Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grace's Flourless Chocolate Cake

Or, the dessert I promised my sister I'd make three years ago. Sorry, Abby!

July has worked out to feature two recipes I'd never thought I'd make in my own kitchen that turned out pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself. You'll see the next one in a couple days, but right now, I want to take a minute to talk about one of the best desserts I've ever made. I know, I know, I say that basically every other week, but every once and a while, I really truly mean it.

Okay, I actually mean it every time I've said it, because I have made and eaten a lot of really fun, tasty stuff.

But this kind of holds a special place in my heart because it really was never something I thought would be simple and delicious to make and eat at home. I'm sure most of us have at least seen if not tasted a flourless chocolate cake at a restaurant. It's a pretty standard dessert offering, usually paired with raspberry sauce and/or vanilla ice cream, and I've enjoyed it many a time, figuring hey, this probably doesn't turn up on people's picnic tables because it must be really hard to make.

As it turns out, not only is that not true at all, but you probably have all the ingredients to make it in your own home right now! Talk about awesome, right? My life is never going to be the same.

My sister is an infrequent reader and occasional contributor to A Peek into the Pantry. As she's been away at school for most of the time since I launched this project, she's often stuck in a spot where she hears stories about my experiments, but doesn't get to try the finished products. Now that she's graduated and moved back to our home state, she's apparently been looking forward to actually eating some of my more interesting desserts and recipes.

Only to find out that I'm busy making things like ship's biscuits and vinegar pie! And while I would say most of the things I've made recently have been tasty (with one notable exception...), I definitely get what she means. I have kind of been on a kick with the weirder, less exciting sounding recipes lately.

Once my mom told me Abby's confession, I decided it was time to break out something I'd wanted to try making pretty much since starting the blog: flourless chocolate cake. It's one of my sister's favorite desserts to get when we're eating out, and I'm pretty sure it's actually something Abby's asked me to make before. I really have had this penciled in to the schedule for a long time, but I've gotten so many fun recipe ideas that it's just impossible to do everything in a timely fashion. Good thing her disappointment in my lack of tasty goodies kicked me into gear!

As it turns out, there's no one really good origin story for flourless chocolate cake. According to some sources, it's a recipe that only goes back to the 50's or so, showing up as a staple on restaurant dessert menus in the 60's and hanging out there until the later invention of the molten lava cake, another future blog project. To others, this is a dessert that goes back to almost the earliest chocolate cakes, either because someone intentionally left the flour out of a cake recipe, or accidentally forgot it, baked the cake anyway, and discovered they'd invented something new and exciting. I've seen stories saying it might be Italian, but most of the sources I found suggested this was originally a French creation, but it has traits in common with many other cakes and tortes found in Europe.

I kind of like the idea that it was created by accident, if only because my sister has had similar incidents with chocolate chip cookies, which have not always yielded tasty results. Just another way this treat reminds me of her.

The recipe I decided to try comes from our friends at King Arthur Flour, and can be accessed on their website. They - perhaps unsurprisingly - have a pretty awesome archive of baked goods and other recipes for you to try out, and this one gets overwhelmingly positive reviews. While I do make an effort to do my homework on any recipe I'm pulling off the internet, the fact that this had hundreds of extremely positive reviews made me immediately feel a little less concerned that this was going to be a huge mess. I mean, if other people can manage it, how hard can it really be?

The first sign that this recipe and I were destined to be soulmates is this is almost a one pan dessert. Although not everything can live up to the one pan simplicity of my chocolate war cake, AKA my go to dessert for any function or occasion, this comes very close. Since you don't really have dry ingredients to combine the same way you would if this was a normal chocolate cake, you can basically mix everything together in one bowl and pour it directly into your prepared cake pan. What's not to love about that?

To start, you take one cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and a half cup of butter. You can carefully heat this in the microwave until the butter is melted, and then you can mix everything together to get a thick chocolatey mixture.

Next, you add in 3/4 of a cup of sugar, 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix this together, add in three eggs, and then mix that together. Finally, you add 1/2 of a cup of dutch processed cocoa powder (one of my favorite ingredients!), and you've got a super thick, delicious looking batter.

The batter gets poured out into an 8 inch cake pan which has been greased, and has a greased piece of parchment paper tucked into the bottom of the pan. This part worried me a bit, as I did a kind of not awesome job cutting out a circle for the bottom of the pan, but I hoped for the best.

This cooks in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. The cake is super delicate right out of the oven - you can see where my thumb accidentally broke through when I was taking it out! Don't worry, I was wearing an Ove-Glove.

The moment of truth: taking it out of the pan!

