Monday, April 16, 2012

Desserts: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Well the last of the Candy Holidays is behind us until the fall. Just as people think of Thanksgiving as the start to the winter holiday season, so I consider Halloween as the start of the Candy Holiday season. And the Candy Holiday season is a lot longer than the winter holiday season.

I’m as big a fan of chocolate as the next person, but I also have four small children (and an almost non-existent personal will power). Starting with Trick or Treating, there seems to be some event for which the stores are stocking their “seasonal” shelves with various-shaped Peeps for between six and seven months (depending on the timing of Easter). Candy corn of various shades—yellow/orange,red/green or pastel colors (really?)—calls to me with its corn syrupy siren song. And don’t even get me started on Cadbury Crème Eggs.

The Candy Holidays kick off with Halloween. Once they’ve cleared out the last of the orange-wrapped miniature candy bars, they truck in Hershey’s kisses in silver, red, and green foil. From there it’s but a moment before the heart shaped Whitman’s samplers are displayed. On February 15th, it’s Reese’s Eggs (another notable weakness of mine) and chocolate bunnies. When I bought a package of Cadbury Mini Eggs in February, and confessed to the checker that I just couldn’t resist them, even though Easter was weeks away, she told me that, in fact, they’d received all the Cadbury stuff in DECEMBER, I suppose in the hopes that they’d dedicate some floor space to it during the Christmas holidays.

I’m just grateful it hasn’t occurred to Brach’s to make patriotic candy corn yet.

So this year, Easter brunch was at my house. After a morning of eating pastel M&Ms and Kit Kats wrapped in cheery pink and blue, I wanted something more sophisticated for the grownups. I teetered between a pound cake served with…something (I never actually got very far down the pound cake path), or a chocolate cake of some description. I decided on a flourless chocolate cake because I’d been working on this recipe and it seemed like a good time to break it out. This cake is not a little bit of work, but it’s a departure from the usual traits you find in a flourless chocolate cake, which to me makes the work it requires worthwhile. At least it’s effort expended for something a bit different.

This is not a flourless chocolate cake for people who like the thick, dense, fudgy product that normally represents the genre. This is a flourless chocolate cake for people who want something a little more cake-like (although, let’s face it, it’s still exceptionally rich from the chocolate). This also has a lovely crusty top provided courtesy of the brown sugar.

It’s also a flourless chocolate cake for people who can’t eat almonds. Often flourless chocolate cake recipes substitute almond meal to provide some of the structure that would normally come from the flour. While my family has no food allergies, plenty do, and nuts are one of the usual suspects.

In fact, it’s rather like a cross between “true” flourless chocolate cake (by which I mean the kind with almond meal), and a brownie. Whatever you call it, the recipe calls for a fair bit of whipping. In fact, you may think I’m exaggerating when you read how much whipping there is. Or that I’m kidding.

You start by beating a lot of air into the eggs, and then folding in whipped cream. The eggs will expand hugely in volume. They’ll then deflate somewhat when you add the chocolate, and you’ll reintroduce some volume in the form of the whipped cream. All of this sort of evens out, and you wind up with a cake that bakes down but doesn’t slump as much as the almond flour variety. As a matter of fact, my husband said he didn’t care for it precisely because it isn’t the usual fudgy, squidgy product that we usually think of when we think of a flourless chocolate cake. So you might want to prepare your audience before you serve it to them.

I presented it with vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. You could also serve it with whipped cream or crème fraiche, if that’s more your speed. If you like fruit and chocolate (I don’t) you could serve it with strawberries or with a strawberry sauce. However you serve it, it’s a fitting end to the Candy Holiday season.

A note about the picture: the ice cream may make it appear that the cake is quite thick—possibly as much as 2 inches. However, the scoop I used for the ice cream was one of those smaller ones that holds about a rounded tablespoon. So the ice cream scoops themselves are only about 2” high. The cake is probably just over an inch thick. I don’t want anyone to look at the picture and think that the ice cream scoops are “normal” ones, because perspective would then dictate that the cake was quite a bit thicker than it really is.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Makes 8 – 10 servings

1 cup light brown sugar
6 eggs
14 oz chocolate, melted (I use a mix of bittersweet and semi-sweet—about 9 oz of bittersweet, the rest semi)
½ cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons Frangelico, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9” or 10” round springform pan with nonstick spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs and brown sugar. Add salt, vanilla, and Frangelico. Beat 10 minutes or until eggs are 4-5x greater in volume than they were. They’ll deflate a bit later on—that’s OK.

Place all chocolate in a bowl and microwave until melted. Best to melt it in 1 minute increments, checking between each. Once it softens, reduce to 30 second increments. In my microwave this takes 2 ½ minutes total, but power varies by microwave. Stir in the cocoa. Allow to cool slightly. You want it to still be pourable, but not so hot it will cook the eggs when you add it to the egg mixture.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream (if you have a second work bowl for your stand mixer, lucky you. Otherwise I recommend using a hand mixer in another bowl). Once the cream thickens slightly, add the powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating it in to avoid lumps. Once the powdered sugar is all added, beat in the Frangelico. Continue beating until the cream is thick. As the beaters go around, they will leave a path through the cream, and you’ll be able to see the bottom of the bowl. This will take probably 5 minutes.

Remove the mixer bowl from the stand mixer, and scrape the melted chocolate into the egg mixture. This is where the egg mixture will deflate by about half. This is expected. Also, because the egg mixture is cooler than the chocolate will probably be, the chocolate will solidify a bit. Turn the mixer back on and let it run while you’re whipping the cream (if you’re using a hand mixer and separate bowl for the cream. Otherwise, turn the mixer on and let it run for a minute before swapping out the work bowls and cleaning the whip attachment so you can beat the cream). Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the egg mixture bowl to get any chocolate that may be lurking there. Don’t worry if there seem to be some lumps of chocolate. Even if they don’t get incorporated during the folding that comes next, they’ll melt when it cooks.

Once you have the chocolate well incorporated into the egg mixture, fold in the whipped cream carefully, trying to lose as little volume as possible. You won’t be able to get the two mixtures completely combined—just try to fold until there are no obvious white streaks. The mixture may appear somewhat mottled—lighter and darker chocolate streaks. This is fine. Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and ten minutes, checking at 50 minutes. The cake will appear craggy and cracked. You want it quite well set.

Allow the cake to cool completely. After about 15 minutes, you can run a knife around the edge and release the springform pan. The cake will sink in the middle during cooling. This is normal. Serve with the accompaniment(s) of your choice.


Spencer said...

Looks absolutely delicious! I would love to try some.

Food Handlers Permit said...

I can't say no to that chocolate cake. This all so yummy one. Thanks for sharing.

Food products said...

I have diabetes but yea i also cant say no to such delicious chocolate cake.. it looks so soft n tasty .. Yummy