Chocolate Nemesis

February 11, 2019

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

Excerpted with permission from Ruth Rogers' cookbook, 'River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant': "Still the best chocolate cake ever."

Hana Asbrink

Food52 Review: Featured in: The Flourless Chocolate Cake We’d Cross an Ocean ForThe Editors

Serves: 18
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 45 min

Ingredients

  • 10 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (575g) granulated sugar
  • 24 ounces (675g) best-quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
  • 1 pound (450g) unsalted butter, softened
  • Crème fraîche, for serving
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F (130°C). Grease a 12-inch (30cm) round cake pan that is 3 inches (7.5cm) deep, then line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the eggs with a third of the sugar with an electric mixer until the volume quadruples—this will take at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (the water should not touch the base of the bowl). Remove from the heat.
  4. Heat the remaining sugar with 9 fluid ounces (250ml) water in a small pan until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup, stirring occasionally. Gently pour the syrup into the melted chocolate, stirring.
  5. Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the warm chocolate and syrup mixture to the eggs. Increase the speed and continue beating until completely combined. The mixture will lose volume.
  6. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Put the pan into a deep baking pan on top of a dish towel to prevent the cake pan from moving. Fill the baking pan with hot water so that it comes at least two-thirds up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1½–2 hours or until set—test by placing the flat of your hand gently on the surface of the cake.
  7. Remove the cake pan from the water. Leave the cake in the pan to completely cool before turning out (don’t refrigerate it). Serve with crème fraîche.

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Reviews (66) Questions (3)

66 Reviews

Charles W. February 16, 2019
We made the 15" cake for Valentines. The 2.5" depth pan worked fine. Left out one 4 oz. bar by mistake. Harris Teeter had 60% & 100% bars on sale two for one. We used two 100% & three 60% Ghiradelli Chocolate. It turned out delicious. Sharing the cake with neighbors. Thanks for the best ever cake.
 
Smaug February 15, 2019
I've now had this for dessert 4 straight days; I expect to finish my 7" cake today. The charm is wearing a bit thin.
 
trvlnsandy February 15, 2019
LOL (which is why freezing is nice -- you could have a piece in a month when you're not sick of it)
 
Smaug February 15, 2019
I guess my situation is a bit atypical- I bake more because I like to bake and I like to try things than because I need something to eat, especially the last couple of years, I mostly just cook for myself. In recent weeks, I made three different versions of Kladdkaka and four versions of the torte souffle/ cloud cake- all of them essentially chocolate/butter/sugar/eggs- so I may have overdone the category for a while.<br />
 
Charles W. February 16, 2019
We are sharing with neighbors & will freeze 4 pieces for later. 15” is a really big cake😀
 
soo February 14, 2019
has anyone made mini cakes in cupcake wrappers/muffin tins or ramekins? how long does it need to bake? less messy/cute presentation and easier to freeze, and would be much faster cool down time as well which would be a plus :)
 
trvlnsandy February 14, 2019
I made two ramekins and two 9" pans. Ramekins were about 50 min. I think you have to keep testing them.
 
Stacy Y. February 14, 2019
Can you use 78% cocoa?
 
trvlnsandy February 14, 2019
Not that I love chocolate, but I've made similar using higher percentages. I wouldn't personally go higher than 80% (85% was just too high for most).
 
Max February 15, 2019
Better to use organic raw CACAO powder, sun dried or extremely low~temp baked, up to about 80%! ~~Much richer taste & actually HEALTHY!!<br />…& Try Coconut Oil!! Much healthier than butter & will set like butter when below about 75°F. (30°C.)!! Veritably tasteless except to the sensitivities of only the most discerning of gourmets (who usually find it more than pleasant) but, moreso than butter, creates a Heavenly rich smoothness!!<br />Also, if you’re not into messing up your body & mind with granulated white sugar, you can substitute organic coconut sugar for that! ~~Honey &/or 100% Maple Syrup will work in place of the “sugar syrup” as well!! Have healthy FUN!!!
 
