This article presents two easy flourless chocolate cake recipes and two classic recipes and compares them. It explains how flourless cakes work, addresses chocolate grades and their importance, and recommends pans. Included are recipes for raspberry and strawberry sauces for toppings.
How Flourless Chocolate Cakes Work
It sounded like a great recipe, the recipe in the newspaper. With only four ingredients–chocolate, eggs, sugar, and butter–it sounded easy enough. And the description sounded enticing.
The taste of the cake did not match those enticing words. At least, we didn’t like it. We asked several visitors to our store to try the cake and they weren’t fond of it either.
With only these four ingredients, there was essentially no starch in the recipe. Starch provides “body” and structure, a chewiness. This was too smooth, like a quiche.
“This has the highest level of chocolate allowed by federal law!”
Of course that’s not true but I’ve heard Ben state that several times in the store—with both our flourless chocolate cake and our chocolate lover’s brownies. But we are talking serious chocolate in these recipes. It seems that five to ten percent of the folks that try these think there is too much chocolate. Most find them scrumptious.
But we were intrigued by the recipe. The eggs were separated and the whites beaten. Could beaten whites create a lighter, less dense flourless chocolate cake and was that desirable? We substituted a cup of our best cocoa for the chocolate and made it again.
Depending on the brand, cocoa is about 60% starch. That much starch in one cup of cocoa doesn’t seem like a lot in a nine-inch cake but it made a dramatic difference. Now the cake was more cake-like with body, but a cup of cocoa was a lot and with a cup of sugar, it wasn’t overly sweet. It was reminiscent of bittersweet chocolate. We liked it but we’re admitted chocoholics. We topped slices with a dollop of whipped cream and fed them to visitors in our store. We expected that many of them would find it too chocolaty. They didn’t. They loved it.
Too much chocolate is a matter of taste and opinions vary widely–what I find just right, others will find too intense. We decided to tone it down a bit. We also decided to make it a thicker, deeper cake. So we increased the batter by 50%, decreased the proportion of cocoa, and slightly increased the amount of sugar. It took a number of trials to get it right. If we decreased the cocoa too much, we lost that rich, deep chocolate flavor characteristic of flourless chocolate cakes and the cake became too “smooth”–not enough starch.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipes
We think the following recipe, developed from the newspaper recipe, is just right. Instead of bittersweet, it is closer to semi-sweet and still has a nice body. We think this is a very good and easy recipe.
So how does this compare to the other flourless chocolate cake recipes on our site? We made our Easy Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe so that we could compare them side by side. The new recipe, the “national” recipe with whipped egg whites, is dense and rich, almost like a brownie. You do have to stop and separate the eggs and whip the whites but the recipe is still very easy. The original recipe, Easy Flourless Chocolate Cake, makes a spongier, more-cake like dessert but still much denser than other cakes.
Which is better? They have basically the same ingredients but with different preparations. Our testers were split with about half liking one recipe and half liking the other better. Both make great cakes.
The following recipe is another take with a bit of cornstarch added to give body to the cake. It too makes a great cake.
Before learning that cocoa added necessary body to flourless chocolate cakes, we made cakes with finely chopped or ground nuts. The nuts create the body. These are very good cakes and we certainly recommend these recipes. Adding ground nuts adds steps and expense but if you want a fancy cake, try these recipes.
Topping Your Flourless Chocolate Cake
Flourless chocolate cakes can be rich and intense. Sometimes it’s nice to tone down that chocolate with a bit of topping or sauce. (Of course, a light dusting of powdered sugar works fine also.) The easiest topping is a squirt of whipped cream from an aerosol can. Be a bit generous with whipped cream. A scoop of ice cream works. A strawberry or raspberry sauce is delightful and our favorite way to present slices of flourless chocolate cake. A dark slice of chocolate cake sitting in a pool of crimson sauce is as delightful to the eye as it is pleasing to the taste.
Don’t scrimp. Your flourless cake will be no better than the chocolate you use, whether cocoa or solid chocolate. Essentially, the entire flavor is carried by the chocolate. Typically wafers are a higher grade chocolate than baking chocolate since wafers are intended for candy making and baking chocolate is masked with flour and other ingredients. (We used dark chocolate wafers in our first trial, the recipe from the newspaper.)
Cocoa is usually made from lower grade, less expansive beans than solid chocolate so you’ll need to shop around a bit for good cocoa. It’s worth it. There is a dramatic difference between brands. You’ll want to use cocoa with at least 14-16% cocoa butter which will eliminate most supermarket brands. You can find good gourmet cocoa on the internet.
We used Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa in each of these recipes. It has 22-24% cocoa butter. We highly recommend this cocoa.
Most manufacturers make many grades of cocoa or chocolate. A higher grade from a given manufacturer may be perfect for your recipe while a lesser grade is unsatisfactory. Chocolate chips especially are very competitive and most chips sold in grocery stores tend to be made with lower grade chocolate.
We use the new silicone springform pans for all flourless chocolate cakes. We don’t have trouble with cake leaking in the oven because the silicone creates a tight, double seal. When done, we simply peel the silicone ring off like a wrapper.
We have also used our glass-based nonstick springform pans. While I’m not as confident in the metal pans, I don’t recall one leaking.