Favorite Flourless Chocolate Cake

When it comes to chocolate cake, I’ve always preferred light and fluffy over rich and dense.  When my husband and I married, I wanted a chocolate wedding cake (with peanut butter frosting!) and after sampling a decadently dense bakery option, I told my mom I’d rather her make a Duncan Hines cake.

She vetoed that idea.

Years later, after being uninspired by flourless cakes on many a restaurant menu, the following recipe changed my preconceived notions after the first dreamy bite. More creamy than dense, this unleavened cake offers wide appeal. The deep chocolate flavor is decidedly darker than milk chocolate but not at all bitter. Even better, it’s super easy to make and offers a perfect ending to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner–or any other special occasion.

Interestingly enough, this recipe owes a lot to my older son John’s college choice.  When he decided to make Hanover, New Hampshire his home away from home for the next four years, many people mentioned his proximity to King Arthur Flour’s flagship store. (For those who aren’t familiar, King Arthur Flour is a purveyor of flour, baking mixes, cookbooks, and kitchen supplies and runs a popular baking school across the river from Hanover in Norwich, Vermont.)

Naturally, we stopped by on our first official visit, and as I chatted with a helpful employee (who noticed some lingering in the chocolate aisle⬇︎), I inquired as to her favorite King Arthur recipe.  Without hesitation, she uttered the words “flourless chocolate cake.”  Her conviction was such that I felt compelled to try the recipe soon after.

This cake is rich, decadent (but not overly so), and not in the least bit dry. For an unleavened cake, it seems somehow light.  It’s incredibly easy to make, and the simple 2-ingredient glaze is the crowning glory.  A thin sliver will satisfy a serious chocolate craving…yet I must admit that a large piece goes down rather easily!

Note that the recipe calls for an 8-inch cake pan, as a 9-inch pan results in a too-thin cake. It also incorporates espresso powder. This enhances the chocolatey flavor, but in a pinch could be omitted. Additionally, the original recipe specifically recommends dutch-process cocoa powder over regular, but I wondered if this was truly necessary.

So what’s the difference between regular and dutch-process cocoa powder, and why does it matter?

Regular cocoa powder is simply natural powder from roasted cocoa beans. It’s bitter and acidic, and as such, is usually paired with recipes calling for baking soda.  Because baking soda is a base, the two react and cause a baked good to rise.

With dutch-process cocoa powder, the cocoa beans are washed in an alkaline solution.  This processing creates a smoother, less astringent flavor and a dark, almost black, color (think Oreo cookies).  The wash neutralizes the acidity of the beans, which means they won’t react with baking soda.  Therefore, recipes that rely on dutch-process cocoa powder usually call for baking powder, which includes an acid component.

You can use either type of cocoa powder in recipes that don’t require baking soda or baking powder — for example, hot cocoa, frosting, ice cream, pudding, etc.  If there’s no leavening occurring, it won’t matter. You may choose based on personal taste preference or possible desire to use the less-processed option.

Because there’s no leavening agent in the following cake, I knew that rise wasn’t a factor.  But would the flavor be significantly different?  Because I tend to have just one type of cocoa powder in my cupboard (my standby is Hershey’s regular cocoa powder, which has been used in countless Fulton family birthday cakes), I figured many of you would likely be in the same boat.

The first time I made this cake, I followed the recipe to the letter–that meant buying a container of dutch-process cocoa powder.  The end result was perfection.  But ideally, I wanted to offer the flexibility to use whichever variety you have on hand. So I risked a less-than-perfect outcome and added regular cocoa powder the second time around.

Was the flavor slightly smoother with the recommended dutch-process cocoa?  Maybe so.  Yet it was honestly hard to discern a difference.  I did make the cakes over time, so the comparison wasn’t side-by-side.  Still, nobody complained.

The moral of the story: For this cake, if you have dutch-process chocolate, by all means use it.  If you only have regular, there’s no need to buy something different. Either way, this recipe, which I have lightly adapted, might just find its way into your entertaining bag of tricks. It’s in mine! 😋

   

Favorite Flourless Chocolate Cake
Yield: 8-12 servings
Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a perfect match, but since this cake is free of flour and leavening, it’s ideal for Passover, too. It’s also a good option for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
For the Cake:
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I use good old Nestle’s)
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter (I used salted; may use unsalted)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
For the Glaze:
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan. See “tips,” below.

To make the cake: Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl (I use a quart-size Pyrex measure*), and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. (Two 60-second bursts usually is sufficient in my microwave.) Stir until the chips melt; reheat briefly if necessary.

Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla.

Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. (I use a handheld beater.) Add the cocoa powder, and beat just to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 23-25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.

Remove the cake from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife, and turn it out onto a serving plate. (The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges may crumble a bit, which is also fine.) Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.

Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. (I use most but not all.) Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake.

Notes

*For easy prep: if you have a handheld beater and its size allows for blending in a quart-size Pyrex measure, you can use the Pyrex measure as your mixing bowl, starting with melting the chocolate and continuing through the remaining steps.

A few extra hints, compliments of the King Arthur bakers:

  • Can you line your pan with wax paper instead of parchment? Yes. While wax paper shouldn’t be exposed to direct oven heat, it’s fine when used between cake batter and pan.
  • Like vanilla, espresso enhances the flavor of the chocolate. The recommended 1 teaspoon will simply enhance the flavor, but you may increase to 2 teaspoons to provide a hint of mocha flavor. (I recommend starting with the lesser amount and using a good quality powder.)
  • If desired, garnish cake with 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a 350°F oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  • For cleanest slicing, use a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Repeat dipping knife in hot water and wiping dry for each slice.

 

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

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Comments

  1. Sarah Post author

    I just have to tell you that this chocolate flourless cake was the hit of my family’s super bowl!! Absolutely delicious (and better even perhaps than that delicious chocolate cake with peanut butter icing recipe you have). I have been recommending that recipe and your website all week, and the DC area may show an uptick in views. 🙂 Really appreciate all your great ideas!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and for sharing the love. I’m delighted this was a Super Bowl hit!

      Reply