Selecting ze chocolates

A flourless chocolate cake is a great time to let your inner chocolate snob shine through. Assuming you decide not to use any added sugar or flavorings, the only thing you’ll really taste in this cake is chocolate, so it makes sense to get finicky. This is one of those times the home baker has a tremendous advantage over the professional pastry chef, since even Jacques Torres, Mr. Chocolate himself, couldn’t afford to use the kind of top-quality chocolates you can. He’d never make a profit. So whip out your Garbo scarf and sunglasses and head out to the nearest gourmet shop.

The thing to remember when choosing chocolates for a flourless is that the more fat in the chocolate, the smoother and more pudding-like the cake. I therefore steer away from milk chocolates, since I like a nice firm stand-up slice on a plate. All bittersweet is the standard way to go, though I’ll frequently put in a proportion of extra-bittersweet for kick (about a third). I’ll even do all extra-bittersweet for a party of either serious chocoholics or Chinese immigrants (whom in my experience are not accustomed to sugary sweets and appreciate the harshness). Sweetness can be added after the fact by serving the cake in a puddle of some sort of sweet sauce…raspberry, crème anglaise, even chocolate. Of course the sugar can go right into your cake too if you wish, a quarter cup added to an all-bittersweet cake (with the 8 eggs) is a very satisfying middle ground.

But the what brand of chocolate is best? There I can’t help you, since that’s such a personal choice. Of the readily available high-end brands, Valrhona and Ghiradelli are excellent, as is Scharffen Berger if you dig their sort of rustic fruity-bitter aesthetic. Personally I like El Rey for flourless chocolate cakes. It’s a Venezuelan brand whose makers somehow manage to work a little of that South American rain forest authenticity into their flavor profile. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. Funny isn’t it that a country run by a socialist dictator should produce a chocolate called “The King”. My disdain for Hugo Chavez is almost enough to stop me from buying the stuff, though I’m fairly certain he doesn’t make it himself.

8 thoughts on “Selecting ze chocolates”

  1. I am a retired savory Chef and the sweet kitchen was never my thing. Being Vegetarian now for over 2 years puts me in the sweet kitchen.Your cake looks amazing and I will make it but my question is why temp it to 140? I don’t see that step anywhere else so that’s the question. Thank you

    1. Hi Linda! Let me know how it works for you. The reason the flourless recipe calls for heating the cake to 140 is, on the one hand, to set the eggs, on the other to make sure that any microbes are killed off. This is a low-temperature bake, so, the eggs need to be heated to 140 for three minutes to ensure that the custard is completely safe to eat.

  2. Hi Joe,
    where can i buy El Rey bitter sweet chocolate online? i look it up, but i couldn’t find any El Rey bitter sweet. They are either, milk or dark chocolate. I made this cake for easter, everyone loved it! thanks to your detail step by step instruction. but i did used milk chocolate and it did not come up as firm as i wanted to be. thanks so much for the wonderful instruction!

    1. Hey Fauziah!

      That’s a good question. I can’t really answer that. But you’re right, you don’t always see their bittersweet available from online sources. Have you checked their main website? I wonder if you can order it direct?

      – Joe

  3. Thank you for these instructions. I made this cake with a dark Ghiradelli chocolate (65% I think?) and it was so dense and dark it was almost overwhelming. The tiniest sliver was about the right amount before it became too much awesome. As a huge fan of dark chocolate, I might actually try it with a bit sweeter chocolate next time.

    Whenever I use my springform pan, it ends up dripping butter out of the bottom. Maybe 1-2 tablespoons. I’ve seen this with this cake and with a cheesecake a made. Is this normal?

    1. Hi Steven! It’s fun to experiment with chocolates like that, isn’t it?

      As for the dripping, that’s a symptom of breaking custard. Go lower on the heat and measure carefully starting at about the 15 minute mark to make sure your cake doesn’t get too hot. Thanks for the questions!

      – Joe

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