07 January 2007

Chocolate for Kings

Believe it or not, I am rather ambiguous about chocolate. I know, some of you out there are crying heresy, but let me confess. I don't dislike it, but I primarily prefer chocolate as a vehicle for peanut butter or caramel, both of which I would prefer on their own. And chocolate cake? It's always sort of disappointing, isn't it? Not dense and fudgey like a brownie, not as satisfying as yellow butter cake.

But this is not chocolate cake, it is fallen chocolate soufflé cake, and it is oh-so-good. I am a sucker for a souffle, both sweet and savory, with that luxurious texture from the beaten egg whites. But the fallen part is what makes this cake so good- there's no worrying about rushing the dish to the table just in time, this cake is actually supposed to deflate. And as it does so, the top crackling, all those wonderful layers fold in on each other to make a pleasingly rich-yet-light cake.

I made this cake for our Epiphany celebration- it is certainly not the traditional king cake, but I wanted to use up those holiday sweets and gifts lurking about, and we had some nice Christopher Norman chocolate bars. I have made this cake before with an average chocolate, and I would have thought the main difference would have been in deeper flavor. However, the surprise was the difference in texture: I think finer quality chocolate results in a smoother, more unctuous texture in baked goods. Call me a convert, from now on it's better quality chocolate in my baking forays. Who knows, I might even start liking the stuff?

Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake
The top of this cake may be crackly and light, but it hides a dark luscious interior. I wish I had a photo for you all, but I'm afraid we ate it too quickly.

1/4 cup flour
1 tbl cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 tbl (4 oz) butter, cut into chunks
5 large eggs, seperated
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or liquer

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan.
2. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in a small bowl.
3. Prepare a double boiler. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of the double boiler and stir until melted, set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar until light and thickened (the mixture should be ribbony), about 3 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate and the vanilla extract.
5. In another clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the egg whites until just combined.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until well risen and the top is crusty. Remove from the oven and let cool, it will fall. Remove the sides of the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Serve dusted with powdered sugar and with whipped cream, if desired.

For an 8 inch pan:
3 tbl flour, 1 tbl cocoa powder, 1 tsp instant espresso powder, 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, 6 tbl butter, 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanila extract or liquer

Bake as above in an 8 inch pan, baking time should be 35 minutes.

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