Richard Sax’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

July  6, 2021
121 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 12
Author Notes

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.” Adapted very slightly from Genius Desserts (Ten Speed Press, 2018). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Richard Sax’s Chocolate Cloud Cake
  • Cake
  • 8 ounces (225g) best-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cognac or Grand Marnier (optional)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon; optional)
  • Whipped Cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (355g) heavy cream, very cold
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or bittersweet chocolate shavings, for topping
  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F (175°C), with a rack in the center. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20cm) springform pan with parchment paper. (Do not butter the pan and parchment.)
  2. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over but not touching gently simmering water in a saucepan. You can whisk it occasionally to help it along. When it’s melted, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth.
  3. In two small bowls, separate 4 of the eggs. In a large bowl, whisk 2 whole eggs and the 4 egg yolks with 1/2 cup (100g) of the sugar just until combined. Slowly whisk in the warm chocolate mixture. Whisk in the Cognac and the orange zest. Using a handheld mixer in a separate bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup (100g) sugar and beat until beautifully glossy, soft peaks form that hold their shape but aren’t quite stiff, about 5 minutes more. Very gently fold about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
  4. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the top is puffed and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly, 35 to 40 minutes. Be careful not to bake the cake beyond this point.
  5. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack. The center of the cake will sink as it cools, forming a sort of crater—this is good! Let the cake cool completely on a rack.
  6. To make the whipped cream, whip the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with a handheld mixer until billowy, soft—not stiff—peaks form.
  7. Using a spatula, fill the sunken center of the cake with the whipped cream, swirling the cream to the edges of the crater. Dust the top lightly with cocoa powder.
  8. Run the tip of a knife around the edge of the cake, carefully remove the sides of the pan, and cut into wedges to serve.
  9. Store any leftovers airtight in the refrigerator—they won’t be very presentable but they’ll make a delicious moussey snack.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Karajeca
  • Takako
  • Marnie Hyland
    Marnie Hyland
  • Raluca Calița
    Raluca Calița
  • Samantha Yen Yee Tan
    Samantha Yen Yee Tan
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

139 Reviews

Taczar January 15, 2023
I am a novice baker and want to know how you know it's ready to come out of the oven? I took it out at 35 minutes since my oven runs hot but want to be sure it's done! Thanks
plevee October 14, 2022
I dislike chocolate but this is what everyone else wants me to bring for dinner party dessert. There never is any left so I presume it's a hit.
bakecakes! August 7, 2022
I have a question, my eggs whites didn’t stiff enough and I didn’t have enough time, so I just put it in the batter. My batter was runny and I just put it in the oven, what will be the outcome of this. ( it’s in the oven now)
bakecakes! August 7, 2022
please respond ASAP
Smaug August 7, 2022
You'll probably be the first to know- ordinarily the cake puffs up quite a bit in the oven, then collapses (it's basically a souffle)- it ends up pretty dense so it may not make a huge difference. There are a lot of these eggs/sugar/chocolate cake recipes, and not all beat the eggs; at worst you'll end up with something like a Swedish Kladdkaka (sticky cake), and there are far worse things.
Smaug August 7, 2022
"...beat the egg whites...", that is
Christine's C. July 24, 2022
One of my favorite desserts. And more proof that the world is better for Richard Sax having been here.
Smaug July 24, 2022
I'm sure he was a fine fellow, but as I've pointed out any number of times he did not originate this recipe.
gremolata February 17, 2022
I made this cake many times because it is delicious. and interesting!
Sharon February 13, 2022
I made a 1.5x recipe of this because I was working with a 9" springform. I skipped the orange zest because the birthday boy isn't crazy about orange & chocolate together. I took it out of the oven while there was still quite a bit of jiggle happening and I'm glad that I did because the texture was absolutely perfect - delicate, light, melty. I did feel like the flavor could have used a little more depth, perhaps? My own fault for skipping the orange zest, but another time I might have added a bit of espresso powder to the chocolate mixture. I did use all the brandy called for and some vanilla as well.
Karajeca February 6, 2022
Sinfully great
Takako December 27, 2021
It was like eating a cotton candy! It was so light, soft and melted in my mouth.
The next day after refrigerated overnight, it was like a light but decadent mousse cake.
A friend of mine makes a very good flourless chocolate cake and I had imagined this to be similar, but it was quite different, it was better!! I will make this again.
Marnie H. October 2, 2021
Just wow! Everyone loved it. I added only 1 tsp of orange zest and no booze and it was just perfect. Can’t wait to make it again. Feels special without being fussy.
Miquoe May 16, 2021
This is Heaven... There is no other way to reiterate the comments. It’s moist, delectable and I made a healthy version using vegan butter and egg whites and egg beaters to reduce cholesterol. it was beautiful. I used both semi dark chocolate and Lindt chocolates to enrich the flavor. Fantasti!
Raluca C. November 29, 2020
As a beginner, I can say this was easy to make and a great hit! I used a 10" pan because it's what I had on hand and it didn't cave in for me, but it did deflate. I added the whipped cream on each portion, as I wasn't sure we would finish it and what happened if I left it with the whipped cream on top overnight. It was beautiful and light and just sweet enough without being overpowering. I'll definitely make it again whenever I'm trying to impress loved ones.
Judy S. December 13, 2020
Mine didn’t cave either. Too bad I was hoping it would. Smells good though. Will know for sure tonight!
Flora September 17, 2020
Hi wonderful community! Can I bake the cake in the morning to then serve it in the evening (without whipped cream on top? If so, what's the best way to preserve it best?

