I have prepared a fair amount of flourless chocolate cakes in my baking days — too numerous to count. They always turned out nicely; I mean, it’s basically chocolate and eggs, how can you go wrong? But truthfully, the desserts weren’t exactly memorable.
It took a recipe from Alice Medrich, whom the San Francisco Chronicle once dubbed as the “Patron Saint of Chocoholics,” to make me think twice about this extreme chocolate indulgence. Medrich is a legendary pastry chef, author (a two-time James Beard winner) and teacher, and I have relied on her book “A Year in Chocolate” (Warner Books, $25.95) since it was first published in 2001.
Medrich originally created this recipe for Cook’s magazine, so I know it carries the seal of “can’t fail” for me if I follow it to the letter. So last month, I decided to bake it for my daughter’s birthday, which is Christmas Eve. I figured since she has to share the special occasion with a holiday, she deserved an extra special dinner; I made some cheese fondue for nibbling, followed by king crab legs and salad. It was rich and decadent and we almost didn’t have room for dessert — until it was presented.
Maybe I’d forgotten how good this cake was because I’d never made it like Medrich instructs. Or maybe I just wasn’t sharing it with the right people.
The recipe calls for serving the cake with a raspberry sauce, which I omitted; I served it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream for the dinner. But I served the cake the next day with some leftover cranberry compote, and it was divine. Note that because there is no flour, those who follow a gluten-free diet will be most appreciative. This is worth putting your New Year’s diet on hold for another week.
The Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake
From “A Year in Chocolate” by Alice Medrich
8 eggs, cold
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
¼ cup strong coffee or liqueur (optional)
Sauce and Topping
1 package (10 to 12 ounces) frozen raspberries, thawed, or 8 to 10 ounces fresh raspberries
Granulated sugar to taste
Powdered sugar, for decoration (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
To make the cake, line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. Set the pan on a wide sheet of heavy-duty foil and wrap the foil up the sides without tearing it. Set the pan in a larger baking pan or a roasting pan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Preferably using a hand-held mixer, beat the eggs at high speed until the volume of the eggs doubles to about 1 quart, 5 minutes. If you have to use a heavy-duty mixer, use the whisk attachment and speed 6 and beat to the same volume, which will take about the same amount of time. Melt the chocolate and butter, with coffee and liqueur if using it, in a large heatproof bowl either set in a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave on medium (50 percent) power, stirring frequently for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and warm (about 115 degrees).
Fold one third of the egg foam into the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula until just a few streaks of egg are still visible. Fold in half of the remaining foam in the same way. Fold the remaining foam into the batter until completely incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared springform and smooth the surface. Set the roasting pan on the oven rack and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up the side of the springform. Bake until the cake has risen slightly, the edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust (like a brownie) has formed on the surface, and an instant-read thermometer inserted halfway into the center of the cake registers 140 degrees, 22 to 25 minutes. Remove the springform from the water bath and set on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight to mellow. Cake can be kept covered and refrigerated up to 4 days.
To make the sauce, if using frozen raspberries, drain them and reserve the juice. Place fresh or drained frozen berries in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly but not until perfectly smooth. Press the puree through a strainer to remove the seeds. Add some of the reserved juice if desired. If the puree seems too tart, sweeten it to taste. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
About 30 minutes before serving, remove the springform pan sides, invert the cake onto a sheet of wax paper, peel off the parchment liner, and turn the cake right side up on a serving platter.
To serve, sieve the cake lightly with powdered sugar, if desired. Whip the cream with the vanilla and 2 teaspoons of sugar or more to taste until nearly stiff. Serve slim slices on a pool of raspberry sauce with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Serves 12.
Per serving: 462 calories; 40 g fat (24 g saturated fat; 78 percent calories from fat); 26 g carbohydrates; 213 mg cholesterol; 55 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber.