This almost flourless chocolate cake is the simplest dessert to make for the holidays. There's no layering, filling or frosting. No chilling or rolling. It's just pure chocolatey goodness in an easy single layer cake. The recipe is from the very talented writer and baker, Fran Gage. Since it was printed in the local newspaper a couple years ago I've made it numerous times and it's always a crowd favorite. If they only knew how easy it was to make. Using the best bittersweet chocolate already gets me more than halfway to the finish line. Melt that with some butter, whip some egg whites, a few flicks of my wrist and voila!
Like with many flourless (or nearly flourless) chocolate cakes, the most technically challenging part of the recipe is folding the beaten egg whites into the chocolate batter without deflating the egg whites. Since there is no chemical leavening, the cake's "lift" will come from the air incorporated into the egg whites. The key to keeping the air you worked so hard to achieve is to lighten the chocolate batter with about a third of the whipped egg whites. Mixing in a little bit of the whipped egg whites will make the chocolate batter less dense and that'll make it much easier to gently fold in the rest of the egg whites without losing too much of the volume. But other than that, it really is straightforward. (The other challenge is resisting the temptation to devour the entire cake all by yourself!)
BTW, the recipe says to serve the cake inverted, but I wanted to preserve those lovely meringue-like shards on top of the cake so I served mine right side up. And that is the only change I made to this perfect recipe.
Fran Gage's Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake
(Makes one 9-inch cake which can serve 8)
7 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar, divided into 2/3 cup and 1/3 cup
5 large eggs, room temperature, separated
3 tablespoons cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder for decorating
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9- inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or a bowl that fits snugly over simmering water. When the two are mostly melted, remove from the heat and whisk together. Cool slightly. Whisk in 2/3 cup of sugar, the egg yolks, then the flour and salt.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat them with the whisk at medium speed until they start to foam. Add one-third of the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat whites until they become opaque, then add a second third of the sugar. When the whites start to increase in volume and the whisk leaves traces in them, add the last of the sugar and turn the mixer speed to high. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks, but still look wet.
Using a spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. (This first third will help to lighten the chocolate mixture and make it less dense so you can fold in the remaining two-thirds without too much deflation of the egg whites.) Now gently fold in the remaining two-thirds of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes.
Cool on a rack.
To unmold the cooled cake, run a table knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Peel off the parchment paper.
Decorate the cake with powdered sugar and cocoa powder: Sift a light dusting of powdered sugar on top of the cake. Put a small brioche mold upside down in the middle of the cake. Lightly dust the cake with cocoa powder, then lift off the mold.
Serve by itself or with sweetened fruit puree or a dollop of whipped cream.