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The Mensch Chef Mitchell Davis
by Mitchell Davis
Chocolate Cloud Cake

This is a flourless chocolate cake recipe given to me by my late friend Richard Sax. Not only is it a superbly rich and beautiful cake, because of its flourlessness it has become a Passover tradition. There is the slight problem of butter, which makes it difficult (sacrilegious, really) to serve it after a kosher meat meal. But if such things are a concern, you can figure out a time to eat it--believe me, you will want to. It is so dense and delicious you don't really need anything more than a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a spoonful of whipped cream to go with it.

Yield: Makes 1 8-inch cake, serving 8 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) top-quality bittersweet chocolate (such as Lindt, Valrhona, Callebaut, or Sharffen Berger with 60% or more cocoa content), coarsely chopped
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, cognac or Grand Marnier
  • Grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons) (optional)

Special Equipment:

  • 8-inch round springform pan
  • Waxed paper or parchment
  • Electric mixer or good whisk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of the 8-inch spring form with a round of waxed paper or parchment, but do not butter the paper or the pan. Melt the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a stainless steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water, or in the microwave. Be very careful not to get any water from condensation into the chocolate. When it is melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.

In separate mixing bowls, separate 4 of the eggs. Be sure not to get any yolk in with the whites. Add the remaining 2 whole eggs to the yolks along with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Whisk until blended. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the yolks. Whisk in the brandy, cognac or Grand Marnier and the orange zest, if using. Beat until blended.

Using an electric beater or a good whisk and a strong arm, beat the egg whites until foamy, 2 or 3 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue beating until the whites form soft mounds that hold their shape but are not stiff. They should look shiny and silken. Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten egg white mixture into the chocolate egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Then dump the remaining egg whites on top of the chocolate mixture and, using the spatula, fold in the whites just until incorporated, being careful to deflate them as little as possible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is puffed and cracked, and the mixture is no longer wobbly. Do not overbake the cake or it will be dry; better to err on the side of underdone. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. The cake will sink as it cools leaving an attractive, cracked crater in the middle. Unmold before serving by running a knife around the sides and releasing the spring. You can fill the crater if you like with whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar, and/or cocoa.

A Bissel Advice

Are you trying to bankrupt me? Splurge on the best chocolate you can find. This cake is all about the chocolate.

You call that a piece of cake? Resist the temptation to be too generous with your portions. This cake is so rich, a sliver is all you need. (Besides couldn't your friends stand to lose a few pounds?)

Kosher Status

Milchig,

Pesadich

Mental Nosh

Just who invented the flourless chocolate cake, you ask? The answer is impossible to find. In recent years, flourless chocolate cake and its underbaked cousin the molten chocolate cake have become ubiquitous on restaurant menus. These cakes are sometimes mislabeled soufflés, but they are more like failed soufflés than anything else. Superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (of Jean Georges, Vong, Mercer Kitchen, et al.) lays claim to serving the first molten chocolate cake, but who can be sure? The thing to keep in mind is that neither underbaking nor overbaking this particular cake is desirable. It may take you one or two tries until you get the doneness just right. But don't be discouraged, this cake is always delicious. It has none of the rubberiness of other flourless chocolate cakes, and none of the uncooked, batter-taste of most molten chocolate cakes.


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