Many years ago my exotically beautiful (inside and out) friend, Jennifer, caught the attention of the baker at the fancy California restaurant where she waited tables. He taught her how to make their signature crème brulee and flourless chocolate cake. She was kind enough to come to my house and endure five crazy little kids running around (probably naked – they loved to strip as soon as I was distracted) and taught me to make my newfound love- crème brulee (I was about thirty the first time I had crème brulee and I had to forgive the previoius generation for never introducing me to that little cup of wonder.) On the other side of the recipe card she wrote out the baker’s flourless chocolate cake recipe. I have since lost that card and she doesn’t remember the recipe, but I’ve “suffered” through several practice runs (my family thanks you!) and came up with something pretty darn close.
Flourless chocolate cake recipes are mostly the same, some more complicated than others in order to tweak the texture- whipping egg whites, double boilers and water baths. You are welcome go find a fancy recipe and possibly have a fluffier texture. I tend to lean towards simple- short ingredient lists, simple measurements, minimal steps and extra credit if it can all be done in one pan!! Jen taught me the more involved, professional method- but with time I got comfortable with it and found I could totally cheat on time consuming steps and dirty dishes and still have a great cake. So that’s how I wrote this one, adding a few helpful hints for my friends who have never made a cake like this. It’s quite easy- trust me!
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. This would be 2 cups of chocolate chips (a staple for the Leigh household pantry) or fancy chocolate bars, baking chocolate or a combination thereof
12 TBSP (¾ cup) butter
¾ cup sugar (if you are using bittersweet, many want to bump the sugar up to 1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa powder
In saucepan on very low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together.
(Real cooks will tell you to melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler- as you don’t want to burn it. I just use very low heat- and you can even microwave it, a minute at a time.)
Whisk in the vanilla and sugar- stirring till dissolved.
Whisk in one egg at a time, making sure they are well incorporated.
Stir in cocoa powder
Pour into a greased a 9 or 10-inch pan (this recipe fills a 9-inch to the top, a 10-inch cake would just be a little thinner. If you only have an 8-inch, cut all the ingredients down about 20 %). A spring foam is nice because you can take the sides off and serve, but a normal cake pan works just as well. But BE SURE TO GREASE THEM WELL. I have come to appreciate parchment paper and take the time to line the bottom of the pan with it- be sure to spray the top of the paper along with the sides of the pan. Too many times I’ve cried frustrated tears over cakes stuck in pans and mangled on their way out, so it’s worth the minute or two of work.
Bake at 325 for about 40 minutes (this of course will vary with size of pan) or until 165-200 degrees (all the baking sites I read were somewhere in this range, as eggs are safely cooked at 165.) A thermometer is the safest way to not under or over bake (for years I only used a thermometer for meat, but now I use it for almost everything I bake- it’s been a game changer!) If you don’t have a thermometer, bake till middle is just slightly jiggly and the top and edges look set (it will firm up when cooled)
cool for 10 minutes
If not using a spring foam pan, then invert onto a plate (the bottom of the cake becomes the top.) This is especially nice if it cracked while baking; if it cracks and that really bothers you, next time use a water bath. I kept this as simple as possible, but many recipes call for water bathing or inserting steam in the oven by adding water in a roasting pan on lowest rack in order to keep temperature changes minimal and reduce cracks in the cake.
The cake is best if cooled at least 6 hours before serving, it firms up quite nicely in the fridge. I prefer to make it a day ahead.
You can enjoy it just like this- or top with a ganache made with 1 cup of chocolate chips melted with ½ cup half and half or heavy cream (gently melt together in a pan or a microwave.) Spread on top and let cool before serving. This ganache is another way to cover up an imperfect looking cake (no one will complain!!)
If you want to be really fancy, serve with whipped cream and berries
This cake is so decadent-make sure you keep the slices small; we get 20 servings from a 9 inch pan. The texture and taste resembles chocolate truffles. Be careful. You might get addicted- especially when you realize it only takes ten minutes to whip this baby up!