French Chocolate Cake

I remember when the flourless chocolate cake craze hit and all anyone could talk about were flourless chocolate cakes. Chocolate guru Alice Medrich said something along the lines of, “It’s one of the few desserts that’s famous for what’s not in it, than for what is in it.” This was a number years ago, before flour became an ingredient for some to avoid.

Back then, I never understood the fervor over a few omitted tablespoons of flour, in spite of how much I liked flourless chocolate cakes. That was before the internet, when you could have conflicting opinions and not lose sleep over it at night.

France has its share of cake conflicts too, and no one would be surprised to know there is a wide variety of chocolate cakes in France, some made with almond flour, others with farine de sarrasin (buckwheat). And even chocolate mousse cakes made with no flour at all. I think there’s room for them all, including this one.

I wanted to make a very dark chocolate cake, keeping it as pure as possible, with just a little flour or whatever, to give it more structure, so it could be cleanly sliced. Well, as cleanly as I could. Life isn’t always clean and neither is a good chocolate cake. I’ve made and sliced a lot of chocolate cakes and if there aren’t a few crumbs and smears, it’s probably not a good, moist chocolate cake. (I’ll always take moist and chocolatey over picture-perfect slices.)

I tested this one first with almond flour, then made one with all-purpose flour, to see the difference. The cake made with ground almonds had a slightly rougher texture and took a few minutes more to bake. When I cut into it after it cooled, it was still runny: almond flour doesn’t absorb moisture as expeditiously as flour.

Both were enjoyed by friends and family…and a visiting photographer and his assistant, who were taking some pictures for a magazine, who had as much trouble as I did at not sneaking a bite of this chocolate cake whenever possible. When I asked if anyone if they thought it needed more chocolate, or less butter, or more (or less) sugar, they all looked at me, and said, “Non, it’s perfect.”

The photographer did like watching me sneak a bite of cake, so we had to do several takes and retakes of me taking a bite. While I ate bite after bite, I was thinking of all those people in movies and on tv who pretend to take a bite, and as soon as the camera is off, they get rid of it. I’m not one of those people.

A frequent, frequently asked question (and I use “frequent frequently” twice since I get asked it a lot – maybe it should be a “very frequently asked question”?) is about getting a chocolate cake like this cleanly out of a springform pan. I always answer with the same response: Use a glass-bottom springform pan. You can bake this in any springform pan you’d like, but the glass-bottom ones don’t have the funny lip around the edge of the base that is tricky to work a knife or cake server around. Investing in a glass-bottom springform pan isn’t necessary, but it’s something to consider, as is adding this chocolate cake to your repertoire.

French Chocolate Cake
Print Recipe
One 9-inch (23cm) cake
Use a mid-range bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe. I use one with 70% or fewer cacao solids; extra-bittersweet chocolates above that percentage can lead to dry cakes.You can either almond flour (or another nut flour) or regular flour in this recipe. You'll want to bake the cake a little longer if using almond flour since the ground nuts don't absorb moisture as readily as wheat flour. It's usually best to err on the side of underbaked with chocolate cakes like this, as they'll continue to cook when removed from the oven. Someone pointed out the crack in the top of the cake when I posted a picture online while testing the recipe. Cakes made with beaten egg whites will rise a bit and form a crust on top during baking, but will sigh and settle just a bit, and crackle a little across the top. C'est normale.Lastly, springform pans vary in size. If yours isn't exactly 9 inches/23cm, you can use a slightly larger one. If so, the cake will probably take a few minutes less to bake.For more information on ingredients, check out my posts on almond flour, chocolate FAQs, and cocoa powder FAQs.
12 ounces (340g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 ounces (140g) unsalted butter, cubed, plus additional butter for preparing the pan
2/3 cup (130g) sugar, divided
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
5 tablespoons (45g) all-purpose flour, or 4 tablespoons (30g) almond flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
unsweetened cocoa powder, for preparing the pan
1. Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan. Dust the inside with cocoa powder and tap out any excess. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. In a large, heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/3 cup (65g) of sugar, then the egg yolks, all-purpose flour or almond flour, and vanilla.
3. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or in a large bowl using a whisk, begin whipping the egg whites at medium speed. When they start to get frothy, increase the speed to high, add the salt, and whip until the egg whites start to hold their shape. Continue to whip, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup (65g) of sugar, until the whites are firm enough to hold their shape, but not too stiff or dry.
4. Using a spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites in the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites, just until their are no visible streaks of egg whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake until the center of the cake feel almost set, but not quite, about 20 to 25 minutes. (If using almond meal, it may take up to 30 minutes.) A toothpick inserted into the center should come out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. Once cool, run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it from the edges of the pan, then remove the outside of the springform pan.

