Genius Recipes

This Genius Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake Will Look (& Taste) Amazing No Matter What

With a trick for extra oohs, ahhs.

December  5, 2018

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Photo by James Ransom

If you’ll permit me a sweeping generalization or two, I will say that most of us home cooks, deep down, would love to be able to confidently unveil a dazzling dessert at the end of a dinner party or holiday feast. For the joy it brings our loved ones, for their warm admiration, for the reinforcement that we can do anything we want in the kitchen, and in life.

And almost precisely that same number of home cooks feels a little shaky about pulling it off. Even me. Heck, especially me, because I had to go and write a cookbook about Genius Desserts and now the expectations of my well-intentioned family and friends weigh a little heavier. Failure feels bigger.

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For all of us, a dessert that will look and taste spectacular no matter what your sidetracked mind might do is a gift, and we should hold it tightly. Below is one of my favorite recipes like this, an iconic flourless chocolate cake from the late, tremendously talented Richard Sax, excerpted from Genius Desserts.

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Top Comment:
“I was fortunate enough to work with Richard Sax, having typed several of his cookbooks for him. I made this recipe many times and it is INSANELY GOOD, as are all of his recipes. His description of "intense, then relief" is perfect. You will love this cake. Rest in Peace, Richard!!”
— Barbara
Comment

Read on to understand how it works and how its spirit will save you from anxiety whenever your cakes fall or look unexpectedly disheveled. Swoops of whipped cream and chocolate dust will hide all, as will saying, "It's supposed to do that. Isn't that cool?" (1)


Genius Desserts Sneak Peek

Richard Sax’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Here is where we learn that flourless chocolate cake can mean many different things, depending on ratios and technique. Both this recipe and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte are known and loved as flourless chocolate cakes and use the same basic three ingredients (eggs, chocolate, and butter), with wildly different appearances and textures.

This one was a signature dessert of the late, beloved writer and cooking instructor Richard Sax. For the same amount of eggs as Beranbaum’s, he calls for half the chocolate and butter, and—instead of heating and whipping six whole eggs until billowy—he has you whip four of the whites with sugar to make a fluffy meringue, then gently fold them into the rest. Far from a dense and creamy torte, these three changes produce a poufy soufflé of a cake that intentionally caves in the center, leaving a craggy, wafer-like rim behind and a moussey hollow that you fill up with cold whipped cream. The effect is dramatic and bold, giving you, as Sax famously said, “intensity, then relief, in each bite.”

(1) Since recently re-sharing this recipe around the office, I have two tips to add. 1: The cake freezes beautifully. I would have said no, until our Food Stylist Anna Billingskog went and did it. 2: Consider filling the middle with Nigel Slater's Raspberry Ripple whipped cream, as our Video Programming Director Ishita Singh is planning to do. I sure will.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

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49 Comments

Ann D. December 9, 2018
Has anyone tried this without the whipped cream? I'm not enormously fond of it, and I have a severely lactose-intolerant son. I don't want anything too sweet, like marshmallow. Would it work well plain, or with a choice of ice creams that includes non-dairy?
 
Claudia T. December 9, 2018
Breyers ice cream makes a lactose free ice cream and it’s absolutely delicious, it’s there of the Vanilla Bean. I don’t see where that wouldn’t be good with that. There is also a topping by riches it is a lack toast free frosting vanilla you whip it up in your mixer it’s not real sweet, it’s light and airy. You can get it at Gordon’s food supply. I do cake decorating and I’ve use that for lactose free, In fact I worked at a bakery where we used it and people didn’t even know it was lactose free it’s delicious. Hope this helps you somewhat.
 
Mary F. December 9, 2018
There is also a coconut-based version of Cool Whip available in the freezer section of many supermarkets. I tried some with pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by it— the coconut taste is very subtle. My son has even grown to prefer it to whipped cream.
 
Smaug December 11, 2018
I usually don't use the cream- the original version of this cake was just dusted with confectioner's sugar.
 
Claudia T. December 9, 2018
Please let me know if you freeze the cake in the springform pan or out of pan. Also how long does it take to defrost? Should you take out of pan right away or after it’s defrosted? <br />Want to make this for my Card Club ladies... it will put them on Cloud 9 😇
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 10, 2018
Hi Claudia—check out my tips for Carolyn, below! Hope your club loves this as much as we do.
 
Ann R. December 9, 2018
I do not use sugar anymore since I have found stevia, it's more healthier and I only use a fraction of the quantity with no aftertaste that I found with the sweeteners
 
Angie December 9, 2018
You say this freezes well. How long does it take to defrost? Did you freeze it directly in the pan?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 10, 2018
Hi Angie—check out my tips for Carolyn, below!
 
Carolyn December 8, 2018
looks divine! would you freeze the cooked cloud cake in the springform?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 10, 2018
Hi Carolyn, I checked in with our Food Stylist Anna Billingskog, who smartly froze an extra cloud cake after a video shoot—here's how she did it: She froze the cake (without the cream) in the pan, wrapped well in plastic. Transferred to the fridge for a couple hours to thaw, then uncovered and moved to the counter to finish (to help air out any condensation that collected on the plastic). We devoured it while it was still a little cold but you could certainly keep going to room temp. The crust was crisp and the middle moussey.
 
Ebravo December 6, 2018
Suggestions on where to by the springform??
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Ebravo—here's a Hotline thread with some community favorites! https://food52.com/hotline/28070-does-anyone-have-recommendations-for-a-good-springform-pan
 
Chili December 6, 2018
Choc. Cloud Cake is heavenly and her reaction at the end when she tastes it is divinely visceral!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
:) I have a terrible poker face.
 
