Smooth and creamy, like the silkiest fudge you ever ate, this flourless cake will satisfy your chocolate cravings not just for Valentine’s Day, which is sort of national chocolate day, but anytime the hankering hits. (The real National Chocolate Day is, curiously, Oct. 28, which I think ought to be national candy corn day, but there you go.)
Plan on making it for all 14 to 16 of your sweethearts: this 8-inch cake is so rich that no one can eat a huge slab of it. Plus, it really needs a counterpoint of sour flavor to take the edge off the sweet unctuousness. I used blood orange syrup and fruit, as you will see.
The recipe comes from New England’s own King Arthur Baking Company, which has a stellar website with lots of recipes and solid advice, not to mention really prime ingredients. You don’t have to be avoiding gluten to appreciate a flourless dessert.
Use the best chocolate chips you can afford. As reformulated products emerge, I find that some of the standard brands produce chips that don’t melt out smoothly. That might be acceptable for cookies, but for pudding, sauces or a cake like this, that doesn’t work.
The recipe also calls for espresso coffee powder. One teaspoon, King Arthur says, enhances the flavor, while two teaspoons give the cake a mocha flavor. If you don’t keep espresso powder on hand, substitute instant coffee. I went for the two teaspoon mocha version.
When I made this, I noted that one instruction recommended achieving an internal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer. I couldn’t get it above 180 degrees, though the center puffed up nicely and a tester came out clean as a whistle. The cake settles a bit when it cools.
You can spread a glaze of chocolate ganache over it. The King Arthur recipe called for one cup of chocolate chips to half a cup of cream which made way more than I deemed necessary. Below I halved it.
I can stand just so much sweet richness. As it happened, my neighbor Christine had acquired some blood oranges that she shared. With dark purple interiors and purple-streaked orange rinds, blood oranges — available this time of year — are a tad sour, not as sweet as their all-orange counterparts.
I made a syrup by boiling one cup of sugar with the juice and zest of two blood oranges topped off with enough water to make one cup. Then I sliced a third orange as thinly as I could and simmered the slices in some of the syrup until they candied, the rinds becoming translucent. The candied rind made a great garnish and I served the cake on a plate flooded with the syrup.
That red wine pepper sauce that you read about in this column at Christmas time would also make a fine addition to a serving of this cake. Some may prefer whipped cream or ice cream.
This is really luscious stuff.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Makes one 8-inch cake
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa
½ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream
Blood Orange Syrup and Garnish
Juice and rind of 2 blood oranges
1 cup granulated sugar
1 whole blood orange, sliced thinly
For the cake:
Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8-inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, also greased.
Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and warm in a microwave or over boiling water until the butter is melted, and the chips soften. Stir until the chips melt completely, and put the mixture into a medium mixing bowl.
Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder and vanilla.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until the batter is smooth.
Add the cocoa powder and mix just enough to combine. The batter will be a bit firm.
Spread in the pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, then check to see if the center is puffed and a tester comes out clean. Add time until you achieve that.
Remove and let cool for five minutes.
Loosen the edge of the cake with a knife by running it around the perimeter. Put a plate over the pan and turn the cake out. Let cool completely.
For the glaze:
In a heatproof bowl, or in a small pan in hot water, heat the cream until hot but not simmering.
Stir in the chocolate chips to combine, then rest for about five minutes, and stir until smooth, reheating if necessary.
Spread over the cooled cake, allowing the glaze to dribble down the sides of the cake.
For the syrup and candied orange:
Put the juice and rind of the blood orange into a measuring cup and top it off with water until it measures one cup.
Combine the water and juice with one cup of granulated sugar and bring to a boil to make syrup. Cool before using.
If you wish to candy orange slices, put the sliced orange in a shallow pan and pour syrup over it until they are barely covered.
Bring to a steady simmer and cook, turning the slices occasionally, and adding a bit more syrup if it cooks away, until the rind of the orange is translucent.
Place the orange slices on waxed or parchment paper until cool. Add any syrup remaining in the pan back into the cooled syrup.
Garnish the cake with the candied slices and serve each piece of cake on a small plate flooded with the blood orange syrup.