Sonja A. February 18, 2019
Or like... enjoy proper desserts with the proper ingredients? Certain things are classics for a reason, no need to tamper by replacing every little thing. They’re not meant to be “healthy”, they’re meant to be enjoyed.
 
tally T. February 13, 2019
EPIC. Fool-proof. <br /><br />Halved the recipe, which took a little bit of math to calculate the sugar amount. <br /><br />Had a scare when a small part of the hot water bath leaked into the cake pan while placing it in the oven (!), but stirred the batter around and had no problems with the results! <br /><br />Baked in a 9” round cake pan for 1 hr 45 min and it was perfect. Had slight difficulty getting the cake to release from the pan, but held it over some steaming water for a couple of minutes and that helped. <br /><br />Moist and mousse-like, and a smashing hit. Served 15+ people, as it’s so decadent.<br />
 
Jennifer February 16, 2019
This could have been my exact review! Also halved it and had water issue(s). Very rich, but sooooo good!
 
Adeline M. February 13, 2019
I followed the recipe to the T and wow, wow, wow, thank you for sharing this recipe! <br />It is maybe the best chocolate cake I have eaten in my life.<br />So, I did the math for a 22cm diameter circle form for anyone who is interested:<br />it would be: 6 eggs, 310g sugar. 360g chocolate, 240g butter. Enjoy!
 
Tanya February 13, 2019
How much water did you use in the sugar mixture?
 
Tanya February 13, 2019
Cancel that! I watched the video on YouTube and got my answer. :)
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
For those asking about scaling it down - why not make the whole thing. I have successfully frozen similar desserts. Slice into servings wrap and freeze. Or, just leave 'whole' and slice off as needed. Try to keep air out of your packet, though - the plastic wrap, or whatever, should touch the surface.
 
Smaug February 13, 2019
Well, any number of reasons. For starters, not many people own a 12"x3" pan, and a larger one for the water bath. For another, most of us are just trying the recipe and may not want to commit to a large amount, and as the recipe is written it's a very large amount. You might decide to alter the recipe if you make it again- it leaves a lot of latitude for cutting sugar, adding flavorings and such. You might decide you like one of the many similar recipes better. You might decide that there's only so much of something this rich that you want to eat. The recipe is very easy to make, so why not make fresh if you want it? It's also a pretty messy recipe- portioning it and wrapping slices would be a pain. It's also pretty expensive, depending on the chocolate you use.
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
Sorry. I seem to have offended you somehow. I have made this now and it comes out reasonably firm - and is easy to slice and freeze. As I said I have successfully frozen similar recipes. Granted - easy to make, but I'd rather make it once, and rather than have to eat 18 portions -- or even 9 -- to finish it, have the luxury of being able to pull a couple out of the freezer periodically.
 
Smaug February 13, 2019
You'll have to try harder than that to offend me- I just thought that there were a number of good answers to your question and listed a few.
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
And, if you don't have appropriately sized pans, this really does work in any sized pan it seems. I did two 9 inch cake pans, plus a few ramekins. All seem to have worked well. Different times for the two sizes (the 9 inch took more than the 50 min., the ramekins less).
 
holly D. February 14, 2019
lack of self control. Since you asked, that's why I won't make the whole thing and freeze half to use next time company comes.
 
trvlnsandy February 14, 2019
Ok - that I can appreciate. For sweets, I have control - but if it's snacky savory -- have to hide it. Except for plain chocolate. That I have a weakness for.
 
Smaug February 14, 2019
A question I often ask myself about this type of recipe- was this really an improvement over just eating the chocolate? Not a lot of answers so far.
 
Hazel H. February 15, 2019
I completely agree with you. I made the entire recipe not realizing just how much it made. I made two cakes and sliced and froze the second. I did NOT think it was that “ easy to make” I had three pans doing ( one a double broiler) and one that I had to whisk for close to 15 minutes. No .. not easy. It made perfect sense to me to make the whole recipe the be able to thaw out a few slices on short notice. Also it was messy as all get out. What a clean up. Totally worth it of course but why go through all this for a small batch. I agree with you 100%.
 
trvlnsandy February 15, 2019
yup - you look at the photo and think it looks like a normal sized cake, but.... In Maida Heatter's for the love of chocolate (or something like that) is a recipe for Abby Mandel's chocolate snowball - similar results, but way easier. That one I actually do make a double recipe and freeze one. It was tasty though. I'll be like Smaug, though. 4 days and will freeze the rest to savor another day.
 
trvlnsandy February 15, 2019
I thought I responded but don't see it. Check out a recipe for Abby Mandel's chocolate snowball. Similar in taste and texture and easy. I googled and found it online. In Maida Heatter's book of Great Chocolate desserts she provides a food processor version that is pretty much 5 min. start to finish.
 
