This flourless chocolate cake was my main dessert contribution for Christmas this year. The cake itself is quite lavish, but I think the decorations efforts put it over the top.
The cake recipe is a combination of recipes from America’s Test Kitchen and The Capital Grille (allegedly). Both recipes are very similar with each containing the same quantities of chocolate, butter, and eggs. The Capital Grille recipe mixes a modest amount of unsweetened chocolate with the semisweet chocolate while also incorporating light brown sugar and espresso, which likely sweeten and enhance the flavor of the chocolate. I used ingredients from The Capital Grille recipe but mostly followed the directions of America’s Test Kitchen. This resulted in a very chocolate-y cake that was surprisingly not very dense (though, admittedly, I have no real comparison). Since the America’s Test Kitchen recipe called for an 8″ springform pan (and I only have 9″) and because I was serving 14 people, I also scaled up the ingredients to make a larger cake.
I couldn’t decide between decorating the cake with these chocolate pine cones or to dust powdered sugar using a snowflake stencil. In theory, the pine cones seemed to be the more intriguing and seemingly less complex option. In practice, the pine cones probably took the longest and required the most patience. My pine cones were also a little bit too large. I used a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop when I should have used only 1.5-2 tablespoons. The larger the pine cone the more almond slivers required to cover it… That said, I thought they made the final cake look impressive!
I had enough chocolate to make four of these pine cones, but they were so large (no room on the cake) and took so long to make that I stopped at three. I should also note that they are completely edible, representing nothing more than a almond covered chocolate ganache. I tried a piece or two, but it wasn’t worth eating compared to the cake.
I’d been curious about sugared cranberries and I thought they would look nice next to decorative fresh rosemary sprigs, so I tried my hand at a recipe. Like the chocolate pine comes, they’re not terrible but are ultimately nothing more than decorations.
This is definitely a cake that I will make again (sans decorations). It’s such a decadent yet simple dessert that nearly everyone enjoys.
Flourless Chocolate Cake:
1 1/4 lbs. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 20 pieces
1 1/4 cup strong black coffee or espresso
1 1/4 cup (250 g) light brown sugar
10 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) chocolate chips
7 oz. (half a standard can) sweetened condensed milk
1 oz. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk chocolate wafers
1 1/2 cups sliced raw almonds
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
1 cup (120 g) fresh cranberries
For Additional Decoration:
Fresh rosemary sprigs
- For the flourless chocolate cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper, butter the insides of the pan, and double-wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil. Set the springform pan in a larger baking pan, then bring a pot of water to a boil.
- In a large saucepan, bring butter, coffee/espresso, and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat until all sugar has dissolved.
- Turn off the heat, then add the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
- In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed for 5-10 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
- Gently fold beaten eggs into chocolate mixture in thirds until each addition is just incorporated.
- Pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve into the prepared pan, then tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.
- Place pan into the oven, then add the boiled water to the larger baking pan about 1″ up the side of the springform pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Remove pan from water bath immediately and let cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
- For the chocolate pine cones: In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, condensed milk, butter, salt, and vanilla.
- Microwave for 1 minute, then stir well. Microwave in additional 20 second increments if mixture is not melted.
- Press plastic wrap directly on surface of the chocolate, and let it sit to firm up at room temperature (~2 hours).
- Use a cookie scoop to form balls ~1.5-2″ wide onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, then form into an oval shape, gently pinching one end so that it comes to a subtle point.
- Melt the milk chocolate wafers in the microwave until smooth.
- Dip the bottom of a sliced almond into the melted chocolate, then press it against the back of a pine cone. Dip a second sliced almond, then place it next to the first one, overlapping it slightly. Continue to add sliced almonds in an overlapping pattern, working back to front, until pine cone is covered in almonds.
- Once finished, refrigerate tray of pine cones to set for ~15 minutes.
- For the sugared cranberries: In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of sugar with water, bringing mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat until the sugar is completed dissolved.
- Pour syrup into a heat-proof bowl, then allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Add cranberries to the syrup, stirring to coat.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally to coat.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a pie plate.
- Drain the cranberries, then roll them in the sugar. Place finished cranberries on the baking sheet, then allow to dry for 1 hour before using.
- Decorate the flourless chocolate cake with chocolate pine cones, sugared cranberries,cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and rosemary sprigs as desired.