Lauren December 5, 2018
Can i substititute Splenda for sugar? I’m diabetic and the other sugars are negligible. For baking and cooking, it generally works. The consistency is the same, dissolves the same an$ are the same ratios. I’m usually against fatty desserts, but i would leave in the butter and go with a lighter whipped cream. I have a recipe for making whipped cream with sugarfree Cool Whip but might use light cream for a lighter middle.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Lauren, I haven't tried it myself, but if you otherwise like using Splenda in baking, it should work just fine here. I'd recommend making fresh whipped cream and just leaving it unsweetened. You can cut some of the cream with yogurt, creme fraiche, or sour cream if you like a little tang.
 
Lauren December 6, 2018
Thank you! The heavy cream issue is fat, not sugar. I ‘try’ to avoid high fat food items. Splenda generally works in sweets though someone always has a sob story. This cake sounds too good to pass by and though I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan, when paired with cream, I’m a huge fan!
 
Diana S. December 5, 2018
I desperately want to make this cake but am only finding 7" or 9" pans on line. Would either of those sizes work? I probably would prefer the 7", smaller and taller.
 
Derrick December 6, 2018
I found several 8" options on Amazon.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Diana, if you're planning on ordering a pan, I'd aim for the 8-inch option if you can. Otherwise, I'd go with 9-inch, since it's a commonly used size and I think we've successfully used it with this recipe. (Someone in the Food52 Baking Club on Facebook tried this recipe using a smaller pan and it got a bit too tall and couldn't hold a cloud shape very well.)
 
ellory December 5, 2018
What size springform?
 
Penny December 5, 2018
Recipe states 8” 20cm
 
Cusegirl December 5, 2018
This looks amazing! Your demo is giving me the confidence to try this, as you make it seem pretty doable. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Cusegirl, I'm so happy to hear it—this recipe is indeed very doable, and will look stunning!
 
Penny December 5, 2018
What temperature for fan forced oven, please?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
As a general rule for convection/fan-forced ovens, drop the temperature by 25°F and look for the recipe to be done in as little as 3/4 of the time. Here's a very helpful article from Fine Cooking, another favorite cooking site (and magazine) of ours: https://www.finecooking.com/article/better-cooking-through-convection
 
Penny December 6, 2018
Thank you!
 
Cheryl December 5, 2018
Can this be made with a sugar substitute for a diabetic?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Cheryl, I haven't tested any myself, but if you have a sugar substitute you like to use in baking, it should work just fine here.
 
Bri L. December 9, 2018
Except of course for the sugar in the chocolate...
 
Marsha S. December 5, 2018
Or to rephrase the question.........what is the percentage of bittersweet chocolate for this recipe?<br />
 
Marsha S. December 5, 2018
What is the ideally, the best percentage of cacao in this recipe?<br /><br /><br />
 
Smaug December 5, 2018
Really depends on your taste- Mme. Heatter uses a mix of half unsweetened, half Bakers semisweet (which is, I believe, about 60%) and she's as close to infallible as you'll find, but I prefer somewhat darker.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Marsha—most important in this recipe is that you like the flavor of the chocolate, since it will be carrying the flavor of the cake. We used a lot of Sharffen Berger in testing for Genius Desserts because it was easy to source, and I also like the flavor of Green & Black's dark chocolate, but feel free to use your favorite in the 60-70% range (and, as I mention in Genius Desserts, the terms bittersweet and semisweet are in effect interchangeable, so don't let that get in your way).
 
Marsha S. December 6, 2018
I have on hand organic 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate bar. This won't make it too sweet ...would it?????<br />
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 11, 2018
Hi Marsha, I'm sorry I missed this—that sounds just right!
 
Susanna E. December 5, 2018
What an amazingly delightful and mesmerizing demonstration! Thank you! 😍<br /><br />
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Thank you, Susanna—so happy to hear this!
 
Mary F. December 5, 2018
I have a family member with severe gluten and dairy allergies. Do you think Miyoko vegan butter could be substituted for the butter (best one I have found)? I have used it successfully in making English toffee, so hoping it will work for a “soufflé-ish” dessert.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
I think that should work fine, especially if you've liked it in other recipes!
 
Joan December 5, 2018
I’m excited to try this luscious dessert this Christmas for my family. My daughters love to bake and this is a simple, but elegant way to end our meal. #fancyfoods
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Thanks, Joan—I hope everyone loves it.
 
Mimi December 5, 2018
You made that look so easy that I’m going to try it. My sisters are awesome bakers, they will not believe I made it. Thanks❤️
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Thanks, Mimi! I'm glad I could help demystify it.
 
Barbara December 5, 2018
I was fortunate enough to work with Richard Sax, having typed several of his cookbooks for him. I made this recipe many times and it is INSANELY GOOD, as are all of his recipes. His description of "intense, then relief" is perfect. You will love this cake. Rest in Peace, Richard!!
 
Tina December 5, 2018
Does this cake store well? Can I make it the day before serving? Store in fridge?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Hi Tina, as long as your kitchen isn't very humid, you should be fine making it the day before and keeping at room temperature. Just let it cool completely and wrap it well in plastic wrap. (Or, for longer, consider freezing, which we discovered works beautifully!)
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 6, 2018
Barbara, thank you for sharing! You were so lucky to get the chance to work with him.