Smaug February 15, 2019
In the index as "Abby Mandel's Boule de Neige"- I've gone through most of that book, but somehow never tried this one; something to look forward to. As general advice- if Maida Heatter published a version of a recipe, that's the one you want.
 
Smaug February 15, 2019
Were you doing it without a mixer? That would be a bit more work.
 
trvlnsandy February 15, 2019
Nope, with a nice ol' stand mixer. The Snowball I would do with a food processor - super duper easy then. I always seemed to make 2 for parties - one recipe right after the other. Then, as people would only have a small slice - always froze one. Worked extremely well.
 
Smaug February 16, 2019
I'm a little confused, then- what did you have to whisk for 15 min.?
 
Stacey February 13, 2019
There is an excellent video from River Cafe for a smaller version:<br />https://youtu.be/HNWTpsNa0oc
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
Interesting. The recipe is halved and she only bakes it 50 min.
 
Stacey February 13, 2019
Yes. I’ll do that next time. This one is huge.
 
Stacey February 13, 2019
Huge, but still delicious!
 
Stacey February 13, 2019
This video posted by the restaurant is very helpful for scaling it down:<br /><br />https://youtu.be/HNWTpsNa0oc
 
Jolanta February 13, 2019
Hi, would this recipe work without sugar?
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
Might scale it down in the syrup part, but I wouldn't in the eggs. Necessary there. And note, you are adding liquid in the chocolate
 
Marilena |. February 12, 2019
If we half the recipe and use a 9" springform instead, how would you adjust the cooking time?
 
Smaug February 12, 2019
Theoretically it would be a tad less time, but for this cake I don't think you need worry about it.
 
trvlnsandy February 12, 2019
I'd start using the 'hand' test after about an hour, personally.
 
Smaug February 12, 2019
The time given is actually quite realistic. Unfortunately, he doesn't tell you what to look for with the "hand" test- I made 1/3 recipe and after 1 3/4hrs. it was firm but a little sticky, which seemed about right. By the way, I would take him seriously about cooling the cake completely before trying to handle it.
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
See the video above. She only makes a half recipe and suggests 50 min. for baking. The 'hand' test I referred to is in the recipe where they suggest "placing the flat of your hand gently on the surface of the cake". She does that, but also suggests watching for it to pull away from the sides of the pan.
 
Smaug February 13, 2019
They suggest the test, but don't tell you what to look for when you do it. As far as baking time, I don't know- I think that there is a lot that could be changed; all you're really trying to do is set the eggs and I suspect that it could be done more simply, but as a home cook doing a bunch of experiments is not too practical. If you can cook a half sized cake in 50 min, you could probably do a full sized within an hour, but it's pretty hard to say exactly what "done" is with this cake
 
Marilena |. February 13, 2019
I just baked it and it actually took 2 hours and 20 minutes at 250 F (for half the recipe) in a 9" pan! Now the long wait until it cools down!
 
Smaug February 14, 2019
Marilena- once again the question, how did you decide done/not done? I used the "hand" test, and it seemed to have set but was still a little sticky (after 1 3/4 hrs) but is that what you're really looking for? No way to tell. You'd wait forever for a standard cake tester to come out clean.
 
trvlnsandy February 12, 2019
As it deflates to mix the chocolate in, to reduce deflating egg mixture would it be better to fold chocolate mixture in?
 
Smaug February 12, 2019
No, it would deflate anyway and the warm mixture is tempering the eggs, so best to add gradually while mixing.
 
Emma February 12, 2019
This looks INCREDIBLE. <br />I need to make it this weekend! I live in Spain, so limited spacewise, and we don't have a freakin' oven. <br />Would this work with a slow cooker on regular setting? 7 inch springform so ill need to 1/3 it but the water bath jazz should work.
 
trvlnsandy February 12, 2019
You will have something worth eating, I'm betting - might not be the same, but.....
 
Aeysha February 12, 2019
Hi.<br />Can I replace the butter with olive oil?
 
