Saturday was Thomas's birthday so yesterday we celebrated. It is our custom to have a family birthday dinner on the Sunday that is closest to the birth date. The birthday 'celebrity' has the option as to what is on the menu. Sometimes the requests are very specific and detailed, others rather general. This year Thomas asked for salmon (general) and an intense chocolate cake "maybe that flour-less one you make" (specific).
This cake is fantastically, intensely chocolate. Not sweet, not bitter. Just fantastic. And chocolate. It is a special occasion cake - at least at our house - because although it isn't precisely difficult it requires chopping a lot of chocolate, (a task I find tedious), cutting up butter (messy and tedious), and several steps. I generally stick to fast and easy and this is neither. It is however pretty simple. Please read all the directions through first - much simpler in the end and a better outcome. You'll understand.
Other than chopping three-quarters of a pound of chocolate and cutting up half a pound of butter (no, this is not diet food Virginia) the trickiest part of the whole deal yesterday was turning the cake out of the pan. It very nearly ended up in a smushed mess on the floor - very, very nearly. As it was it left a good smudge across the counter (yummy to clean up) and had a bit of a blemish on one side. Still tasted amazing just not quite as pretty.
The recipe is more or less straight out of my well-loved New York Times Essential Cookbook where it is listed as Lora Brody's Bete Noire - who would not want to try that?!! Really. And it is really that good. Well worth the chopping. The only change I made was to use coconut palm sugar in place of regular granulated sugar, in respect of Eden staying away from refined sugars.
And Thomas? He is certainly worth chopping chocolate for. He always was and always will be. He is a most wonderful son and an intensely amazing man. I just can't wrap my head around him being 30! How did that happen!?
intense chocolate cake (flourless)
(from The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser)
1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups coconut palm sugar
1/2 pound unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
5 extra-large free range eggs, at room temperature
Heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9" round cake pan and coever the bottom with a neat circle of parchment paper.
Combine the water with 1 cup of the sugar in a 2 quart saucepan with a candy thermometer attached. Bring to a boil and cook to 220 degrees F - about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the chopped chocolate, stirring until it is melted and smooth. Immediately start adding the butter, stirring gently until all of it is used and the mixture is smooth.
Put the eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk attachment (stand or hand mixer) start beating on high speed and continue until the mixture is quite thick, pale, and tripled in volume - up to 15 minutes. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, stirring carefully until fully blended.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a slightly larger pan (I use a roasting pan) and pour boiling (don't cheat and try to get away with hot tap water - doesn't work very well. I know) water around it. Don't let the sides of the pans touch. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Insert the sharp point of a knife into the middle of the cake; if it comes out clean it is done. If it is not clean, continue baking for another 10 minutes. To be honest, although the recipe says "Do not cook longer than a total of 35 minutes", I have not even once had the cake be 'done' at the 35 minute mark. I have followed the recipe and taken it out at that point but it was a pretty sticky mess even cooled. So I routinely bake this cake for about 42 minutes. I would recommend checking at the 25 and 35 minute marks and then deciding from there. Even at 42 minutes the knife is not entirely clean for me but once the cake has cooled it is perfect. Cool in the pan (out of the water bath) for 10 minutes.
Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and unmold onto a cookie sheet, remove the paper. Invert a serving plate over the cake and turn it right side up onto the serving plate. (This is where I almost met my Waterloo yesterday. It's tricky because the cake is still very soft, so it is hard to turn it without squishing it. At least it makes me nervous.) Serve warm or at room temperature with unsweetened whipped cream ... and fresh berries.