memorial day, flourless chocolate cake, and handstands on the beach.

memorial day, flourless chocolate cake, and handstands on the beach.

Our friends Coach and Boots were kind enough to take Kenan and me with them up to Boots’ parents’ place in New Hampshire for the long weekend.  I was excited to do some baking for a discerning audience; Boots comes from a family of epicureans, and besides, what better excuse is there for fancy kitchen tricks than a holiday, and a big ol’ fancy suburban kitchen?  As Boots’ mom recently discovered that she has coeliac disease, and also because I felt the need to impress said mom (I’d been told many tales of her prodigious cooking skills), I decided to go all-out and do a flourless chocolate cake.

My timing of the cake production was somewhat poorly planned, resulting in a counter top real estate squeeze and some furtive appliance hijacking in an otherwise very large and well-appointed kitchen.  What with my trying to manage the cake while the others were in the middle of preparing barbecued turkey, sage and gouda macaroni and cheese, baked potatoes and steamed asparagus, there was little time and even less maneuvering space with which to take pictures of the cake in its various stages of preparation before baking.  Despite a few awkward exchanges, however, the whole shebang went relatively smoothly.  Dinner was delicious, and Kenan and I even managed to not embarrass ourselves (we both seemed to be in rare putting-foot-in-mouth form the whole weekend).  The cake went over so well, in fact, that the first time we were able to isolate our subject for a photo was a few minutes after it had been served, at which point it was already in a state of undress:

it got all eaten.

it got all eaten.

I’ve tried a few recipes for flourless cakes in the past, but so far, not one has had the overall chocolatey wonder of Tartine‘s Chocolate Souffle Cake (recipe after the post).  The fudgy-cakey texture is achieved by separating seven eggs and dealing with the whites and yolks separately.  The beaten whites give the cake its soft airy texture, while the yolks, beaten to a thick, pale yellow ribbon texture, create richness and lend some body to the finished product.  The other ingredients are unsalted butter, white sugar, and, of course, lots of bittersweet chocolate – 14 ounces, to be exact.  I used 9.7 ounces of Scharffen Berger (70% cacao), and because the market we went to had only one bar of that, some Baker’s (67% cacao).

Tartine suggests placing a layer of chopped nuts or a thin slice of a chiffon or other sponge-like cake on the bottom of the springform pan.  I’ve tried both, and I kinda think the recipe stands well enough on its own, or perhaps with a little unsweetened whipped cream.  This time round, the only addition I made to Tartine’s already stellar cake was to serve it with big grains of rock salt on the side (sadly there was no time to take pictures of said salt with said cake; see above).  The salt contrasts nicely with and emphasizes the rich sweetness of the cake, and also adds a pleasant little bit of crunch here and there without creating too much of a distraction.  Credit must again be given where credit is due, however: the idea for the salt was pinched from the amazing chocolate cake at Williamsburg’s Marlow and Sons, which is seriously worth a try.  As far as notes for next time, I think I’d like to try cooking up some sort of fruity compote to serve over the cake in addition to the ganache.  But overall, I was quite pleased with the result, and all the evidence (moaning and licking of fingers and such) suggested that everyone else was, too.

finger lickin boots

finger lickin' boots

On Monday morning, before heading back to Brooklyn with stomachs full of delicious leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, we traipsed down to a nearby lake and did some caterwauling.

boots and i do some impromptu handstands

boots and i do some impromptu handstands

And that was pretty much the long and short of it.

So here’s the cake recipe, kiddos:

Tartine’s Chocolate Souffle Cake

unsalted butter 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon
bittersweet chocolate, chopped 14 ounces
eggs, large, at room temperature 7
white sugar 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon
salt 1/4 teaspoon
bittersweet chocolate, chopped 4 ounces
heavy cream 1/2 cup


Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter the bottom of a 10″ springform pan and then line with parchment paper cut to fit exactly.

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and then add the chocolate, stirring as the chocolate melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks and the whites into separate mixing bowls. Add half of the sugar to the yolks. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks on medium-high (not high) speed until light and fluffy, and the mixture triples in volume and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon that folks back on itself and slowly dissolves on the surface. This will take about four or five minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold the chocolate mixture gently into the yolks.

Again using the mixture, beat the whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the rest of the sugar and the salt and beat the mixture on medium speed until it holds medium-stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one third of the egg white mixture into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten, and then gently fold in the rest of the egg white mixture just until no white streaks are visible. Be careful not to overmix as this deflates the batter and makes for a less airy cake. Immediately turn the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until the top of the cake is no longer shiny, being careful not to let it “souffle” (puff up and expand beyond its original volume), 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to overnight.


Remove the cake from the refrigerator, uncover, and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over low heat and bring to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for about 2 minutes without stirring, and then stir gently with a rubber spatula, incorporating as little air as possible, until smooth. Pour the ganache over the cake, tilting the pan to cover the top of the cake evenly. Let set for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Release and lift of the pan sides.

to serve

Serve either at room temperature or cold. If served cold, the cake has a more dense consistency; if at room temperature, it’s a little more airy and mousse-like. Optionally, you can sprinkle grains of sea salt over the cake before serving, or put salt on the side. The cake keeps well in the refrigerator, but be sure to cover it tightly, as chocolate readily absorbs refrigerator odors.

pictures by boyblue

pictures by boy blue.

memorial day, flourless chocolate cake, and handstands on the beach.

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4 notes

  1. kenan says:

    from now on, you’re going to have to make two of everything; one to ‘blog about, and one for me to eat while reading the resultant ‘bloggery.

  2. Boots says:

    Having had the great fortune to eat this cake with cate, my opinion is that this cake was amazing, and you should all beg cate to make it for your next birthday…or half birthday…or whatever plausible occasion you can sell her on! My only regret is skimping on the sea salt – we sprinkled it ourselves at the table. I’m excited to taste the future versions featuring fruit compotes. But I’m also curious to try it with dulce de leche or maybe a thicker caramel. (You know, the 1-month pre-anniversary of my birthday is in 3 weeks – hint hint!)

    And just passing along the compliments, my mom mentioned again how incredible this cake was on the phone with me a few days after the trip!

    In conclusion, YUM.

  3. […] requested some sort of flourless something. I’d made Tartine’s chocolate souffle cake on Memorial day, and it was fantastic, but I felt it would be fun to try something new and […]

  4. […] I know I’ve used several of Tartine’s recipes before, but eating their amazing food when we were in California was so […]

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