Serving: Serve the cake on its own, with lightly sweetened whipped cream, or with ice cream, and perhaps a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Storage: The cake will keep at room temperature for up to three days but will not be as moist or soft and creamy after the first day. It can be frozen for up to two months.


A rich, ultra-chocolate French cake - simple and decadent!

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60 comments

  • December 4, 2018 12:33pm

    I have been waiting for this since the time I saw the almond flour version on your Instagram stories, looks so good!I love your recipes, will try this soon. Reply

  • December 4, 2018 12:54pm

    How is this different from a fondant au chocolat (I know there are the gooey, runny kinds, which I love, but also the ones that are like flourless brownies, which I also love). Or a moelleux au chocolat (which I love, too)? The fondant tends to have more eggs, which your recipe does… Reply

  • Claire
    December 4, 2018 1:59pm

    7am in Austin Texas and what I want for breakfast is chocolate cake! Can’t wait to make this cake. Thank you ❤️ Reply

    • Susan
      December 4, 2018 3:24pm

      Claire, I’m in Austin, too. Bringing the coffee. I’ll be right over. Reply

  • December 4, 2018 2:12pm

    How have I never heard of a glass bottom springform pan? This will be a game changer for me. Many thanks, David! Reply

  • Nancy
    December 4, 2018 3:22pm

    Where in france can I find a glass bottom spring form pan? Perhaps a shop online????
    Thank you Reply

    • December 4, 2018 3:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know which store would carry them but I am sure you can find them online. If you’re in Paris, a shop like MORA or BHV may carry them. Reply

      • Diana
        December 5, 2018 3:35pm

        Amazon has a selection of glass bottom springform pans. Reply

  • Deborah
    December 4, 2018 3:33pm

    Hey David

    Is there a particular brand of glass bottom springform pan that you prefer? Reply

    • December 4, 2018 3:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      There isn’t. I have one that’s made by KitchenAid that works well but they don’t seem to make it anymore. Reply

  • Eileen
    December 4, 2018 3:50pm

    I really enjoy your blog, David, and every recipe of yours I’ve tried have been spot on and delicious! I can’t wait to try this one. Reply

    • December 4, 2018 3:57pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying the recipes : ) Reply

  • Catherine
    December 4, 2018 3:52pm

    Hi David,
    Is it possible to make this with whole eggs? I used to have a recipe for one like that, given to me by a French friend, but lost it. Or would I need a whole different recipe? Reply

    • December 4, 2018 3:57pm
      David Lebovitz

      Do you mean stirring whole eggs in, rather than separating them? I don’t know since I haven’t tried it. I’ve got some other chocolate cake recipes on the site, such as my Chocolate Orbit Cake, that uses them – but if you try them in this one, let us know how it turns out. Reply

      • Catherine
        December 5, 2018 1:31pm

        Hi, yes, that is what I meant. The recipe my friend gave me didn’t separate them, and I don’t remember vanilla being in it either. It had a tiny amount of flour like this one. I took the cake into work a few times and everyone wanted the recipe. Reply

  • Carol
    December 4, 2018 3:57pm

    I don’t have a glass springform pan. Would it help to remove it to put parchment paper on the bottom of a metal springform before putting the batter in? Reply

    • Sarahb1313
      December 4, 2018 9:51pm

      I often will do just that. Only drawback is when cutting and serving, it’s kinda ugly. But it does work. You willl still run the risk of cracking the cake slipping it off the edge of the soringform. I have the silicone edge “springform” that pushes ourlt of the ring from below, and that one seals nicely and has no lip. The parchement works cleanly that way. Reply

      • Carol Rowland
        December 4, 2018 11:37pm

        Thank you Sarah! I hadn’t thought about that. I was thinking of inverting it on the rack and pulling the paper off, then turning it right side up after it cools more, but I’ll probably really crack the top up all over doing that….:*( Reply

