British

The Flourless Chocolate Cake We’d Cross an Ocean For

Plus, how to recreate the 4-ingredient masterpiece at home.

February 11, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

When I first booked my trip to London last fall, the first reservation I made was at The River Cafe, the storied Italian restaurant founded by Ruth ("Ruthie") Rogers and the late Rose Gray. I needed to try the legendary Chocolate Nemesis Cake (the name itself enthralls, does it not?) for myself, by hell or high water.

To no one's surprise, the entire meal was electric: From the fire-roasted Scottish langoustines to the chargrilled squid topped with chilis, to all of the incredible pastas, there was not a moment our party of four couldn't be found nodding and practically cooing over every dish.

And, of course, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, dessert came along. We had heard about it. We had planned it, actually, for months. We had been looking forward to meeting the one, the only:

The cross-section alone is enough to make my knees wobble. Photo by Ty Mecham

At Food52, we use a lot of superlative language to describe all the wonderful dishes we get to try, but this cake actually stunned us into silence. The rich, mousse-like cake even stopped our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen in his tracks.

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"My favorite childhood dessert was chocolate mousse," Josh tells me. "This cake had all the righteous deep, creamy chocolate flavor of the best chocolate mousse. But this also has structure, due to the fact that it's a cake. You can slice it. It isn't just a plop of mousse in a bowl. The thin crispy surface that forms on the top of the cake is a great textural contrast to the creaminess of the rest of the cake. Overall, it's just outrageously good—one of the most memorable desserts I've made in a long time."

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Top Comment:
“My mother made a chocolate cake w/o flour and always referred to it as a ‘torte’. The ingredients consisted of eggs, sugar, butter, chocolate and possibly vanilla. She put it into 3 or 4, 9” pans. The frosting for this was a chocolate whipped cream, which was very light as was the cake itself. I don’t know where my mothers recipe is, but I’m sure going to try this one! Thank you so very much for bringing back a wonderful childhood memory!”
— Care
Comment

Well, if that endorsement isn't convincing enough, I'd urge you to try it for yourself at home. The restaurant celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, complete with a special-edition cookbook, River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant, full of time-honored classics (such as this one), as well as 30 new hits.

How could just four ingredients alchemize into a taste of heaven? How did this cake come to be? I went straight to the source to find out.

...it's just outrageously good—one of the most memorable desserts I've made in a long time.
Josh Cohen, Test Kitchen Director

“Rose and I found a version of this cake in a magazine in 1988,” explains Ruthie. “We loved the name, but we didn’t think the recipe was quite right, so we adapted it to include more chocolate and beaten egg yolks. The high quality chocolate gives an intense flavor. It’s the perfect end to an Italian meal.”

The cake is so popular, the restaurant sells approximately 500 decadent slices per week. When I asked Ruthie if she’s taken any liberties toying around with the recipe over the years, she gave me an honest and enigmatic response: “Yes, we have….”

We’ll just leave it right there. No need to press further when talking about something as luscious as this flourless, silky beauty. Run—don’t walk—and don’t forget to report back.

Are you a flourless chocolate cake fan? Let us know your favorite version below!

16 Comments

Babs W. February 17, 2019
Ridiculous amount of Eggs for one tart/cake. <br />Add Salt.<br />I would ease up on the sugar by using semi sweet choc. I would add orange zest & a drop of Grand Marnier to make a boozy Jaffa Tart.
 
Tt February 17, 2019
Two pans no salt - The end result - two very rich “cakes” needing salt. The cakes form a cookie crust on the top while baking which does make for a really good “bite”. Over all 7 out of 10 stars.
 
TL February 17, 2019
I made this cake today. It is a very rich and heavy chocolate cake so you can feed A LOT of people with this recipe. The taste and texture is nice/okay but if you are somebody who bakes a lot this recipe isn’t worth making. It is not that special as the title and text make it out to be.
 
Tt February 14, 2019
I’m baking this as I write. The batter is most certainly two cakes, not one 12”x3”. No salt? I’ll let you know how these cakes turn out.
 
Bettina D. February 16, 2019
How did it turn out? Two pans? No salt?
 
Babs W. February 17, 2019
I would defo add 1 tsp of salt.
 
Stephanie B. February 12, 2019
Very similar to La Bête Noire. So decadent and delicious! I’ll have to try this version :)
 
Care February 12, 2019
I just realized that the cake I previously mentioned in my post was made with just egg yolks, not the whole egg.
 
Care February 12, 2019
My mother made a chocolate cake w/o flour and always referred to it as a ‘torte’. The ingredients consisted of eggs, sugar, butter, chocolate and possibly vanilla. She put it into 3 or 4, 9” pans. The frosting for this was a chocolate whipped cream, which was very light as was the cake itself. I don’t know where my mothers recipe is, but I’m sure going to try this one! Thank you so very much for bringing back a wonderful childhood memory!
 
Swaki February 12, 2019
That sounds wonderful!
 
dcashore February 11, 2019
The link for the cake recipe isn't working. 😶
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 11, 2019
So sorry about that, dcashore. Please check now! Should be up (and there's also a recipe box down at the bottom).
 
Huger February 11, 2019
It wasnt flour less after all
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 11, 2019
Hi Huger! If you're referring to the video, that is actually a different recipe (which I've since specified). Thanks for your eagle eye. ;)
 
Shadi H. February 11, 2019
I love everything about this chocolate cake. So decadent and dense, I'm pretty sure one slice will not be enough :)
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 11, 2019
Thanks for your comment, Shadi! I hope you'll like it. :)