Hey, old friends. It’s been awhile.
We’ve been busy persisting.
To make amends for our absence, we come bearing gifts—gifts of flourless chocolate cake with soft almond cream. A dessert so rich and deeply flavored and smoothly textured that it could only have its roots in a Julia Child recipe. A serious dessert for serious times: when you need chocolate and only the real deal will do because you’re all out of patience for sweet nothings. This is an all-caps, no bullshit, says-what-it-means-and-means-what-it-says CHOCOLATE CAKE—and the ideal February dessert, whether it’s for Valentine’s Day or, you know, just a Thursday.
So… we’re good, right?
Lee & Lou
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Flourless Dark Chocolate Bourbon Cake with Almond Cream
Adapted from Julia Child’s Boca Negra
Makes one 9-inch, super rich cake
Notes: This cake is seriously decadent, which means that you’re going to get a lot more servings out of it than you would from a regular 9-inch chocolate cake. Serve small pieces with a healthy amount of the light almond cream over top, which is a happy (and necessary) compliment to the cake in both texture and flavor. You’ll want a nice fluff of it on every bite.
Our favorite chocolate to make this with is Guittard, which we can find at our amazing local market, but Whole Foods and many other grocery stores sell, too. It doesn’t have all kinds of unnecessary additives in it—it’s just really, really good pure chocolate. And when the star of a recipe is chocolate, you want that flavor to come through wholeheartedly.
The cake is baked in a bain-marie, or a water bath. It’s very easy—just make sure not to fill the bath pan with too much water or use a pan that is too small for the amount of water that you’ll need or you’ll wind up spilling scalding water all over yourself when you pick it up. And that will hurt. A lot. We like to lift the cake out of the bath and let the water cool down before we take it out of the oven because we’re clumsy, but whatever you do, just be careful not to slosh yourself.
-For the cake-
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 12 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate disks or chips or block (if using block, roughly chop)
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar (superfine if you can get it)
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature
- 5 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tbs fine almond flour (if you can’t find or don’t have, you can use white all-purpose flour instead)
-For the almond cream-
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 1 tbs granulated or superfine sugar
- 1 tsp pure almond extract (not the imitation stuff)
* With the oven rack in the center, pre-heat your oven to 350° F. Fill a kettle full-up with water to heat for your bain-marie
* Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment. Butter the top of the paper, as well. Set aside.
* Toast the almonds in a sauté pan over medium heat. Stir and watch them carefully—they burn in a flash. When golden, set aside in a small bowl.
* Melt the chocolate in a medium sized bowl set over a pot of water that’s just below simmering. (Read: good and hot.)
* Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add 1 cup of the sugar and the 1/2 cup of bourbon. Over medium/low heat melt the sugar in the bourbon, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has melted, bring to a boil and immediately add it to your melting chocolate. Stir to blend—make sure all of the chocolate is melted. Set burner heat to low.
* Add the butter one tablespoon at a time to the chocolate-sugar-bourbon mixture, incorporating each lump with a spatula until it’s completely melted before adding the next tablespoon. Continue, stirring constantly, until all of the butter has been added and melted in.
* Using a dishtowel or oven mitts, carefully remove the bowl with your chocolate mixture from the heat, making sure to keep your hand and arm out of the way of the steam that will escape from below and wiping the bottom of the bowl once it’s cleared so you don’t drip hot water on yourself. Set aside.
* In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar (you can use a mixer if you like, but this is how we get our impressive arm muscles) until well-mixed.
* While whisking quickly and continuously, beat the eggs into the chocolate until well-mixed. (Don’t pause or the heat of the chocolate might scramble the eggs.)
* Add the almond flour (or all-purpose flour) and gently whisk to combine.
* Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
* Set the baking pan in a larger pan with about 2-inch high sides and place on your oven rack. (You can use a roasting pan with handles to make moving it easy.) Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the baking pan. (Here’s that same demonstration we posted above in the notes.)
* Bake for 30 minutes or until the top forms a thin crust. Do not over bake! The whole magic of this cake is in its ganache-like insides.
* Remove cake from the oven by either carefully lifting the cake pan from the water bath, or lifting the whole water bath pan carefully onto a rack on your counter.
*Once you’ve taken the cake pan out of the water, wipe off the sides. Place a piece of parchment paper over top of the cake, then put an upside down plate or light cutting board (not the one you want to serve on) on top of that, and finally invert the cake on to the parchment-covered plate/board.
* Remove the parchment paper circle from the bottom of the cake, then gently place your serving plate or board upside down on top and carefully flip the cake right side up again. The cake will be fragile so handle it gently.
* Whip your heavy cream with 1 tsp of almond extract and 1 tbs of sugar until fluffy but still soft so it falls nicely over the cake when you serve it. Refrigerate until needed.
* Garnish the cake with toasted almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature with plenty of almond whipped cream on top (don’t be precious about it). Store in an airtight container or covered completely and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
© 2017 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.