A flourless chocolate cake is the “must-have” little black dress of desserts. Minimal, simple and universally pleasing, it’s a classic for all occasions. And, short of intravenous therapy, it’s one of the most intense forms of chocolate consumption you will experience. A tiny sliver of this luscious, gluten-free cake goes a long way (or maybe not, depending on your willpower).
Since the cake is flourless, it demands a very short list of ingredients, which means that the spotlight is rightly on the chocolate. Don’t skimp in this department. Choose the best-quality dark (70 percent to 72 percent) chocolate you can lay your hands on, because it makes all the difference, and you will be rewarded with a stunning cake.
Like the quintessential black dress, you can keep it simple or accessorize it for extra bling. Serve it “naked” with a dusting of powdered sugar. For more sparkle, you can wrap it in a shiny sheen of chocolate glaze. Either way, feel free to serve the cake with gently sweetened whipped cream, which adds a cooling ethereal contrast to the inky chocolate wedge. And if fresh strawberries are available, for goodness sake, don’t hold back.
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch) cake; Serves 10
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
12 ounces high-quality dark chocolate (70% to 72%), chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
Whipped cream and fresh strawberries, for garnish
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder and tap out the excess.
Combine the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and smooth, and remove from the heat.
Beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a large, clean bowl and then stir in the melted chocolate, vanilla and salt.
In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the machine running, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until medium-firm peaks form. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate to blend, and then gently fold in the remaining whites, in 2 additions, without overmixing. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake until the top of the cake is slightly puffed and cracked and a knife inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. (If desired, the cake can be served unglazed at this point. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.)
To make the glaze, place the chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just reaches a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Keep warm.
Remove the side of the cake pan, invert the cake onto a plate, and discard the parchment. Pour the glaze over the center of the cake. Spread the glaze over the top and down the sides of the cake, using an offset spatula to smooth the glaze. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 10 minutes.
Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.