Last night we had some friends over for dinner and Ollie made his pulled pork. With both of us being massive fans of southern American and Mexican food, he has worked very hard to perfect this porcine treat and has finally reached a stage he is happy with. After several hours of slow cooking and a final blast in the oven to crisp up the ends, he served it up with black beans in ham hock stock and cumin, guacamole, rice, cheese, sour cream and a pile of soft tortillas for us to wrap up this bounty in. He has promised to write up the recipe for a future blog post as it is really is too good to keep to himself.
I wanted to find a suitable dessert to finish up this delicious feast and my mind turned to spiced chocolate. I have a flourless chocolate recipe that I have used as the basis for many desserts over the years. I find that it is the perfect thing to pull out of the bag for a variety of occasions – it is quick to make, contains only three ingredients (chocolate, eggs, butter) and is both gluten-free and nut-free. Plus, more or less everybody loves chocolate. I have adapted it in various ways over the years – adding some toasted pecans for a little crunch or some rum-soaked raisins for a little booziness, but never before with spices. I had a Mexican chocolate cupcake a few years ago at a bakery in Crystal Palace and wanted to replicate the flavour of that, which called for two things: cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
There are two very important things to bear in mind when making a flourless chocolate cake: use the highest quality chocolate you can afford with 75% cocoa solids as an absolute minimum. You can, of course, use any chocolate, but you will not get the same depth of flavour as a very high cocoa solid. I love Green & Blacks 85% Dark Chocolate for this purpose, although I find it too dark to use for anything else. Also, and you’ve probably heard this a million times, make sure you do not knock the air out of the beaten egg whites. Due to the lack of flour, this air is the only rising agent the cake has, and vigorous beating will result in fewer bubbles and a flat cake. Lesson over.
You may find that when the cake comes out of the oven it will start to sink. This is completely normal and is actually what creates the dense and gooey texture that you get in a flourless chocolate cake. Sometimes the cake will sink evenly and sometimes it will dip in the middle – there seems to be no science behind how it sinks – but if you find the latter occurring, gently patting down the edges with a clean tea towel will make the cake sink more evenly. Failing that, just fill the dip with a load of whipped cream or fruit and pretend it was supposed to look like that.
Mexican Spiced Flourless Chocolate Cake
- 350g dark chocolate, I used Green & Blacks 85%
- 170g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 170ºc / 350ºf / gas 4. Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan and dust with cocoa powder. Shake off the excess.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, along with the spices, in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool for a few minutes then add the egg yolks to the mixture, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff but not too firm. They should keep their shape when the whisk is lifted out. Carefully fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to knock the air out of them. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks of white remain. Again, do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes. After this time it will look as though the cake needs further baking, but it should not. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool. Serve in slices.