  • December 4, 2018 4:01pm

    David, I have a question regarding the use of unsalted butter. I always use salted butter since I don’t have to add salt later. Plus, the amount of salt in the recipe usually turns out to be just right. Is there something I’m missing here? Is there a definite benefit for using unsalted butter? Thanks Reply

    • December 4, 2018 4:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      I sometimes use salted butter for baking but it’s too cumbersome to write a recipe using the number of variables out there. For most baking recipes, the default is unsalted butter because the salt measurement is more accurate. But if using salted butter for this recipe, you can skip adding salt. 4 ounces (115g) usually contains a bit more than 1/4 teaspoon of salt on the average, which may not be to everyone’s taste. However if that’s what you’re used to doing, you could give it a try with this recipe. If you do, let us know how it turns out. Reply

  • Robert Smythe
    December 4, 2018 4:32pm

    Would adding some cornstarch to the almond flour version help with the absorption and texture? Reply

  • December 4, 2018 4:36pm

    When I had the bakery we made an Ultimate Chocolate Fudge cake that was also flourless but quite different from yours. I thought some of your readers might like the contrast. It was one of our best sellers and can be found at https://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/04/ultimate-chocolate-fudge-cake/#.XAadeC2ZORs Reply

  • DeeDee
    December 4, 2018 4:41pm

    Disassemble a run of the mill springform pan. Turn the bottom upside down. Reassemble pan and bake your cake. That’s the secret to moving your cake to a circle or pedestal. I’ve made literally thousands of flourless chocolate cakes in pans assembled in this way, cooling them then transferring them for transport. It’s a good trick my chef husband taught me. This cake looks terrific and the moniker French Chocolate Cake is all the garnish needed. Thanks! Reply

    • Caroline
      December 6, 2018 2:34pm

      Hi DeeDee – I’m a little confused. Do you remove the pan bottom from the cake before serving? Is it easier to remove because you have turned the bottom upside down? Can you explain? Thanks! Reply

  • Jean Heys
    December 4, 2018 4:46pm

    Looks AWESOME! Can’t wait to try it! I know you are a bit of a perfectionist so think you might want to repair the links in the “Serving” paragraph. ;)

    Thanks. I (unfortunately) have to hand code some of the links in my posts, and it’s hard to keep track of which I have to…and which I don’t – fixed! : ) – dl Reply

  • Beth
    December 4, 2018 4:48pm

    Did you by any chance experiment with a combination of wheat flour and almond flour? I’m wondering if there’s a sweet spot where both ingredients contribute their unique merits to the final delicious product. Reply

  • Cheryl
    December 4, 2018 5:00pm

    I just got a bottle of chocolate extract and wanted to try it out. Would it be a good addition to this cake recipe? Reply

  • mrs cleaver
    December 4, 2018 5:07pm

    do you just buy a ready to eat chocolate bar for this?

    And, as a separate question – can you just buy a ready to eat chocolate bar to melt?

    and, sidenote – a few weeks ago, I made your quiche recipe from My Paris Kitchen for the first time, and have repeated often it already! So thankful you have shared all of your wonderful recipes Reply

  • Meredith
    December 4, 2018 5:10pm

    Reines de Saba, 1976.
    Couldent get enough. I miss Julia Child Reply

  • Linn
    December 4, 2018 5:34pm

    Can you tell me what the difference is in this cake and your Chocolate Orbit cake?
    It looks like the Orbit cake might be more “gooey”? Reply

  • Virginia H.
    December 4, 2018 7:29pm

    What about buckwheat flour? Seems to me I followed one of your choc. cake recipes a few years ago that used buckwheat flour with good results.
    PS I love your blog. THANK YOU! Reply

  • Isabella
    December 4, 2018 8:16pm

    Looking forward to trying this. Thank you David. I make your Chocolate Idiot Cake once a week.The perfect dessert…. I just add a pinch of Maldon salt flakes and a tot of good brandy! Thank you for all your inspiration and wonderful recipes. Reply

  • Aly Waterfall
    December 4, 2018 8:18pm

    OMG! How to get a girl to open an email IMMEDIATELY! And click on through! Just make sure you always use that headline: “French Chocolate Cake”
    Every time.
    I am totally in LOVE. Now to put on my apron and make this happen in my kitchen.
    Thank you! Reply

