Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.
So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.
The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.
My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations
In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.
However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.
Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.
Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.
Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake
An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.
Serve with whipped cream
Flourless chocolate cake
- 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
- 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
- 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
- finely grated zest from half a navel orange
- 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
- Zest from half an orange
- 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside.
In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl.
Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate.
Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes.
Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated.
In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using.
Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.
Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving.
Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl.
Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries.
Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?
After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.
In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.
How to Make a Pavlova
Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.
Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.
Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.
Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.
Switch it up
For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.
For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.
For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)
My pavlova recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Mixed Berry Pavlova.
Lemon Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Kiwi
- 5 egg whites about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
- 1 cup 7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp distilled vinegar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 TB powdered sugar
- 1 kiwi peeled and sliced thin,
- 3/4 cup 185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
- 1-2 TB granulated sugar if using pulp
- Berries and fresh mint to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.
Passion Fruit Sauce
Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.
Make the Whipped Cream
Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Assemble the Pavlova
Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
Serve immediately with extra sauce.
Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.
Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.