Thank you!!
Flora September 17, 2020
Hi wonderful community! Can I bake the cake in the morning to then serve it in the evening (without whipped cream on top? If so, what's the best way to preserve it best?

Thank you!!
Erin B. September 18, 2020
Yes, you can bake it in the morning to serve in the evening. If you leave it on the counter, it will be fine. The texture won't change very much from when you take it out of the oven - it will just settle in a little bit. You can also store it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it, and then it will take on a slightly fudgier texture. I like it both ways and have successfully done both. And as you said, just leave the whipped cream off until you're ready to serve.
Flora September 18, 2020
Thank you SO much! I will make it tomorrow :)
Smaug April 30, 2021
If you don't mind eating the cake cold, you can stabilize the cream with a bit of gelatin and it will hold in the refrigerator for two or three days.
Miquoe May 16, 2021
Hi you can and put the whipped cream later on. But remember the cake sinks in the middle so you need a filler.
Smaug May 16, 2021
Well, need is a big word- as I pointed out somewhere far below, the original of this cake was just dusted with confectioner's sugar.
robyn F. September 17, 2020
My go to chocolate cake. ALWAYS a huge hit and super easy to make. We prefer it without the cognac and orange.....pure chocolate heaven.
Samantha Y. June 12, 2020
Hi, may i ask if I use two smaller pans so I get two smaller ones is that possible? Also how should I adjust the timing if yes? Thanks much in advance
plevee February 11, 2020
My gourmet friend said this was the best dessert she had ever tasted. I cut down the sugar by 1/4 cup and it was sweet enough.
Yougivemecancer January 11, 2020
I'm not sure what went wrong, it looked just like the photo and was almost too soft to move after making. I put it in the fridge as I made it in the morning and was serving at night, the cake was very dense. I was pretty much like a dryer brownie at that point, could I have some help?
Smaug January 13, 2020
This cake is actually a soufflé (original name torte soufflé au chocolat) and is supposed to collapse; it should be quite dense, though not dry except for a sort of crust on top. The fanciful name "cloud cake" is a bit mysterious, perhaps referring to the whipped cream on top. As it is composed mostly of butter and chocolate, it will take quite a while to firm up enough to handle.
Yougivemecancer February 5, 2020
Thanks for the reply, I mistakenly thought it was supposed to be light then. I guess I did it correctly except I may have cooked it too long making it a bit dry.
alexisfromtexas December 31, 2019
I thought I could cut this recipe in half and use a 4" springform pan. Maybe my eggs were too large, but I probably could have filled a 6" pan. Oops. But still delicious.....
Smaug January 1, 2020
An 8" springform is 4 times the size of a 4" of equivalent depth- 6" would indeed have been about right.
alexisfromtexas January 1, 2020
good to know - thanks!
Justine S. September 5, 2019
I recently moved to Germany and am totally out of sorts adapting to an elecrtic oven, metric measurements, baking powder that comes in pre-measured packets... I could go on.

Today was my son's third birthday and showed him several pictures of cakes I thought I could make - he chose this one. The cake itself came out fabulous even though I could only come by a 10" springform pan (loaned to me by a neighbor). It was wider but still caved beautifully. I backed it possibly a smidge too long and should have pulled it out about 5 minutes earlier.

My horror though when I realized I bought the wrong kind of cream! It was some reduced-fat cooking cream and not a kind that would whip. I was brought to tears in the kitchen. I recovered and dotted the top of the sunken chocolate cake with ripe raspberries and the chocolate shavings - it was a decadent chocolate torte. So for anyone who's looking to do it without whipped cream I can attest that it works. It's intense, but still very delicious.
Smaug September 5, 2019
The original of this recipe, by Jean Benchet from LeFrancais restaurant in Chicago, was simply dusted with confectioner's sugar. I've been making it- occasionally- for something like 40 years and I've only used whipped cream a few times.
Haya August 25, 2019
A wonderful cake! This recipe is pure genius. Everyone was impressed by this cake: look and taste. Even the picky eaters enjoyed it! This Chocolate Cloud Cake is my go too.
Adjustments: I don't add the alcohol. I've baked the cake twice, once with a tbsp of orange zest and once without; they're both wonderful, just depends on if you like an orange-chocolate taste (picky eaters tend to prefer the orange zest-less version, I don't mind either.)