The word ‘consulting’ always sounds like a dream job when you’re stuck working in a restaurant kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, on the line. As a consultant, it sounds like you sweep into a kitchen, where the staff welcomes you with open arm as their savior, and you magically transform the meals coming out of the kitchen into extraordinary feats of culinary magic.
In fact, it couldn’t be more different.
Restaurants call in consultants when they’ve exhausted all other possibilities, and the kitchen is in such dire trouble that they need to get some poor sucker from the outside to come in a try to fix what they’ve screwed up. The pay seems great, until you walk in the kitchen and realize no one wants to talk to you, no one wants you there, and worse, no one wants to change anything, since it means more work for them (and if they really cared about their work, they wouldn’t have had to call in someone from the outside in the first place.)
I was once a consultant for a corporation that owned several prominent restaurants. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that one of their major problems was that there were a lot of high-paid executives sitting in meetings upstairs, while there were a lot of low-paid people downstairs, in the kitchen, putting the food on the plate. And let’s face it: Customers don’t care about executive meetings, they care about the food.
And that’s basically it.
When I mentioned this discrepancy to the high-paid executives (who hired me to tell them things like that…right?) we had another round of meetings, discussing things for hours and hours, until I told them I couldn’t sit through any more meetings since I had work to do in the kitchen. (Stupid me! What was I thinking? Those meetings were totally cush. Why slave over a hot stove? Maybe those executives weren’t so wrong after all…)
Except now, that restaurant’s closed, and presumably they’re either unemployed, or on to bigger and better things.
As mentioned, when you consult, you’re hired to fix things. Which is difficult when no one wants to really fix anything. And at this one particular restaurant, no one cared about the food. They’d store the dessert sauces right next to open containers of crushed garlic, for gosh sakes. The people in the pastry department could have been pumping gas, for all they cared.
Consequently, I needed to come up with foolproof desserts. A menu of cakes, cookies, and more, that were simple to make, and more importantly, impossible to screw up. Plus they needed to keep for several days, since who knows how long they would keep them around for? So I came up with this spectacularly good chocolate cake, which I called (not to anyone’s face) Chocolate Idiot Cake, since any idiot could make it…and only an idiot could screw it up.
So for Sugar High Friday #27, Chocolate By Brand, the premier online dessert event started by the fabulously sweet Jennifer of Domestic Goddess, I decided to make this cake with ScharffenBerger chocolate. And in fact, it’s a variation of my Chocolate Orbit Cake from my book Ready for Dessert, although my editor nixed the name Chocolate Idiot Cake for some strange reason.
John Scharffenberger, was always a big fan of this cake, since it allows their chocolate to shine, and when John and Robert Steinberg were working on their book, The Essence of Chocolate, John wanted to definitely include this recipe, which I was happy to oblige them with as thanks for introducing me to the world of handcrafted chocolate.
The first time I tasted their bittersweet chocolate, it was truly a revelation for me. I’d never tasted handmade, small-batch chocolate in my life and from that moment on I was hooked. And although the company was recently bought, I still hold their chocolate in high esteem and wish I had easier access to it (as well as stock options!)
But one of my guests brought me a lovely tablet of their chocolate as a gift, which I was saving for when I needed to bake something special. So I melted it down for making this cake. The chocolate is exquisite, dark, and very intense, with a highly-complex flavor due to the careful blending of nine different cocoa beans, each individually roasted to bring out their particular characteristics. It’s perfect for using in a cake where chocolate is the one-and-only flavor.
And boy, what a flavor it is.
Chocolate Idiot Cake
One 9-inch (23 cm) cake
Adapted from Ready for Dessert (Ten Speed Press)
This cake is extremely rich, and tastes like the most delicious, silkiest, most supremely-chocolate ganache you’ve ever had. As mentioned, it’s equally good a few days later, and only an idiot could possibly mess it up. You don’t need to use ScharffenBerger chocolate for this cake, but use a good one—you’ll appreciate it when you taste your first melt-in-your-mouth bite.
- 10 ounces (290 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 7 ounces (200 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
1. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan* and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If you suspect your springform pan isn’t 100% water-tight, wrap the outside with aluminum foil, making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
You’ll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.
5. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.
Serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with creme anglaise, ice cream, or whipped cream.
Storage: This Chocolate Idiot Cake can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
*I love my glass-bottomed springform pan, since I don’t need to wrestle the cake from the bottom of the pan for serving.