Mother's Day

This 3-Ingredient Chocolate Cake Is the Only One My Mom Will Make

The flourless chocolate cake that transports me to childhood.

May  8, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

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Tasting Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte transports me to my mom’s kitchen. Her copy of The Cake Bible, with its chocolate-smeared, tattered pages, is etched into my memory.

Growing up, my mom was the owner and chef of Robin’s Restaurant in Williamstown, Massachusetts, a small college town tucked away in The Berkshires. My brother, Colin, and I had the privilege of getting to spend much of our childhood in the kitchen with her. Warm summer days turned into sticky nights as we sat on the front patio, watching diners enjoy meals before catching a show at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Then came the fall and, with it, a flurry of leaf peepers and college students. Winter crept by, cozy and candlelit, until the stir of spring arrived.

A constant throughout the year was Rose Levy Beranbaum’s truffle torte, or “Chocolate Torte Colin” as we called it in our family and at the restaurant—a nod to my brother who loved this recipe more than any other dessert. While other items on the menu changed with the seasons, this was a staple. It was my birthday cake, sending-off-to-college cake, coming home cake, and everything-in-between cake.

My mom is one of the best cooks I know, but baking isn’t her strong suit. She leads with her heart, preferring the spontaneity of stews, roasts, and salads over the rigidity of baking, especially desserts. Reading through Rose’s recipe, it might seem surprising then that this is the one she decided to make her mainstay, but that’s only because it appears more challenging than it is. It calls for a few techniques that might sound intimidating (such as a water bath), and chocolate can be a fickle ingredient to work with. But trust Rose’s process, and you’ll see that the method is actually straightforward.

You begin by melting chocolate and butter together until glossy. Then, whisk the eggs in a separate bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Once they are pale and billowy, fold them into the chocolate mixture, pour the batter into a prepared pan (set inside a larger pan filled with an inch of water), and pop it into the oven for just fifteen minutes. Afterward, let the torte cool in the refrigerator for at least three hours. When you are ready to serve, unmold the torte onto your favorite platter, and serve with a spoonful of whipped cream, like my mom does. Sometimes she’ll scatter raspberries on top, too.

How can three ingredients alone—eggs, butter, and chocolate—create such a perfect dessert? In its simplicity lives its elegance. The absence of flour produces a unique, mousse-like consistency, and the eggs give it structure while simultaneously enriching the chocolatey flavor. It replicates that unique sensation you experience when eating a bar of good chocolate at the very moment it begins to melt in your mouth.

While several flourless chocolate cakes have come my way over the last 20 years, it's this three-ingredient torte that remains my Proustian madeleine.

Do you have a favorite dessert recipe that teleports you back to your childhood? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Petar
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    Kara W
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Petar October 20, 2023
What would the ratios be if I used white chocolate?
Brooke W. August 4, 2023
I made this last week and I was very disappointed. I read the recipe multiple times and it still turned into a hard block after refrigeration. I’m in mourning over a pound of chocolate that I could’ve used elsewhere.
Sabra October 20, 2023
That would definitely happen for a combination of butter, eggs, and a pound of chocolate. It should be perfect once you bring it to room temperature.
McCabe June 17, 2023
Is it possible to use sugar free chocolate?
Nina C. July 18, 2023
I hope so! When I make this, I'm going to try it using Lily's...
Kara W. June 17, 2023
Going to try this for Father’s Day! Why do you recommend chocolate be no higher than 62%
BostonJimmie May 16, 2023
when I was a kid, my mother made something called "Wacky Cake" It's a flourless cake that's mixed in the pan, and then when it comes out of the oven, you drizzle an orange glaze that soaks in and all I remember as a kid was begging to make it.
Marichal G. May 16, 2023
My grandma loved making us wacky cake! The orange glaze is new to me though. Sounds delish!
ingrid July 20, 2023
Hi Marichal, loved your mom's cooking. Robin's was a favorite for us. I still have memories of her pumpkin/butternut ravioli with sage butter. I'll definitely try this cake. Sounds delicious.