Monday, December 27, 2010

Williams-Sonoma Chocolate Cake

Last week, the lead up to Christmas, was really fun. We interspersed trips into Paris for shopping, dining, and avant-garde circus with staying at home and relaxing. And cooking. And eating.
We also had some friends from work over for dinner. I went into my usual "Oh my gosh, I have to feed French people!" frenzy, compounded by the additional stressor that one of the guests managed a restaurant in England. He told us stories about Gordon Ramsay. Gulp.
But things went well. I made this tart and a fabulous oven cioppino-type thing, and I made this cake.

There's a cake recipe that everyone in France makes--it's on the label of every bar of dessert chocolate. It's called Moelleux du Chocolat--a cake that's light on flour and heavy on chocolate. This cake is like that. But the port adds an extra zing.

There are many things to like about this cake. One is that it's super easy to make--a bit like making brownies, except that you beat in egg whites.

Another is that you can make most of the batter ahead of time, and then just whip the egg whites, fold them in, and pop the cake in the oven so that it can be served warm for dessert.

And finally, it may not be the most beautiful of cakes, but it's delicious--soft and dark and delicious. We ate it with custard sauce--our English guest was so pleased--and every bit of it disappeared. It's the kind of dessert that is satisfyingly chocolatey but doesn't hit you over the head like a chocolate mousse would.

Here's the recipe. Consider it for your next dinner party.

Williams-Sonoma Chocolate Cake

1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter
1/2 c. (4 oz.) port (I think either tawny or ruby would be fine here)
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
2/3 c. (4.8 oz.) sugar (Maida calls for a full cup, but I think that would be way too much!)
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 c. (3 oz.) sifted flour
1/8 t. salt

Heat the oven to 325 (or wait if you're going to bake this at the last minute). Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform with a circle of parchment and grease and flour the pan and paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate with the port either in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave. Let cool.
Beat the egg yolks with all but 2 T. of the sugar (4 oz.) until light and thick; you can do this with an electric mixer or a whisk and some elbow grease. Gradually add the chocolate mixture and beat that until smooth. Then stir in the flour. (You can set aside this batter for a while until you're ready to bake. Keep everything, including the egg whites, at room temperature.)
When you're ready to bake, make sure the oven is heated to 325. Now beat the egg whites with the salt until they hold a soft shape; gradually beat in the remaining 2 T. sugar and beat until they hold a fairly stiff shape. Fold the egg whites gradually into the chocolate mixture; you should not be too thorough.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes (check earlier if your oven runs hot). Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold. Serve hot with whipped cream or custard sauce and/or fruit. Enjoy the praise of your guests.

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