Your final recipe sounds excellent with the almond flour! Yummy cake!

  22. You are adorable. Who knew that potato flour smelled funky?

    I love Sophie Dahl. She's got spunk. And anything with lemon curd--I'm in!

  23. This is exactly why I blog and read other blogs - we're all slightly obsessed but PROUD of it :) Great work doing it three times, they all look luscious even the one with sticky-i-teeth-bits. And the lemon curd/creme fraiche sounds awesome. I'll have to keep an eye out for Ms Dahl's book now.

  24. Good Morning, Barbara. I love lemon anything. Lemon cakes and cookies are so good at tea time-my favorite. And this does look good with the Bob's Red Mill flour-they have super grinders & polverizers there, as I'm sure you know.
    I'm sending this to a friend of mine with celiac that loves lemon as much as I do...looks really good!

  25. Rebecca: I can be stubborn!

    Monique: It's a lovely cookbook!

    Joanne: Actually, they all tasted good, but the last one was the best.

    Nisrene: Try it...it's really a nice recipe.

    Susan: I can't tell you the number of times I have wanted to use almond flour..so now that I have some, I will be catching up on those recipes!

    Linda: The almond flour is heavenly.

    Teresa: Looks like a summer winner for sure!

    Sophia: My processor didn't get the almonds fine enough for this recipe.

    Barbara: It doesn't happen often, but I had a problem last fall with a recipe too and finally gave up. Am going to try it again soon. ;)

    Joumana: Well, I wasn't crazy about the potato flour (it thickened the batter too much), but the almond flour was wonderful.

    Deborah: I assume health food stores have it.

    Francesca: An international recipe, indeed. As for the British part: I made a wonderful scallop over pureed peas; a fish pie and plan to make an elderberry jelly. I think those are very British recipes!

    Sandie: My friends and neighbors were quite willing to be my testers!

    HH: I hope we get it sooner or later... Nigella is a success so I see no reason not to copy. I think Giada does something similar.

    Kristy: It's a lot of lemon, but it's delicious!

    Grace: You have to use more APF than potato flour but I really liked the way the batter looked with the APF.

    Deana: I would have done that, but the cake does not taste of potato flour. It's really quite good. I just preferred the lightness of the APF batter.

    Blonde Duck: She's a hoot, isn't she?

    Faith: They just don't get fine enough, do they?

    Bryan: We are a stubborn lot, aren't we?

    Natasha: That almond flour is divine...can't wait to use it in some other recipes!

    TKW: Lucikly the cakes with potato flour tasted fine. (But the APF one was better!) And that lemon curd/creme fraiche combo is fabulous.

    Shaz: She has some excellent recipes; I've enjoyed her book so much.

  26. Stella: Yes, they make excellent products! I hope your friend gives this a try!

  27. Very interesting! I have potato flour for Sissy's sake, but I've not baked with it yet...

  28. I read a Food & Wine interview with Sophie Dahl just last month; the article also included some nice recipes which I guess are in the new book too. She seems very sweet. And this cake looks delicious! The lemon curd-creme fraiche blend is a great idea.

    Usually gluten-free recipes call for a mixture of flours, so I'm surprised this one just uses potato. Maybe a packaged gluten-free flour blend, or a mixture of quinoa/corn/oat flours could be substituted for the potato?

  29. Barbara, I couldn't help but smile when I saw you tried to make your own almond flour. I tried once and found, like you, that it didn't work. Bob's Red Mill brand is a life saver.

    I'm not familiar with Sophie, but I'm dying to read more. I'm off to do just that.

    Gorgeous lemon torte. Good for you for keeping at it until it was just right. Sometimes it's so easy just to give up.

  30. It sounds like a fascinating book - I've always loved Roald Dahl's work. I'm sure his granddaughter is just as intriguing.

    Snaps to you for making the cake 3 times! The APF version looks better to me, but nice to know the GF version is tasty, too.

  31. I've been eyeing this book for a while...I think you've convinced me to buy it. I'm currently reading "Danny and the Champion of the World" to my boys...Love Dahl!

  32. I love lemon cakes Barbara and this look yummy and beauty! gloria

  33. DoggyBloggy: It doesn't happen to me often, but I'm glad I kept trying.

    Chan: Well, I really didn't care for the odor, but you can't taste it in the cake.

