I wanted to try a recipe that was akin to a flourless chocolate cake but with a slight variation. There are two notable differences with this recipe. First is the requisite beating of the eggs and yolk to an almost thick and fluffy consistency, similar to marshmallow fluff. The colour is also markedly different from a bright to pale yellow. Baking this cake also requires an atypical method. It takes a page out of baking cheesecake, where you place the pan in a bain-marie (water bath). This gentle baking ensure an even distribution of heat throughout the pan; it is also what creates the cake’s creamy texture. This dessert is not sweet and perhaps not appropriate for children. It is very adult and mature in deep chocolate flavour. It is rich in taste but not dense like a set ganache or pâté. There is body and silkiness to the cake which gloriously melts in your mouth and coats your tongue like a soft lozenge.
If you were wondering (because I was) who or what Cyrano was, the name refers to France’s legendary Cyrano de Bergerac, who was a dramatist and duelist. He had a play loosely based on his life written by Edmond Rostand in 1897. In this and subsequent fictional works written about him, it was said that people would travel for miles to see Cyrano’s incredibly long nose (however, most historians now speculate that this was an exaggeration). In fact, he is said to have duelled 1000 times because of it ( I wouldn’t be surprised if his sword play also inspired The Three Musketeers as well!).
Flo Braker made this alongside Julia Child on her cooking show, Baking with Julia. Like her, I was smitten by how so few ingredients could create something that tasted as magnificent as this.
Cyrano Chocolate Cake
This recipe is from the book, Baking For All Occasions, by Flo Braker,
(since the number of ingredients are minimal, it is imperative that you use good quality chocolate and cocoa!)
1 ¼ sticks (5 oz/140 grams) of unsalted butter
12 oz. (340 grams) semisweet chocolate finely chopped (I used a Madécasse chocolate bar with 80% cocoa solids and it worked fine)
3 Tbsp. unsweetened natural or Dutch processed cocoa powder (I used all natural Valrohna cocoa powder)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolks
½ cup (3 1/2 oz/ 100 grams) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract (I only used 1 tsp because I didn’t want it to overpower the flavour of the chocolate)
(I also added a pinch of sea salt)
Before Baking: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Have ready a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan (I used a 9 inch square pan). Select a shallow roasting pan that will accommodate the cake pan with 1 to 2 inches of space between the cake pan and the sides of the roasting pan. Set the cake pan in the roasting pan and pour warm water into the roasting pan to reach slightly over halfway up the side of the cake pan. Remove the cake pan from the water and place the roasting pan with the water in the oven while it is preheating. Butter the cake pan then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Have all ingredients at room temperature.
To Make the Cake: In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Or, combine in a medium microwave-safe bowl and melt in a microwave oven at 50 percent power for 30 seconds, stirring after each burst, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in cocoa powder.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the eggs, egg yolk, and granulated sugar. Attach the bowl to the mixer, fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, and whip the mixture at medium speed until fluffy, pale yellow and double in volume, about 3 minutes. When the whisk is lifted the mixture should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests softly on the surface and remains there for about 3 seconds before dissolving back into the mixture. Add the vanilla during the final moments of whipping. Fold one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and carefully place the pan in the water bath
Bake the cake until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 160 degrees F, about 30 minutes (I took mine out at 24 minutes). The chocolate firms as the cake cools, so be careful not to overbake. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then invert a serving plate on the cake and invert the cake onto it. Slowly peel off the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely.
To serve, using a fine mesh strainer, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Or, using and offset spatula, frost the top with whipped cream. Cut into wedges with sharp knife, dipping the knife blade in hot water and wiping dry with a towel before each cut. (I macerated a pint of raspberries in 2 tbsp of Amaretto and 2 tsp of brown sugar. I placed it gingerly on top of the cake with a dollop of creme fraiche)
Yield: 8-10 servings