Am headed to Oak Park (the OP) tomorrow to see a friend for gabbing and baby holding. Physically incapable of showing up at someone’s house empty-handed, this afternoon I turned on the oven and made a cake. There’s nothing like baking on a really hot day.
This recipe came to me from Bon Appetit, which used to have a section featuring reader’s recipes. Reading the October issue in 1995, I was captivated by the preamble to a recipe from Karin Korvin in Santa Monica. Her family had hosted a foreign exchange student from France who could cook but one thing: chocolate cake. Like Elodie the student, at the time I only knew how to make one thing well, also a cake. Turns out hers is an easy but elegant chocolate cake I’ve now been making for years.
Of course I’ve made a few tweaks: namely, adding salt and vanilla. Note on ingredients: use good chocolate. I’m a fan of Belcolade, as mentioned earlier, but any other premium brand will work well (Scharffen Berger, Lindt, Callebaut). And as for vanilla, use pure extract. Nielsen-Massey makes the best. Truly, the expense is worth it. With so few ingredients, it really makes a difference if you cheap out.
10 oz bittersweet (or unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1 1/4 c. sugar (add another quarter cup if you’re using unsweetened chocolate)
2 t. vanilla extract
5 T. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
Heat oven to 325F. Butter and flour (I use Baker’s Joy) a 10″ springform pan. Or if you are baking for a smaller crowd, use two 6″ springforms. Keep one for yourself and pawn the other off on the neighbors.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure no water can get into the bowl. Stir until smooth and remove bowl from the pot. Meanwhile, beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and very thick. Beat in vanilla. Sift remaining dry ingredients over egg mixture and fold until combined. Gradually pour in the melted chocolate and butter, folding until combined. Pour into the pan(s) and bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Cover with foil and bake until a tester comes out crumbly (in between wet and dry). Cool on a rack, then remove sides and bottom of pan.
Once cooled, a little well will have formed where the cake has fallen. This means it turned out right! At this point, you can sift powdered sugar over it, pour on a thin layer of chocolate ganache (spiked with espresso or brandy), top it with fresh or even thawed frozen raspberries. Serve with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or just eat it straight up. It’s quite rich, so cut slivers unless you’ve got a table full of gobblers. Stored at room temperature, it will keep for a couple of days.