Recipes for flourless chocolate cakes are everywhere. Their authors sometimes give credit to, amongst others, Claudia Roden or Elizabeth David, but it was probably originally a cake for Passover, the Jewish festival where no unleavened food may be eaten. I've made this cake a hundred times since I was given a copy of Dolly Campbell's I Hate to Cook in 1991. Dolly Campbell was the pseudonym used by Jill Dupleix in her cookery column in the Melbourne Age. The recipe was called "I Hate to Cook Best Ever Chocolate Cake". and I agreed with her that it was the best ever. It has popped up frequently in Jill's books and columns over the years. In one she suggested that you should use whichever chocolate is appropriate to the occasion...the finest couverture chocolate for best, and supermarket chocolate for not-so-special occasions. I had, up until then, always used either Cadbury or Plaistowe cooking chocolate or dark eating chocolate. So I tried making it with 70% Lindt chocolate - with disastrous results. The melted chocolate hardened into an unworkable lump once the nuts and egg yolks were mixed in. I've not been game to use anything higher than 45% cocoa solids since, but it may be worth giving it a go using something in between the two. The flavour will be delicious even with the cheap stuff!
I now usually bake the cake in individual serves rather than as a large cake. Despite being a bit ugly and funny-looking (the cracking is inevitable) they're deliciously rich, yet light, and need nothing more than a dust of icing sugar or cocoa on the tops.
Flourless Chocolate Cake(s)
250g dark chocolate
150g unsalted butter
1 Tab strong black coffee
1 Tab brandy (opt.)
150g caster sugar
125 ground almonds/almond meal*
5 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place chocolate, butter, sugar, coffee and brandy in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until butter and chocolate are completely melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in the ground almonds, then the lightly beaten egg-yolks. Whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir a big spoonful into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest with a large metal spoon or a whisk. Spoon into paper-lined muffin tins or a 23cm greased and paper-lined springform tin. Bake for about 30 mins. for the small cakes, or 45-50 mins. for the large cake, or until firm to the touch but still a little soft in the centre. Cool the small cakes for 5 mins. in the moulds before removing. Cool large cake completely before inverting onto serving plate. Sprinkle with icing sugar or cocoa.
Makes about 15 cupcakes or 1 large cake.
*You can use hazelnuts instead of almonds for a slightly different flavour. Finely ground is best, but coarsely ground works well too and will give a crunchier texture.
*They'll keep for 2-3 days in the fridge (bring to room-temp. before eating), but if you want to freeze them, open freeze first, then wrap in cling-film then foil.