Wednesday 5 March 2008

Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Not so much a cake recipe, as a fantastic construction device for use in chocolate tarts and soufflés. Following on from techniques used by - amongst others - Ducasse, Senderains, and Hermé this is a method for introducing into these sorts of dessert a wonderfully concentrated flavour bomb. The 'cake' is in fact a thin layer of very porous chocolate sponge, which acts as a container for strongly flavoured liquids (generally, but not necessarily alcoholic). The degree to which the sponge sucks up the liquid prevents it from leeching out into the surrounding mixture, and at the same time, the cake itself somehow dissolves, so that as you bite into it there is no obvious sense of a 'cakey' texture - just a very intense flavour hit. At the same time, the chocolate sponge is effectively invisible within a chocolate-coloured soufflé or tart filling, and so there are no visual clues in advance which might spoil the surprise..

This sponge layer when cooked is not a thing of beauty, but since it ends up concealed within whatever dessert you're making, it doesn't matter. The quantities given here are sufficient to make discs of sponge for use in half a dozen or so individual desserts; any leftover sponge can be readily frozen for future use, although you have to defrost them very thoroughly to make sure they are decently porous again after freezing.

Ingredients: 80g Dark Chocolate (Felchlin, by preference); 5 Eggs; 190g Sugar.


1. Heat the oven to 170 degrees C.

2. Melt the Chocolate in a double boiler or zimmertopf. When melted, allow to cool slightly.

3. Beat the Egg Yolks with half the Sugar, until thoroughly incorporated. Stir into this the slightly cooled melted Chocolate.

4. Whisk the Egg Whites until they form soft peaks, then add in the remaining Sugar and continue whisking to make a meringue.

5. Fold the meringue into the Chocolate mixture and spread this thinly (about 1/4 inch thick) either onto sheets of Silpat, or onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper.

6. Bake in the pre-heated oven until done - this can take about fifteen minutes, depending upon how efficient your oven is. To test for done-ness, press with a finger, and if the dent springs back and leaves no lasting impression, the sponge is done. It should be very dry.

7. Leave to cool on a rack.

To Use: Cut the sponge into discs, the correct size to fit into the ramekins (if making soufflés) or tart shells, if making tarts.
- If making chocolate soufflé, half fill the ramekin with the soufflé mixture, then place a disc of sponge on top; carefully soak the sponge with half a teaspoon or so of your liquid of choice (Cherry Brandy or Cointreau spring to mind) and then cover with more soufflé mixture. Bake the soufflé as normal.
- If making a Chocolate Tart (or a variation, such as Pear and Chocolate, or similar), place the sponge disc in the tart shell and add the liquid of choice, before proceeding with the tart recipe on top of the sponge disc, entirely as you would do otherwise.


Anonymous said...

If this cake were to be baked in a deep tin, would it be able to be cut into layers (for use in a black forest gateaux?)

Pomiane said...

I think not. But why not just make enough mixture for your needs at the start, and then bake it in four lined baking trays, from which you can subsequently cut out the circles you'd need to construct the gateau?