Bonjour from Paris, where the Salon du Chocolat just finished its run. This year's salon, the French edition of what Americans know as the Chocolate Show (which will open in New York City on November 9), was held at the Porte de Versailles, a mega-big convention center on the edge of the city limits. It was huge and it made me think of that old advertising line, "You've come a long way, baby," since I can remember going to an early Salon du Chocolat (it may even have been the first, 13 years ago) and "doing" the show, which was held in a tent near the Eiffel Tower, in about an hour.
In honor of the Salon/Show and to celebrate one of the greatest chocolatiers in Paris, Robert Linxe, who founded La Maison du Chocolat 30 years ago, here's a recipe for a very simple cake that Mr. Linxe told me his grandmother used to make. Mixed in a saucepan and baked in a water bath, it's a far cry from the polished sweets that fill his shops here and abroad. Actually, it's more like fudge than cake and most like something you'd want to have with a big glass of milk.
Playing around: Since the cake is so moist and rich and doesn't fully harden, even when frozen, it's perfect for adding to ice cream. Cut leftover cake into cubes and freeze them. Then, either churn them into homemade ice cream (add the chunks just a minute before the ice cream is ready to be scraped out of the machine) or stir them into softened best-quality store-bought ice cream.
Grandmother's Creamy Chocolate Cake from Robert Linxe
Adapted from Paris Sweets
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Whipped cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan and line it with aluminum foil. Have a larger pan that can hold the cake pan and water at the ready.
Put the butter in a heavy medium saucepan, then add the chocolate and the sugar. Place the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring almost constantly, heat until the ingredients are melted and well blended. Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest on the counter for 3 minutes.
One by one, stir the eggs into the chocolate mixture with a whisk. Sift the flour over the mixture and stir it in as well. Rap the saucepan on the counter to deflate any bubbles and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Put the cake pan into the larger pan, fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan, and slip the setup into the oven.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is set on top and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out streaky but not wet. Lift the cake pan out of the water bath and place it on a rack to cool to room temperature. Chill the cake for at least 1 hour before unmolding.
When the cake is cold, gently turn it over onto a serving platter, lift off the pan and carefully remove the cake. The cake is meant to be served upside, with its smoother side facing the world.
Serving: The cake can be served cold or at room temperature with a scoop of whipped cream, crème fraîche or ice cream.
Storing: Wrapped tightly, the cake will keep for about 3 days at room temperature or for up to 2 months in the freezer.