Friday, February 11, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ganache Icing

As promised, I am posting the winner of the Valentine's Day dessert poll, the winner, by a single vote, being flourless chocolate cake with ganache icing.  So here is my recipe for a truly spectacular flourless chocolate cake.

The recipe is a compilation of many different recipes I have tried over the years, but is based largely on a recipe from legendary french cookbook author Patricia Wells.  The cake is moist and dense, yet also has a fluffy texture, not just a dense solid block of chocolate, has an underglaze of seedless raspberry jam, and is robed in silky ganache.

In my house we call this cake Elena's Cake of Dreams.  Elena was a visiting Russian scientist who worked in my laboratory and lived with us for several months in the early 1990's.  I prepared this cake for Valentine's dinner during the time Elena lived with us, and she took 45 minutes to consume a single slice, shaving off razor thin pieces with her fork and letting them slowly melt in her mouth.  She told me, "this is the cake of my dreams", and so it has been called Elena's Cake of Dreams ever since.

I feel I should first say something about the term flourless here.  The cake is not exactly flourless.  I cheat and add a very small amount of flour which helps to give the cake it's "lightness" and importantly, keeps the cake from collapsing upon itself once it cools.

The cake batter is poured into 8-inch cake pan with 2-inch high sides (Wilton is a good brand) that has a parchment paper lining on the bottom, and is then baked in a bain marie (hot water bath) for 30 minutes, then removed from the oven and water bath, covered with a heavy ceramic dinner plate and allowed to "steam" for 45 minutes. WARNING! DO NOT USE A SPRINGFORM PAN.  A springform pan, no matter how well-wrapped in aluminum foil, will leak and destroy your cake.

Once cooled I like to underglaze the cake with a seedless fruit jam like raspberry, apricot, or cherry.  It must be smooth jam with no chunks.  Then the cake is covered with ganache.  This cake is better after it rests for 24 hours to let the ganache "ripen" and set.  It is delicious refrigerated or at room temperature.  It is also best served with very lightly sweetened whipped cream to cut the richness.

This is not a difficult recipe, but it is a messy one since it uses a lot of bowls. Its worth the mess though, because this is the cake that will come to you in your sleep and whisper in your ear "I am waiting for you, come taste me.."  Truly a cake of dreams.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ganache Icing
(Le gâteau d'Elena de rêves- Elena's Cake of Dreams)
serves 8

parchment paper cut to fit bottom of cake pan
4 cups (approx.) boiling water

8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work well)
1 stick unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated, room temperature
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour

Fruit underglaze (optional)
2 Tbsp seedless raspberry jam

Ganache Icing:
1  cup heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work well)

Preheat oven to 350.  Bring a kettle of water to boil.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with 2-inch high sides.  Butter cake pan well, then press parchment paper into bottom. 

Melt butter and chocolate together in a large glass bowl in the microwave, at 30-second increments, stirring after each heating, until melted and smooth.

In a separate large bowl combine egg yolks and sugar.  Beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add flour and stir in gently until combined, do not overmix.  Fold egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture, being careful not to deflate.

In yet another bowl, beat egg whites until they just form stiff peaks.  Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture, 1/3 at a time, being careful not to deflate.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Place cake pan in another, large cake pan (12-inch round pan works well).  Place in oven and then add boiling water to larger pan until it comes about halfway up the sides.  Bake 30 minutes.

 Bain Marie
Batter-filled 8-inch cake pan is set inside a 12-inch cake pan, then placed in preheated oven 
and the outer pan filled 1/2 way with boiling water

Remove cake from oven and water bath and immediately cover with a heavy ceramic dinner plate and place something heavy on top (like a bag of flour or can of tomatoes).  Allow cake to steam for 45 minute to an hour before removing dinnerplate.

 Immediately after removing from the oven, the hot cake is covered with an inverted 
ceramic dinner plate and weighed down with a bag of flour to steam the cake

Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen cake from sides, then invert onto wire cooling rack and remove pan gently.  Peel off parchment.  Allow cake to cool completely.

Optional Underglaze:  Prepare underglaze by melting raspberry jam in microwave for 30 seconds and stir to mix.  Spread raspberry jam over top and sides of cake.  Allow to set for 20-30 minutes.

Glazing the cake:
In a medium saucepan heat cream until it just begins to boil.  Remove from heat and add chocolate and stir gently until very smooth (do not stir vigorously or you will add air bubbles to ganache).

Place cooled cake on a wire cooling rack and then set the rack on top of a large bowl to catch ganache drippings.  Pour ganache over cake making certain it runs evenly down all sides.  Do not spread with a knife or spatula or you will mar the glossy finish.  There will be a lot of ganache in the bowl, which you can save to serve over ice cream, or roll into chocolate truffles.

coated with a jam underglaze...                               and covered with ganache 

Place cake, on wire rack on wax paper in the refrigerator for at least an hour before carefully sliding cake, with the aid of a spatula, to a serving platter.  Cake can be refrigerated at this point until ready to serve (do not cover with plastic wrap), just allow to come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes to restore gloss to ganache.  Serve with lightly-sweetened whipped cream and fresh raspberries.


  1. Sounds incredible! It is so close to being gluten free and wondering if you have tried it with a gluten free flour?

  2. Hi Lucyred, thanks for your comment! I have never tried this with gluten free flour, but I see no reason why it woulndn't work. I even believe you could use cornstarch and get excellent results. Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

  3. How can this be called a Flourless chocolate cake when you are using flour? That don't make sense, it is just a chocolate cake then.