You know how in movies, and maybe sometimes in real life, a lady will show up dressed in something cute, looking Veela status amazing, get complimented on it, then she’ll giggle-laugh and say “oh this old thing!” ? Maybe she’ll even throw in a casual hair flip or hand wave. And she’s being all nonchalant and Beyoncé like “I woke up like this” and you KNOW she didn’t wake up like that and just throw something on. You know she spent hours in the bathroom grooming, buffing, scrubbing, tweezing, shaving and exfoliating. You know she spent hundreds of dollars at the gym, running and cycling and ab-crunching. You also know that she went to about 18 different boutiques to find “this old thing” that she “just threw on”. You just know. Unless you’re a dude, and then you probably don’t know. Believe me, this kind of charade is a thing.
Unless. Maybe she really did just wake up like that and throw on something old and still look amazing. Perhaps she’s distantly descended from the same ancestors as Gisele or Taylor and she was born with model thin legs, perfect skin and Michelle Obama arms. And she makes you question all that time and money you spent in the bathroom, at the gym and in all those boutiques.
This cake is like that. It feels fancy. It easily impresses others. You taste it, and you think Whoa. This took hours to make. Its dark and smooth. The chocolate melts in your mouth like fudge, but without being overpoweringly sweet. It’s decadent. It’s fancy enough for a wedding, but it’s not so fancy that you can’t serve it for a birthday or a book club.
But it is actually really, really easy. So easy, that I’m a little hesitant to share it, because people have paid me to make it for them. It feels elegant, like a special treat. But when you’re baking it, it takes less than an hour and is made up of only 4 ingredients. It makes you wonder “why did I waste so much time making other cakes?” Unlike this cake, which is delicious, but quite the time commitment.
This cake has been with me through a lot. I don’t remember when I first ate it, but I’m pretty certain my sister in law Jennifer made it. We served them at our wedding, and I baked one a year later for our first anniversary. I recently made them for a friend’s wedding, since many of their guests were gluten-free, and it got rave reviews. I’ve also made it for numerous birthdays, dinner parties and holiday celebrations. Its the kind of cake that feels comfortable, like throwing on “some old thing”, and you end up feeling great about yourself and what you’re serving your loved ones. You can dress it up with fruit, or keep it casual with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Think of it as “the little black dress” of cakes. It just works.
(photo credit for above three images: W+E)
I got the original recipe here, from the delightful Molly Wizenberg, who also had them at her wedding. For the wedding I baked them for (and my own wedding) the flour is omitted, and I’ll probably continue baking them this way, since I didn’t miss it. I followed Molly’s exact instructions for freezing and transporting, which can be found in the comments section of this post.
(me with friends Courtney and Quint at their wedding, who were nice enough to trust me with baking cakes for their wedding)
This cake also freezes beautifully, which means you can make several ahead of time, and then defrost them as needed. It is best served at room temperature (it’s also really easy to slice at room temp, harder when chilled), but it’s also delicious served cold.
Baking Note: I got into the habit of weighing my ingredients when baking this cake, and the difference between the measuring cups and the scale was astounding to me. Since there are only four ingredients here, it’s really important to be exact. I use my kitchen scale a lot, and I believe it is a really important tool if you bake frequently. This is the one I have, and I’ve been pleased, although there are many, many options.
Flourless Chocolate Torte, adapted from Molly Wizenberg, which can be found here.
7 ounces (200 grams) unsweetened, good quality chocolate (this is what I used) chopped finely
7 ounces (200 grams) european style butter* cut into cubes
1 1/3 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs (farm fresh, if you can get them)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of your cake pan with a circle of parchment, then butter your parchment. (I used a springform cake pan, but a regular cake pan works well too)
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (I don’t have a double boiler, I stuck a glass bowl on top of a medium pot filled with boiling water. Do what works, y’all) stirring regularly till combined and until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from the heat, and then whisk in your sugar. Next, whisk in your eggs**, one at a time, until the mixture is smooth and beautiful.
Pour your cake mixture into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, but start checking for doneness at 20. It takes exactly 22 minutes in my oven. The middle of the cake will look set, and the edges perhaps a bit crackly. You know it’s done when it jiggles, just a little, if any at all.
Let your cake cool for 10ish minutes, then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely before serving. If serving the cake from frozen, take it out of the freezer and set it on the counter 24 hours before you need it, to allow it to come to room temp.
*I find that regular, “commoner” butter works fine here and I can’t really taste a difference when I use the european butter vs. the commoner butter. For me, the real ingredients that makes a taste/texture difference is high quality chocolate and farm fresh eggs.
**There will come a time, around the addition of egg number 3, where you’ll think “Whoa, this does not look good or appetizing at all. Am I doing it right? Why is it ugly? What’s wrong?!” but plow on! Once you whisk in egg number 5, all will be perfect.