I went to Dresden yesterday to go to a concert of the Staatskapelle Dresden playing Mahler 9. Afterwards my friends and I have decided to have a girl’s night in. It has been far too long since our last gathering, and we were all very excited. Everyone decided to bring something, and I have offered to bring a chocolate cake. Not just any cake, but my aunt’s flour-less chocolate cake. It’s so decadent and chocolaty that you can only eat a thin slice of it before calling it a day, although I think we all had two servings each last night. I don’t bake all that often, as I rarely have cravings for sweet things and for some reason my kitchen looks like a bomb has been dropped after I bake. But this moist, rich, melt-in-your-mouth cake that I haven’t made in over a year seemed perfect for our gathering.
This recipe was told to me by my mum over the phone over 10 years ago. I vaguely remember her saying that this was from one of her sisters. I scribbled the recipe down in very messy writing in one of my cookbooks back then. I have three aunts on mum’s side and they are all avid cooks (including mum). My second aunt even went to a professional culinary school decades ago and is an accomplished contributor to food magazines, cooking class teacher and cookbook author. The first aunt is the baker of the family, who bakes incredibly delicious cakes for family gatherings, and the third aunt is an excellent cook and photographer who helps my second aunt with making cookbooks and testing recipes. But having said all that, I still can’t remember from which aunt this recipe was from. Sorry whoever’s this was. Please take credit for it in the comment box if you want, dear aunty!
This chocolate cake is incredibly easy to make. The only slightly annoying part is separating 5 eggs into yolks and whites, without accidentally breaking the egg yolk into the white, which can happen if your stars aren’t aligned right on the day you bake (or just carelessness). If anything gets into the egg white, such as grease or egg yolk, you can say goodbye to beating the whites until firm peak forms. But my mum has given me a tip on how not to ruin the egg whites. I’ll include in the recipe below. The basic recipe remains the same, but I’ve decided to put some crushed green cardamom seeds and smoked salt in the batter. Cardamom is a great pairing with chocolate. It has a very light eucalyptus note, and as it is a member of ginger family, containing a floral and and citrussy note. Cardamom’s fresh and invigorating note cuts through richness in chocolate. Salt is a natural partner of chocolate and it brings out the flavour of cocoa very well. Be sure to use nice finishing salt such as fleur de Sel or even smoked salt which I had luckily in hand in a salt tasting kit given to me by a very good friend a year ago. And last but not least, make sure you buy the best chocolate (preferably certified organic and fair-trade) and cocoa powder you can find. It will make a huge difference in the end!
Happy baking everyone!
Decadent flour-less chocolate cake with cardamom and smoke salt
Note: If you don’t like cardamom, zest of an orange-a classic pairing with chocolate- could be used instead. It will taste just as good!
5 organic/free-range eggs, separated *(see note below)
6 cardamom pods
120g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
120ml cream (try to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking)
70g good quality raw cocoa powder (usually found at organic stores or health food stores)
120g sugar (less if you will be serving this cake with sweetened cream)
A pinch of normal sea salt
A pinch of finishing salt such as fleur de sel or smoked salt
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Bring water in a small saucepan to simmer, and place a bowl over the pan but make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add chopped chocolate and butter in the bowl over simmering water and stir until melted.
2. Crush the cardamom pods lightly in mortar&pestle until the seeds fall out. Take the pods out and crush the seeds until they roughly resemble powder. Add to the chocolate and butter.
3. Add the cream to the melted butter and chocolate. Warm through and stir until well incorporated. Take the bowl off the saucepan and set aside to cool a bit.
4. Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg whites until lightly firm peak forms. Make sure you don’t over beat it, otherwise the cake might turn out grainy. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale.
6. Add the sifted cocoa powder to the yolks and whisk until well incorporated.
7. Add the melted chocolate and butter, and small pinch of normal salt. Stir until well incorporated.
8. In three batches, gently fold in the egg whites. Make sure the whites are well mixed in after each batch.
9. Pour the batter into a buttered cake pan. (mine was 26cm but I think smaller pans would work just as well). Sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Do NOT over bake. Leave to cool in the cake pan. This cake is best served the day after it is baked, as the flavour will improve.
*Separating the egg whites: If the stars aren’t aligned right on some days (so to speak), you might break the egg yolk while separating the egg. This is my mum’s trick. She separates the egg whites into a small ramekin before putting into a big bowl where the whites will be beaten. This way, if you accidentally break the egg yolk, you can get another egg and start again without ruining the other 2-3 (or more…no!!) eggs you have separated before.