    Nancy: I bet there are a lot of GF flours that would work. I am not very familiar with gluten-free cooking so really have to depend on those of you who are to try this recipe with something else. But as I said, you don't taste the potato flour when the cake is baked.

    Sam: That lemon torte was worth all the trouble!

    Lynn: The APF version was definitely my favorite too!

    Jan: There are quite a few recipes I'm going to try.

    Gloria: Thanks!

  34. Hi Barbara,

    I came over to visit because we have the same first name and because I used to live in So. Fla.

    Love your blog - I'll be back when I have some time to read.

  35. How I relate. I am glad you mentioned it at my place of mishap. Even though, I do a lot of gluten free baking for my hubby at my other blog, Comfy Cook, I have never used potato flour. Potato starch - yes. I wonder how potato starch would have done although it would have needed a litte of something with body to it

    Regardless, you were a success and frankly, I think all your cakes look great, different but great.

  36. Délicieux ce gâteau.
    See soon

  37. I grew up with Roald Dahl and have already seen Sophie on the TV and think she's great. Now you've really made me want to buy the cookbook too. I just love lemons so this recipe sounds great. I've never tried potato flour but it doesn't sound so appealing and I'll take your version any day :-)

  38. I read about her book in Food and Wine. Sounds great! Great job perfecting the cake. The texture looks amazing, and the creme fraiche and lemon curd mixture would make me very happy!

  39. That looks about as good as something edible can look!

  40. I have friends who are allergic to gluten so I will definitely try this one out! And I love Sophie Dahl - can't wait to pick up her cookbook!

  41. I love almond flour for financiers and added into muffins. This looks and sounds in texture like it might be similar to an amazing lemon almond pound cake? It sounds wonderful.

  42. This cake looks marvelous! I met Sophie Dahl over a month ago when I was getting my hair cut at Bumble and Bumble on 56th and 3rd. She and I have the same hair dresser! I introduced myself and she was very gracious and absolutely stunning in person.

    I'm so glad to see you feature her book and this terrific recipe!

  43. This looks amazing..I must say I so love coming over to visit you...but I never should when I am so so hungry. xoxoxo

  44. Love hearing about your tips and tweaks! I'm a sucker for anything with lemon...now I'm just looking at your recipe and dreaming of lounging in a bed made of lemon cake!

  45. Lovely looking cake Barbara and I admire your persistence! :) I should try and get a hold of this book, after all I adore Nigella so goes to stand that I'd adore this too!

  46. Rocky Mountain Woman: Thanks for visiting!

    Sweet and Savory: I was amazed at how thick the batter got with the potato flour!

    Nadjibella: Thank you!

    Vanessa: It's a lovely book with uncomplicated recipes. Couldn't decide what to try first.

    Lisa: That lemon curd/creme fraiche idea was delicious. I'll use it on fruit too.

    BD: It's a good basic recipe.

    Phoenix: So glad some gluten-free people will finally be able to make a dessert of mine!

    Laura: I can't wait to try it in madeleines!

    Christine: What fun! Glad to hear she is so nice!

    Koralee: Guess you should visit AFTER a meal??

    Lucie: I love lemon too!

    Lorraine: I think they both have a great sense of humor AND their recipes are not complicated and involved.

  47. Barbara, My you are a persistent one. An admirable quality in a woman. The cake sounds glorious made with white flour. Thanks for posting all your trials.

  48. Great recipe! I'm a huge fan of baking with potato flour or potato starch.

  49. I've been known to obsess over recipes once in a while too. Actually, it's not often that I make the same things over and over, but once in a while I come up with something I rally want to blog, but need to tweak before I can do so. In fact, one time I made the exact same dinner two nights in a row - but it was definitely worth it to nail down the recipe and get a better photo! Nice work here, the cake sounds delicious.

  50. I love an obsessive cook! I enjoyed this post so much--I know who SD is but had no idea she wrote a cookbook. The cake looks lovely. I can see why you got fixated on it. Lemons and almond flour sound awesome.

  51. Pam: So glad you're back in business!

    Clivia: I must admit it was interesting although I wasn't enamoured of potato flour.

    Cara: Some recipes take a lot of tweaking. And this one did!

    Samantha: I wanted it to be perfect..so kept trying!

  52. I love perfecting a recipe. All versions of your lemon cake looks tasty.I have had good luck buying almond and other specialty flours on line, one source is Surfas.