I very carefully poked a knife around the edges and once I was sure it was as free as could be, I flipped it onto a serving plate, hoping for the best.

To my surprise, it came out no problem! There weren't even any crumbly bits around the edges like the recipe warned there might be.

As a finishing touch, the recipe includes a chocolate glaze you can top the cake with. Simply take one cup of bittersweet chocolate chips and 1/2 of a cup of heavy cream, carefully heat it in the microwave until the cream is hot enough to melt the chocolate, stir it together, and voila! Chocolate glaze for your beautiful, ridiculously nice smelling cake.

Seriously, this thing smelled amazing while it was cooling, and it definitely did not disappoint in the chocolate department. I'm not sure why I had the impression that this would be so difficult to make. Maybe only seeing it on restaurant menus convinced me that there must be a reason no one in my social circle thinks to make this at home. Maybe that's what everyone's been thinking this whole time, preventing us from breaking into this super easy, absolutely delicious treat much earlier!

My only complaint with the recipe was that once the cake was finished and glazed, we weren't quite sure what to do with it. The recipe is unclear about if you're supposed to serve it immediately, let it sit, or put it in the fridge to cool down before serving. I thought it should maybe go in the fridge to cool down and set up because I'm pretty sure most flourless chocolate cakes I've eaten in restaurants have been chilled, but my mom said I should leave it room temperature just in case the glaze seized up too much when it got cold. I figured sure, because letting it sit out probably wouldn't hurt it and I didn't want people breaking their teeth on the super thick glaze.

As it turns out, you are actually supposed to chill it. We sent leftovers home with my grandparents and happened to visit the next day while my grandma served some to their guests. She'd left it in the fridge overnight, and the slices definitely looked more like the cake you'd get at a restaurant.

Mine kind of looked gloppy and undercooked.

But honestly, that's totally okay with me! Having a wet center and cooked exterior honestly made this taste like a lava cake (or my Nutella lava mug cake), and that's my favorite dessert to order at a restaurant. So really, I think you can get away with serving it however you want. If you want a firmer, chilled cake, stick it in the fridge! If not, eat it once it's cooled down enough not to burn yourself! Either way, it's super delicious, rich, moist, and just overall really amazing. Those hundreds of reviews online weren't lying.

One tip: if you're trying to get neater looking slices and you've chilled the cake, the recipe recommends you cut it with a knife that's been run under hot water and wiped down. This makes your edges more even and keeps parts of the cake from getting glued to the knife!

Another fun fact: as this is gluten free, it's also a great treat for people with gluten allergies who still miss eating things like cake or brownies. I would definitely recommend any chocolate loving gluten intolerant person to adopt this recipe and try it immediately. It will definitely scratch that itch and not have you feeling jealous of your friends' desserts.

This definitely is a dessert you'll want seconds of, while also regretting that thought because the one slice you had was already so filling and rich that you're honestly not sure you can physically fit another bite in your mouth. Because of that, it's definitely a treat you'll either need to plan on having leftovers of if you're sharing it with a small group, or one that can easily feed a larger party without leaving people feeling unsatisfied because they didn't get a big enough piece of the cake. I also thought the glaze was a nice touch, but also a tiny bit too thick. Next time, I might only make about half of it to make a thinner layer, and thus give the cake a little bit more time to shine!

It's always a lot of fun trying a new dish when people say it seems too hard for them to get excited about making it, and it's more fun when it turns out that you've discovered something that's not only tasty, but super simple and totally a treat that just about any baker could make, no matter how inexperienced you are in the kitchen. I'm really glad I got encouragement to give this a try and found a foolproof recipe that's no doubt going to remain a family favorite. I already can't wait to make it again!

Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants I needed, Abby!


  1. This looks delicious!

    I have a friend who has celiac, and whenever she comes over I tend to end up buying those cardboard-tasting frozen Udo's muffins as a dessert, so this is a wake-up call for me about providing better desserts. Good to know that some gluten-free baking is tasty!

    1. Right? I was so surprised how easy this was. I have a cousin with a gluten allergy and usually we're in the same boat with her, so I'm really excited to have a better option for her when she comes to visit.

  2. A friend of mine made a similar recipe, she called it baked fudge though. I wonder if it was the same thing?

    1. Hmm, I don't know! I've never heard of baked fudge before. Sounds delicious, though!

  3. I agree with you on the best blog dessert ever!! It is hands down my favorite as of this moment. It was dangerously delicious and worth every calorie. I was grateful that Geema took the leftovers home for her guests the next day...too tempting to dive in again. And sorry for the bad advice about not chilling it.

    1. Hey, no worries, I liked it kind of mushy and warm! Made me think of a lava cake. :D