My mother has been visiting and we decided to have half a dozen friends over for a little dinner party. It had been raining for days, and the damp and chill gave us the perfect excuse to make the first squash soup of the season. After so much summer traveling, it felt good to gather our dear ones around the table and warm our bones with baked brie, bowls of hot soup and far too much wine.
To round out the meal, I made my favorite dark chocolate cake. Its a simple thing that improves with time, the perfect dessert to make-ahead when you are busy putting together dinner for a group. Easy on the sugar and heavy on the chocolate, the cake is very dense. It cuts well into small servings for a large group, and is just perfect its own, or can be dressed up with a little powdered sugar and served with fresh fruit as shown here.
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Gateau Therese in The Sweet Life in Paris.
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter the sides of a 9′ inch spring-form pan. Trace bottom onto a piece of parchment paper and cut out circle. Place circle on bottom of spring-form pan; use a little dab of butter to hold down the corners, if needed.
Use a double boiler to completely melt the chocolate and butter. I improvise a double boiler by filling a sauce pan with an inch of water, setting a stainless steel steamer basket in the pan. Bring the water to a light boil. Put the chocolate and butter in a glass dish and set the dish in the steamer basket.
Remove the chocolate and butter mixture from the heat. First stir in half the sugar, then the egg yolks, then the flour.
Use a mixer to whip the egg whites with the salt until they form soft, droopy peaks. Add the other half of the sugar and whisk until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the melted chocolate/butter mixture and use a spatula to lightly fold them together. Then add the remaining egg whites and fold gently until there are no more white streaks. Be careful not to overmix.
Transfer batter into the spring-form pan, using the spatula to even out the batter and smooth the top. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
A few tips:
I love this cake because it is very chocolatey without being too sweet. The chocolate content is high in proportion to the rest of the ingredients, so the better quality chocolate you use, the better the cake.
Before firing up the double boiler, break the chocolate into small squares and cut the stick of butter into half tablespoon chunks. This will create more surface area and allow them to melt a little more quickly.
The original recipe calls for baking in a loaf pan. I’ve made that recipe a number of times and it works well. The only difference is to extend the baking time to 35 minutes.
If you possibly can, cover the cake and leave out overnight. Its even better on day two.