chocolate cloud cake

8 to 12    |   
Prep Time:
15 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
35 to 40 minutes

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chocolate cloud cake

original recipe by Richard Sax

I’ve had Richard Sax’s masterwork Classic Home Desserts since it came out in 1994 and I bake his recipe for pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving, but until this summer I had never made the Chocolate Cloud Cake. Now I know why it’s so famous. It pushes aside every other flourless cake or lava cake or fallen cake because it’s simply better. Plus the whipped cream topping means it’s slow-fast: your fork goes fast through the light cream then slow through the dense cake. I baked one for Barry on his 94th birthday and another for Julie on her 61st birthday. Sharing the silky, chocolately slices, we all felt new again.

Tips: I use less whipped cream on top of the cake than the original recipe because it settles into a “frosting” this way; if you want a big puffy “cloud,”use the full amount of cream (check out Food52’s post to see what this looks like). If you like a touch of orange with chocolate (I do), add the liqueur or the zest or both. Most important: do not be alarmed when the top of the cake cracks and collapses as it cools; it’s supposed to happen and that forms the crater where the whipped cream goes.

adapted from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

8 ounces best-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or use chocolate chips such as Guittard)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
6 large eggs: 2 whole and 4 separated
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
grated zest of 1 orange, optional
kosher salt

cloud topping:
1 to 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
unsweetened cocoa powder and/or bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper; do not butter pan or parchment. Get out a rimmed baking sheet that will fit the cake pan on top.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir chocolate with a rubber spatula to smooth it out as needed. When melted, remove bowl from pan and whisk in butter until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the 2 whole eggs and the 4 yolks. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and whisk until blended. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture. Whisk in the Grand Marnier and/or the orange zest, if using.

In a separate bowl with electric beaters or in a stand mixer, beat the 4 egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until glossy, soft mounds form (you don’t want stiff peaks). Fold about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Place the cake pan on the baking sheet (this is in case the springform pan leaks), slide into the oven and bake until the top is puffed and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly, 35 to 40 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack and let cool completely; the center of the cake will sink. Leave cake in pan.

To make the topping, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until billowy, but not stiff. Using a large spoon, dollop the whipped cream over the cake, swirling with the back of the spoon. Dust the top lightly with cocoa powder or garnish with chocolate shavings, or use both. Run a table knife around the edge of the cake and carefully lift off the sides of the pan. Cut into wedges to serve. Store leftovers airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (it tastes great the next day even if it doesn’t look as pretty).