Thursday, December 3, 2009

winning hearts and minds cake

I had my first piece of flourless chocolate cake on Mother’s Day, 1995.

K, three years my senior and significantly more worldly, proposed we make a flourless cake for dessert. (I knew little about baking, but enough that “flourless” felt somehow dangerous and iconoclastic.) The result, through my twelve-year-old eyes, was sunken and sad-looking, and missing all the signifiers of a good chocolate cake (multiple layers, buttercream frosting). But it tasted incredible. Clearly, K had uncovered a culinary secret lost on the likes of Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker: in matters of chocolate cake, flour content is inversely proportional to deliciousness.

In recent years, I've refined, or rather renounced this theory. In fact, I’ve soured on the whole notion of flourless chocolate cake. Tasty? Yes. They're just so predictable, and, next to the molten chocolate cake, comically ubiquitous on restaurant menus. They've gone from revolutionary to run-of-the-mill in a little over a decade.

Or at least, that's how I felt until a few weeks ago, when I made this "Winning Hearts and Minds Cake." Suddenly the world is new again!

Truly, it's like no other flourless chocolate cake I've ever had. (I realize it's not technically flourless, but 1 tablespoon keeps it in the same general genre.) I don't know if I should credit the above-average quantities of butter or eggs, or perhaps even that sneaky tablespoon of flour, but oh man it's good—rich and silky, with a texture that's somewhere between a chiffon and a mud pie.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
Adapted from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg, who adapted it in turn by Je veux du chocolat!, by Trish Deseine

Make sure you make this cake a day ahead. Molly, who's had a great deal of experience with this cake (as she served it at her wedding), even recommends freezing it for at least a day, then allowing 24 hours for it to return to room temperature.

7 ounces best-quality dark chocolate [I used Scharffen Berger Bittersweet], finely chopped
7 ounces unsalted European-style butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.

Melt the chocolate gently with the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring regularly to combine. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition, and then add the flour. The batter should be smooth and dark.

Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. [I began checking around the 20-minute mark. You’ll know it’s done when the top jiggles only slightly, if at all.] Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.

Serve at room temperature with slightly sweetened whipped cream.

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