Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Daring Bakers' February Challenge - Chocolate Valentino (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

Here was this month's Daring Bakers' challenge: "The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge."
(Recipe HERE.)

Chocolate Valentino is a flourless chocolate cake. The only ingredients are chocolate, butter and eggs (separated). That's right, only three ingredients! We were instructed to use the flourless chocolate cake recipe exactly as it was given to us but were encouraged to be creative in our choice of the accompanying ice cream. The fresh-strawberry ice cream that I made was a nice complement to the intense chocolate flavor of the cake.

I tasted flourless chocolate cake years ago, at the Fiddlehead Restaurant in Juneau. I loved it and quickly hunted down a recipe and attempted to make it at home. I was really disappointed with the results of that attempt, so I took on this month's challenge with two competing emotions - fear that I'd fail again, and determination to succeed.

I made plans to invite our friends, John and Betsy, over for Valentine's Eve dinner, and serve the cake and ice cream as dessert. A few days before they came I decided to do a trial run of the chocolate cake recipe. I'm so glad that I did, because I learned a lot from that "dress-rehearsal." The trial run cake came out mediocre, at best. It had a wonderful texture, but the chocolate was too intense and bitter, and the cake was way too dry.

Based on that trial run, I made some adjustments to both the cake recipe and to my preparation methods, then re-made it for the company meal. The first change was to add about two tablespoons of sugar to the egg whites as I whipped them. I also used a slightly sweeter chocolate to start with. These two adjustments helped moderate the bitterness. To keep the cake from coming out so dry, I whipped the egg whites only to very soft peaks - not as stiff as I did the first time - and I baked the cake at 350 degrees instead of 375. All of these modifications paid off in a perfectly scrumptious cake.

Chocolate Valentino was the ideal dessert for Betsy, since she is gluten intolerant, and this flourless cake has no gluten. And, since romance was in the air, baking it in a heart-shaped pan and serving it with homemade strawberry ice cream seemed the right choices. The cake turned out very moist, a cross between a brownie and old-fashioned fudge made with Hershey's cocoa powder. It was exceedingly rich, so a tiny slice satisfied. We found that the cake aged well, when sealed tightly in the refrigerator. There was no doubt that it was better the second day than the first, and it actually seemed to improve each succeeding day, as well.

Here are some pictures of the ingredients, the process and the final product.

The recipe calls for one pound of semi-sweet chocolate. On my trial run, I used Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate; it was too intense. The second time around I went with Ghirardelli's Semi-Sweet, and it was perfect.

I used my Alaskan ulu to chop the chocolate. It was much easier on the hand than the knife that I started out using.

This is the melted chocolate and butter. I didn't have a double boiler, so melted the ingredients in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Five whipped egg yolks were added to the melted chocolate, after it cooled a bit.

And then five egg whites, whipped to a soft peak, were carefully folded into the chocolate mixture, which was poured into the baking pan.

Here is the cake just after it came out of the oven. It is characteristic of this cake to sink a bit in the center, as mine did.

Before I served the cake, I sprinkled on some powdered sugar, using a paper doily to make a design.

And, here it is, all served up - flourless chocolate cake (Chocolate Valentino) and homemade strawberry ice cream. Yum! Even our friend with the gluten intolerance enjoyed every fudgy bite.

Other Completed Daring Bakers' Challenges: Lavash, Pizza Napoletana, Caramel Cake, French Yule Log, Tuiles


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Those modifications look like they definitely worked! Your cake looks deliciously dense and didn't shrink like mine did which was probably from the overwhipping. Thanks for letting us know! :

Lisa said...

Way to avoid shrinkage and sinkage! Lovely plating and photos too!

Daring Baker Chickiedoodle said...

It took me two tries, too... next time I will definitley try your modifications. It looks absolutely scrumptious. Your pictures are so, so good.

Lauren said...

Mmm, your cake looks lovely =D!!

Claire said...

Looks great! I did think about this being a great cake for the gluten intolerant. Glad you were able to adapt it to your tastes.

Amy said...

Mmmm! this looks so great. Well done!

Jude said...

Thanks for letting us know how you modified the recipe. Sounds much better than the original!

Anonymous said...

What absolutely gorgeous pictures. Beautiful! That cake is so pretty I can almost taste it from here. Oh, don't I wish!!

So impressive!


Jenny said...

Ah, I guess it wasn't so crazy for me to handwhip my whites then. I could tell right when they turned and could stop before they got too dry. Great job trying it, perfecting it, and making it again!

Michelle N said...

Nice pictures and the modification sounds great! I love the Alaskan ulu, I have never seen that before, nice. Good job on the Feb. Challenge!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Lovely step by step photos! And lovely cake of course!

Lori said...

I think yours is the fluffiest cake I have seen. It looks so light! Great job on the challenge!