  53. What a lovely torte. I really will have to give this one a try. I love these European-style cakes and the effort you put into making it fool proof for us makes it easier still. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  54. I've been wanting to try something with almond flour - this sounds delicious!!

  55. There is nothing wrong with pursuing perfection. And based on the final product, it looks as thought you have reached it! This torte looks wonderful. I ♥ anything with almond flour. :D

  56. I love it that you've done all this work for us. I haven't found a lot of gluten free flours here. Ok, to be honest I haven't looked very hard, though...

    However, this looks perfect made with regular flour. Thanks for this recipe!

  57. Mimi: Sometimes it's annoying. This time I had fun! Thanks for the info about where to buy flours.

    Mary: Wouldn't it be lovely with a cup of tea?

    Lecia: That's why I kept going...it really is delicious.

    Valerie: Can't wait to make something else with it. Thinking perhaps some madeleines.

    Kate: I wasn't thrilled with the GF flour as you could tell. Probably won't try them again.

  58. That is a gorgeously moist looking cake. I will have to check out Ms Dahl's book very soon.

  59. I lemon and lime desserts!!!That torte looks and sounds wonderful!

  60. Friends like you make me feel like a princess! :)

    Totally cheesy, I know.

  61. Potato flour doesn't appeal to me either - and Roald Dahl is a legend - his books are still wonderful to read as an adult.

    Love that you made the cake twice so we could see the difference

  62. Wonderful Lemon Capri Torte. This book seems like a must-have reading from your short review :-)
    Happy baking, Barbara!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  63. U know the little gurl who played Eloise is also Sophia, ok there's an ''e'' instead of ''a''.........
    And i love them both now...
    U know id love to find a pack of that ground almond flour...delicious, we have a portuguese bolo ,where we use ground almonds/cashewnuts but we dont find the same at the stores..
    that said this reciper sure sounds fantastic and looks awesome ,aint suprized u baked this one thrice;-)))
    and u know ,after puttn up the post et all, i now found cutest little pics of Eloise and have put them up ,coz the ones i originally put up werent showing there:-((((
    And i did reply to u on the blog,but ok considering u wouldn hop by there again ...here goes:-)))

    Barbara, u are very very sweet dear, u have the best things to say and make my day:-)))
    Oh i love the idea of Poppy seeds in baked goods,but we dont really find the black poppy seeds here:-))

    Ur so right ,i use a lot of vanilla ,coz i have lods and pic it up directly from the processors here:-)))
    Am more than glad to pass on the awards to ya babes and am glad u enjoy them:-)))
    Yeah i do ,and i love them too:-)))

  64. Very interesting variations you got between the cakes. :)

  65. Bridgett: I really liked most of the recipes in her book!

    Erica: I do too...it's so springlike and refreshing.

    Blonde Duck: But fun!

    Greedy: Sometimes it's the only way to get it exactly right!

    Kris: Yes, I marked quite a few recipes in the book!

    Mia: Lucky you to have so many vanilla pods!

    Anita: Striking differences, weren't they? The batter was entirely different.

  66. Hi Barbara! I just had lemon cake the other day {eeek from the grocery store}...I was just in the mood for it! Your lemon tart sounds soooooooo much better though!!! Would love to try it!

    Hugs ~

    :) T

  67. whata great recipe..I have looked for her program, but it is not available here...will check out her book, thanks for all the info of her.


  68. I've been itching for that book for awhile now. Great way to suss it out through this recipe! :)

    I'm definitely on the case of this cake now! have to try it out, especially since it's GF. Will report back with any new info!

  69. Oh. Wow. I NEED this cake in my life, I'm sure of it. And I'm so pleased to have made the Sophie Dahl connection -- I'll have to look it up ASAP. Thanks!

  70. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/well-here-comes-the-week-15-rally-awards-and-more/

    two awards from the bottom of the post,
    have fun!

  71. It's interesting to see the variations in the cake. I bet that has been a good book to browse through. I have been taking notes while watching the programme.

  72. ah a perfectionist! I love that...this looks sooooo GOOD!

  73. Perfect for Spring! I love the idea of serving it with creme fraiche mixed with lemon curd. Double yum!

    My parents are newly gluten-free and have gotten quite used to the taste of all the different flours. I still always prefer APF but I think if you had to do the other it would be easy enough to get used to.

  74. Thanks for the heads up on the potato flour.



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