Let’s face it: one of the best things in the world is chocolate cake. Except if you are allergic to chocolate. Or don’t eat dessert. In those cases, I feel sorry for you.
But if you are a chocolate lover like me, consider making this delectable, couldn’t-be-easier flourless chocolate cake for your next special dinner, even if it is a night-in at home with pizza watching the game. The beauty of this cake is that you don’t need to bake it, and its flourless state is suitable for people who can’t tolerate gluten.
What really makes a flourless chocolate cake so special is that it is a cake made from aerated chocolate custard, something achieved by beating egg whites and then adding the egg yolks to the peaks. The result is a rich and fudgy, yet light cake that you can indulge in without feeling too full.
It is said that the flourless chocolate cake was born in Italy at the turn of the last century when Elena of Montenegro married King Victor Emmanuele III to become Queen of Italy. The cake was called Queen of Montenegro and can still be found under this name in parts of Italy. The cake has also become popular in Jewish families during Passover as it is made without unleavened grains. But I remember seeing it pop up on restaurant dessert menus in the 1990s and it became ubiquitous to the point that almost all menus had it on offer.
So I guess you could call it a retro dessert that has been rediscovered. This recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, but if you like a fudgier, heavier, cake, use Dutch cocoa powder which has a darker hue.
You’ll need a hand-held electric mixer to help beat the egg whites. You can try doing it by hand, but unless you are supremely muscular and used to that sort of thing your arm will surely tire out! And be sure to invest in a spring-form pan if you don’t have one. They are fantastic, essential even, for desserts like these and you will find yourself using them again, and again, and again…
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not chips), chopped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the cake, or use powdered sugar for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 6 large eggs, separated
- Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and butter the inside of a spring-form pan.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stirring frequently until smooth. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until all of the lumps are gone. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- While you are waiting for the chocolate mixture to cool, beat the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until they form stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir the egg yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture, then stir in about a quarter of the whipped egg whites.
- Scrape this lightened chocolate mixture into the remaining whipped egg whites and gently fold until mostly combined (it’s ok if there are some streaks of egg white).
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center of the cake no longer wiggles, 40 to 45 minutes.
- Let cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack (the cake will deflate slightly. Don’t worry!) Unlock the spring-form pan and dust the top of the cake with some cocoa powder, or powdered sugar.
- Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or just on its own.
If you’d like to add nuts, sprinkles, or coconut shavings…well just go right ahead.
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