Despite the fact that I spend two mornings a week serving as backup pastry chef at a little cafe here in wine country, I remain hesitant to call myself a baker. I still get foiled on a regular basis by custards and sponges, buttercreams and mousses. I still forget vital ingredients every now and then. Say, the yeast required for burger buns to rise. I’ve made cookies so tough they could be used as weapons and brulees that have the consistency of construction caulk. “Shit happens,” as we like to say, and in my experience, baking is unavoidably one of those two steps forward, one step backwards type situations. Every couple of successes warrants an epic failure.
Given my propensity to produce cakes somewhat akin to hockey pucks, I tend to shy away from bringing a cake to a gathering of friends or family. The problem is I’m utterly swept away by the romantic image of walking in the door, holding on to the neck of a cake stand, with a beautifully frosted confection sitting enthroned atop. There’s just something so homemaker-y about it. To satisfy my silly romantic vision and settle the score with the pastry gods, I’ve determined it’s time to get over it and return to the kitchen to conquer one of the most illusive confections: cake.
Enter this gloriously simple, utterly divine, “almost flourless” chocolate cake. Simple ingredients, simple procedure, but a beautifully rich, complex flavor. It was a perfect gateway cake and I enjoyed baking (and eating) it so much I made it twice in one week. A little squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt, a trick I learned from a friend at Paley’s, takes this treat to a whole new level. Though it’s truly decadent on its own, the addition of some meyer lemon whip is a perfect seasonal tie-in. I can imagine that some mint-steeped whip would be perfectly delicious as well.
Whether you’re like me and have a score to settle with the sweet side of things, or just need something quick and easy to bring to a gathering, this cake is for you. And if you’re even more like me, it might end up being only for you. Yum.
- 7 ounces high-quality dark chocolate
- 7 ounces butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 pint heavy cream
- zest of 2 meyer lemons
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- Heat oven to 375 and butter a cake pan (I used an 8 inch). Use the pan to trace a circle on parchment paper, cut it out and fit inside pan. Butter the parchment.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (metal bowl over pan of simmering water), stirring continuously. Once chocolate is melting, add butter and stir until both are fully melted. Stir in sugar and remove from heat to cool slightly.
- Add the eggs one at a time, whisking quickly to incorporate well after each. Mix in the flour, making sure batter is smooth. Add lemon juice and salt.
- Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cake is set and top is crackly.
- While cake bakes, whip cream, zest and sugar with a mixer (whisk attachment) until soft peaks. Remove and store in the fridge until needed.
- Once cake is done, let it cool for 10 minutes, then carefully revert the pan so crackly side faces upwards. Allow to cool before serving.
- Serve wedges with a dollop of whip.