A French Mother’s Flourless Chocolate Cake - No. 183
Fortunately, no chocolate-sprayed moss. Just a simple, sublime, intensely chocolate, and little bit reckless cake to bake. Plus 5 things to know.
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE is such a rule breaker. It disregards what you’ve been told about baking a cake.
True to its name, it has no flour. Sometimes ground almonds, and often bread crumbs or a smidgen of cornstarch are folded into recipes, but not in the cake I share today. It is just chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs.
And I apologize that it calls for nine eggs, what with eggs so expensive. More on that next week. But if you consider this cake a special occasion cake (and it is a fabulous Valentine’s cake or a dinner party cake), then maybe you can justify the expense. I figured it set me back about $8, for the eggs, the higher price of chocolate, and the sugar and butter I buy in bulk at Costco.
In December, I shared Dione Lucas’s recipe for a flourless chocolate cake roll. And true confession time, I’m crazy about all things flourless and chocolate. I’m not sure if it’s that rich, near-raw blast of chocolate I’m after or the genius nature in which this classic cake is made.
Wet, rich, and wicked
Today’s recipe is from French chef Michel Guerard’s book, Michel Guerard’s Cuisine for Home Cooks (1984). I was cleaning up the office and clearing off bookshelves when I eyed this book from another place in time. Back when American gourmets were fixated on all things nouvelle cuisine, I was right in the middle of them, writing about food in Atlanta as it prepared to boom.
A lighter style of cooking emerged in France and elsewhere in the mid-1970s with less sauce on the plate, more seasonal vegetables, and food that was minimally cooked versus stewed and reheated. Flour was removed from savory sauces and in its place were natural juices—known as ‘’jus.’’ On dessert plates, the sauce was light and fresh with raspberries and other fruits that had been pureed into a vivid coulis. Remember coulis?
So sans flour, these flourless cakes fit in nicely. And they were everywhere. Chocolate, by far, was the most popular. Author and dessert-maven Maida Heatter said flourless chocolate cake was the ‘’most sensuous,’’ dessert she knew. It was, in her words, ‘’wet, rich, wicked.’’ And she should know. Her book on chocolate is filled with variations of them.
You want it to look this way. Flourless chocolate cake will deliciously fall.
That is No. 1 of five things to know about baking one.
And many people, including myself, find this fascinating. As Maida Heatter knew, you can play with the proportions of ingredients just a bit, reduce the eggs slightly, and it will not fall as much. But the crispy edges and that wet mousse-like texture—those are attributes of a fallen cake.
Then, if they fall, how do flourless cakes rise?
Chocolate acts as the magical binder of the liquids—melted butter and egg yolks. That’s lesson 2. The beaten egg whites give the cake the lift it needs to rise without baking powder or other chemical leavening, fun fact number 3. As there is no flour and no structure to support the cake once it bakes and cools, however, the cake collapses, and has that slightly disheveled fallen-souffle look I find so attractive.
And delicious. You can absolutely add vanilla to the batter or brush the cake with rum or Cognac as it cools. It is a blank canvas.