When I worked at a restaurant in Toulouse, France, the chef made a vaguely similar cake, but I've tweaked his chocolate cake recipe to my liking, making it softer and spicier. Pimente d’Espelette is a chili pepper that comes from Espelette, France, a Basque enclave near the Spanish border. If you can’t find any pimente d’Espelette, cayenne pepper is a great alternative, although it's a bit spicier. Don’t worry if the center of the cake is still molten after baking - that’s how it’s supposed to be. Vanilla ice cream makes a delicious accompaniment to the cake and helps offset some of the spiciness.
This is the type of chocolate cake that’s great to have in your arsenal, whether it be for a weeknight chocolate craving or a dinner party. It’s intensely chocolaty with a light, almost airy texture and super easy to prepare. Following Lauren’s advice, I substituted cayenne since I couldn’t locate pimente despelette. Since cayenne has more heat, I found ½ teaspoon to work well. Whether you’re using cayenne or pimente despelette, I recommend starting with a lesser amount -- then tasting the melted chocolate-butter-spice mixture and adding more to your liking. I used a 9” spring form pan with a removable bottom with good results. Be sure to watch the cake closely at about the 20-minute mark--it’s done when it loses its glossy sheen and cracks start to form on top. I love the fact that the batter can be made in advance, refrigerated, and then baked off at the last minute. Warm chocolate cake with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream is never a bad thing. —EmilyC
butter, plus extra for greasing the cake pan
dark chocolate (I particularly like Valrhona Le Noir Gastronomie 61% Cacao)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cut the butter and chocolate into small pieces and place in a metal bowl large enough to sit on top of the saucepan. Add the pimente d’Espelette. When the butter and chocolate have melted completely, set aside and stir until well combined. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the whites. Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar, then add the chocolate mixture.
Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and salt together until stiff peaks form. Fold in half of the egg whites to the chocolate batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Let sit in the refrigerator for one hour.
Grease a cake pan with butter, then pour the chocolate batter into the pan. Bake for about 23 minutes or until cracks start to form on the top of the cake. Serve hot.
Lauren Shockey is a New York City-based food writer and author of the cookbook Hangover Helper as well as the culinary memoir Four Kitchens. Previously the restaurant critic at the Village Voice, she has written for such publications as The New York Times, Travel + Leisure and the Wall Street Journal.