Valentine’s Day is next week, in case some of you need reminding. For most of our married life Best Beloved has been away over Valentine’s Day, but this year he will be home and as the young ‘uns will be safely away at their respective halls of higher learning, we might actually manage a nice romantic dinner. At home. I am thinking something simple, like a couple of filets seared to perfection on the grill, a little bubbly, a well-dressed salad and Flourless Chocolate Cake.
When we were first married I attempted to bake a chocolate cake from scratch for Best Beloved’s birthday. It has become the stuff of family legend, heaped with hilarious derision. Obviously I made this attempt without adult supervision. It was a glorious 2-layer cake that I wrestled out of the tiny oven in the tiny apartment. The cake collapsed in the middle, like a suddenly-developed sinkhole. Ever resourceful, I slathered it with lashings of thick, chocolate butter cream icing. That merely served to accent the crater in the middle. I yanked a 12-inch taper out of the wedding-present sterling candle holder and carefully impaled the cake with it. Later, in the light glimmering from the remaining candle, the cake looked quite respectably decorated. And what a jolly conceit, one single candle instead of the usual – although thirty some odd candles might have masked the damage, too…
There is drama and tragedy inherent in domestic baking. You should know that up front. Which is why I am so happy that this cake, which I have been baking since 1989, is practically perfect in every way. The cake is dense, the glaze is worldly and sophisticated, just like the baker. But I would still have a few candles around, just in case. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick of butter, softened
5 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat the over to 350°F. Line a springform pan with parchment paper – it is never pretty. Like hospital corners on the bed, I can never do this tidily.
• Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan, over a low heat, stirring to blend. Be careful not to rush this process! Set aside to cool.
• Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow in color. This can take up to 5 or 6 minutes. Add the vanilla.
• Clean the beaters, and now whip the egg white with the salt until they are stiff. (The very informative Mark Bittman video below about making the perfect chocolate soufflé will show you how things should look.)
• Fold the chocolate mixture into the yolks, then fold in about one third of the egg white, mix gently. Then fold in the rest of the whites, mixing until there are no more white streaks.
• Pour the mixture into the springform pan and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, test with a toothpick to be sure cake is done. The cake will rise gloriously while baking, and suddenly crash and collapse when you take it out of the oven. Do not worry about this! It will be deliciously and deliriously luscious.
• Cool the cake for about 10 or 15 minutes and then remove the side of the pan. Flip the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment. Let it cool completely before adding the glaze.
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon or whatever you have in your desk drawer for emergencies
• Melt the 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and butter together in a saucepan, stirring until smooth. Add the generous dollop of bourbon and stir some more. Now pour the glaze over the cake, assuming that you have placed it on a serving dish, and have prepared said dish with some waxed paper. The glaze will drip down the sides. But we like that shimmering pool of molten chocolate.
We sometimes top the slices of cake with whipped cream, and maybe some raspberries. I had this once with a maceration of raspberries and have never tasted anything so delightful since!
“This recipe is certainly silly. It says to separate the eggs, but it doesn’t say how far to separate them.”
– Gracie Allen