Thursday, July 21, 2011
Behold this cake! It's dark, rich, smooth and oh-so-indulgent (like all men should be). I chanced on the recipe at Times Online and thought it sounded promising, but I really sat up when I noticed the same writer had featured it twice - first here in 2004 (Flourless chocolate & almond cake), and 3 years later in 2007 (Still the best chocolate and almond cake).
"... there is one well-known and well-loved cake that I go to for all manner of celebrations: a rich, flourless chocolate cake adapted from an Elizabeth David recipe in French Provincial Cooking. She simply calls it a chocolate and almond cake, although I believe it is also known as Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba. Rich and intense, it rises slightly in the oven only to deflate, crack and wrinkle into a rustic mess as it cools — all part of its charm. It makes a fabulous dinner-party pudding with crème fraiche or custard, is even better as a celebration cake dusted with icing sugar or cocoa powder, and is particularly good, I must say, for breakfast. Of the 260 recipes in the past twelve months, this is one of my favourites."
- Jill Dupleix, Times Online
How could I not give such a highly-recommended cake a shot? So, bright and early I started ... mixing and whisking, and before long, I was rewarded with a cake that tasted as good as it looked.
(Left) Yolks bathed in gorgeous morning light. (Right) How come no "rustic cracks"??? I waited and waited for the cake to deflate and crack with panache, but nothing happened! It only cracked slightly when I started slicing - and that was because it was not yet completely cooled. Where are the cracks when you want them?
(from Times Online)
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 50 min
* I would highly recommend using a springform cake pan or removable-bottom cake pan to bake this.
- 200g dark, bitter chocolate (I used Valrhona Equatorial 55%, so ... not exactly dark or bitter)
- 1 tbsp strong espresso coffee (I omitted this)
- 1 tbsp rum or brandy (I used rum)
- 150g caster sugar (I reduced the sugar to 130g because I didn't use dark bitter chocolate)
- 150g butter (I used unsalted)
- 100g ground almonds
- 5 eggs, separated
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Pinch of salt (the recipe doesn't call for this, but I always feel salt enhances the flavour of chocolate ... still, it's optional)
1. Melt the chocolate, coffee, rum or brandy, sugar and butter (and salt, if using) in a bowl sitting in a pot of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir until well mixed.
2. Add the ground almonds and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one.
* Unless you can't take nuts, you must include the almonds! The nutty flavour brings out another dimension against the smooth chocolate. Amazing.
3. Beat the egg whites until stiff and peaky, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.
* Let me clarify for those who are unclear: add whites to chocolate, not the other way around.
4. Turn into a buttered and floured 20cm (8in) round or square cake tin and bake at 180°C/Gas 4 for 40 to 50 mins (less if you like it fudgey, more if you like it cakey).
* I found it neither fudgey nor cakey. I'd like to use the word "mousse-like" to describe the velvety-soft interior. If you like chocolate mousse, you'll love this cake.
5. Leave to cool before removing gently from the tin, and dust with icing sugar to serve.
This was what I got after baking for 40 mins, and to me, it was perfect - slightly crusty edges with an interior so tender, it yielded completely to the gentlest nudge of the fork. If, however, you like it "cakier", then bake slightly longer but with a sheet of foil tenting the cake. It could brown too much and burn. Do keep an eye as you bake ... chocolate cakes have a tendency to produce burnt tops if you are not watchful.
But basically, this is it! A cake that truly lives up to its glowing reputation. :) Isn't it a beauty? 'Twas was a HUGE hit, with everyone asking for seconds and get this, the next day too!