Ttrockwood February 12, 2019
No.
 
trvlnsandy February 12, 2019
I believe the reason 'no' is the butter will help it solidify after done. Substituting a liquid oil for a solid is very tricky and in most instances will not provide comparable results.
 
Max February 15, 2019
Try Coconut Oil!! Much healthier than butter & will set like butter when below about 75°F. (30°C.)!! Veritably tasteless except to the sensitivities of only the most discerning of gourmets, but, moreso than butter, creates a heavenly rich smoothness!!<br />Also, if you’re not into messing up your body & mind with granulated white sugar, you can substitute organic coconut sugar for that! ~~Honey &/or 100% Maple Syrup will work in place of the “sugar syrup” as well!! Have healthy FUN!!!
 
Ayesha A. February 11, 2019
Need advice. To bake a cake 1/2 this size, using 5 eggs, what pan can I use? Would an 8” work? I have standard 8” 9” or 10” pans, what other ratio may work ?
 
Mike February 11, 2019
Gotta calculate square inch. They are using a 12 inch pan so radius square * pie => 6x6x3.1416= 113 sqinch<br />8inch pan => 4x4x3.1416=50 sqinch you need 44% of the recipe<br />9inch pan => 4,5x4.5x3.1416=64 sqinch you need 56% of the recipe<br />So those two probably work with 5 eggs either slightly thinker resp thicker then in the recipe.
 
Peter February 11, 2019
8.5" inches would be ½ the volume. The cake would be slightly higher in the 8" cake tin, and slightly lower in the 9" cake tin.
 
Smaug February 12, 2019
You can actually do this calculation using the diameter if that's easy to work with, and no need to calculate the actual area (thus no need to multiply by pi)- since you are looking for a proportion, these factors will cancel out. So for half of a 12" cake, you would need the square root of 72 (half of 144, which is 12 squared), or about an 8.5 " pan. In the case of this cake, the 8 would work well if it's really 8" and really 3" deep, otherwise I'd go with the 9".
 
Ayesha A. February 12, 2019
Thanks!
 
Ayesha A. February 12, 2019
Thanks!
 
Ayesha A. February 12, 2019
Thanks!
 
trvlnsandy February 13, 2019
See video - that's how she does it with a 50 min. bake time. I think she just made it so the cake was shallower, and less baking time.
 
Smaug February 11, 2019
Suppose I'll have to try this- the recipe is written for a cake that's going to be enormous by most standards, but 1/3 recipe in a 7" pan should work out well. Probably have to use a springform- I have some cheesecake pans in storage that I could dig out, but I don't think anything that small. Probably won't differ much in flavor from the Kladdkaka and the Cloud cake attributed to Richard Sax recently published here- chocolate, butter and eggs are..., but I'm interested to see how the texture works out.
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 11, 2019
Smaug! How are you? Thanks for reading. I hope you'll love it. Yes, it is meant to serve a large party (I'm curious to hear about your experiments scaling down, pls keep me posted!). I also thought immediate to kladdkaka, but you'll see this one is much more "light" and mousse-like in texture. Please report back!
 
Smaug February 11, 2019
In the oven now, I'll let you know tomorrow. I found the optimistic-sounding prep time to be pretty accurate- of course with all that melted chocolate it can get a bit messy- if you have a mixer bowl with one of those collars for adding ingredients, this is the place for it. Went out to the shed- I actually do have a 12" cheesecake pan, but that's just too much, I used a springform. Have you tried the Richard Sax recipe? Or better, the one that Maida Heatter published in her first book, which was the same batter, but with a low-slow baking method? I expect this to come out somewhere between that and the Kladdkaka.
 
Smaug February 12, 2019
No problem with the reduction (I do a lot of that)- a 7" cake is still actually pretty big, this is extremely rich. Also a bit sweeter than I'd prefer, but I knew both of those just from the ingredient list. I'm not at all sure that the water bath is necessary and if I make it again I think I'll try without-possibly putting the pan on an insulated cookie sheet; those things have got to be good for something. The flavor is, of course, very chocolate- it would be easy to add other flavors, either by mixing something in with the chocolate- butter (instant coffee, vanilla or other extract etc.) or the liquid for the syrup (tangerine juice, made coffee etc.), but there's much to be said for just chocolate (with whatever vanilla that contains). I usually like chocolate cold, and am refrigerating this- skipped the crème fraiche.