Many years ago I read my first flourless chocolate cake recipe in Esquire magazine. As created by Jean Banchet, the celebrated French chef, the basics were straight forward. A good quality dark chocolate is melted together with sweet (unsalted) butter. In a separate bowl egg yolks are sweetened with sugar. Egg whites are whipped into peaks. Then, the three are mixed into one bowl.
Like a souffle, a flourless chocolate cake is a delicate confection. Jostled or treated carelessly, the egg whites so carefully aerated will collapse.
My contribution to this classic was a few flavorful ingredients. Instead of a liqueur which is often used to enliven the density of the chocolate, I like to add orange zest and a handful of finely chopped roasted almonds.
The recipe will make 1-2 large cakes or 8-10 smaller ones.
This is purely a matter of taste, but I prefer thin cakes, 1"-2" tall. The taller the cake, the longer the bake. The times listed below are estimates. Ultimately the test of whether the cake is done is to insert a pairing knife into the middle. When withdrawn, the knife should have a small amount of chocolate on the blade. Be careful not to dry out the cake.
After a dusting of confectionary sugar, the cake must always be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
A few special kitchen tools are essential. Non-stick parchment paper. Springform pans. And a power mixer.
The cake is best served warm, heated for ten minutes in a 250F oven.
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and Roasted Almonds
Only use good quality chocolate without additives. The same is true of the heavy cream used to make whipped cream for the topping. In Los Angeles where I live, Trader Joe's has two products which I always use. The One Pound chocolate bars (56-70% cacao) and the heavy cream are both made without additives. I highly recommend them for this and other desserts.
When filling the springform pans, leave room 1" at the top because the batter will rise.
Makes (1-2) 6"-9" cakes or (8-10) 3" cakes
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
Time to bake: 30 minutes - 3 hours depending on diameter and height of cake
1 1/2 sticks + 2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon white flour
14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into quarter sized pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup raw almonds, roasted in 250F oven 5 minutes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups heavy cream or 1 pint good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream
1. Preheat oven to 250F.
2. Remove the bottom(s) of the springform pan(s) and place on parchment paper on a flat surface. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the bottom(s) onto the paper. Use sharp scissors to cut out the paper round(s). Lay the parchment paper round(s) inside the springform pan(s). Set aside.
3. Use a double boiler or place a sauce pan on top of another pan. Add water in the lower pot to fill halfway. Place on stove top on a medium flame so the water simmers.
4. Melt butter in double boiler. Use pastry brush to paint the top of the parchment paper and inside the springform pan(s). Dust with flour. Set aside.
5. Add chocolate to melted butter. Stir and melt but do not boil. Once chocolate and butter are combined, stir in roasted chopped almonds, set aside for five minutes.
6. Place egg yolks, sugar minus 2 tablespoons, vanilla extract and orange zest into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Set aside.
7. In the bowl of an electric mixing, place the egg whites and lemon juice. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat two minutes and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue mixing until peaked but no more. Set aside.
8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully combine the egg yolk and chocolate mixtures. Set aside.
9. Transfer the chocolate mixture into egg whites being careful to incorporate all the egg whites.
10. Place the springform pan(s) on a flat baking sheet. Using the spatula, transfer the batter into the pan(s), leaving room 1" at the top.
11. Place springform pan(s) into the oven. Check every 30 minutes and rotate baking sheet to prevent the cake(s) being uneven because your stove is not level.
12. To make whipped cream, place heavy cream in electric mixer with wire whisk. With machine on high, sprinkle in confectioner's sugar. Continue whisking until the cream is fluffy. Be careful not to over whisk. The result will be butter milk.
13. Insert pairing knife into center of cake(s). When blade has a small amount of chocolate, remove cake(s) from oven and allow to rest on cake rack 15 minutes. Cake(s) will contract making removal from the springform pan easy. Lift cake(s) off the bottom and parchment paper. Place on a decorative plate.
14. Serve cake(s) warm with a sharp knife and a large bowl of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.