  • Sumedha
    December 4, 2018 8:29pm

    Looks delicious! I use to make an Italian Caprese flourless Chocolate cake using just almond flour. But I am excited about trying this one, perhaps substitute Spelt flour instead of just flour for some in depth nutiness!?
     Reply

  • Nikki P
    December 4, 2018 10:54pm

    I have also resorted to inverting the bottom of my Springform Pan.
    If a cake MIGHT leak either batter out or water in I have also started putting my Springform pan and my 9 inch cake pan with a removable bottom in a silicone cake pan. I hate the silicone cake pan for baking cakes but it is GREAT in preventing leakage.
    Now for the cake comment….This looks nice and moist and it just so happens I have all the ingredients to make this, and I happen to have a daughter that is celebrating a birthday…so you see how this is all coming together…..
    Thanks for another great recipe, a beautifully told story and inspiring photos. Reply

  • Shelli
    December 4, 2018 11:14pm

    Very much like Kladdkaka, a Swedish cake I just made after seeing a recipe on Food 52. That version is even easier as you melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan and add whole eggs. The entire process takes about 5 minutes. Oh, and the buttered pan is coated with breadcrumbs so the cake comes out of the pan perfectly. Any lingering crumbs can be brushed off. Reply

    • Catherine
      December 5, 2018 1:41pm

      I tried this in a Scandinavian cafe in London a few years ago. It was amazing and I started researching recipes for it immediately. I had originally gone in looking for a cinnamon bun but they were sold out. Reply

  • Daria
    December 4, 2018 11:39pm

    “but will sigh and settle just a bit, ”

    What a great description. Reply

  • ron shapley
    December 4, 2018 11:51pm

    Hi Dave.. IKEA is opening in Manhattan. Thought you’d like to know… LOL Reply

  • Liliane
    December 4, 2018 11:58pm

    The oven temperature is important, you only mention 180 degrees, is that fan-forced? Most oven are now fan-forced but I never see this mentioned in your recipes. Is that implicit?
    Thank you. Reply

    • December 5, 2018 3:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      I have two ovens, one is fan-forced and one is a regular oven and each has an oven thermometer in it, and I find the baking times equivalent. Everyone’s oven is different so I always advise to use the visual and tactile cues in a recipe, which I often give first (before the baking time) since that will tell you when something is done, rather than a number. (Which is good to give a general idea of the baking time.) Reply

  • WendyK
    December 5, 2018 12:31am

    For those interested (US and overseas) “Sur la Table” sells a glass-bottom springform pan:

    https://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-19071/Bake+and+Serve+Springform

    This is a lovely recipe, and doesn’t the name just imply decadence? Reply

  • December 5, 2018 7:13am

    This cake looks so delicious! I love the dense, rich texture – simply perfect! Reply

  • Margaret
    December 5, 2018 12:04pm

    Do you have a recipe for the pear ginger sorbet that you served with the cake and talked about on Instagram? Reply

  • Calli
    December 5, 2018 9:14pm

    Although substitution questions probably drive you crazy… since Christmas is nigh and my family loves chestnuts, could I replace some of the all-purpose flour with chestnut flour?
    Given the amount, would it actually make a difference taste-wise? Reply

  • Andrew
    December 5, 2018 10:34pm

    Incredible. I just made it but was forced by circumstance to make tweaks (otherwise I would have made it exactly as written). Tweaks: I used an 8-inch standard pan, gold colored somewhat non-stick. I buttered the pan and also put a round of parchment on the bottom and buttered that too, then all with the cocoa. An 8-inch pan is almost exactly 80% the volume of a 9 inch pan and so it worked well with the eggs (instead of 5 —> then 4) and cut all other ingredients by the same 20%. But the biggest challenge was the chocolate itself. I only had not quite half the required amount. But! I had some excellent milk chocolate (40%) and plenty of unsweetened solid chocolate. So along with the 70% chocolate I split the difference between the milk and the unsweetened, added a small bit of extra sugar. Because it was in a standard pan, I did not wait for it to cool completely so I unmolded it/inverted it at about 35 minutes out of the oven. Wow. Thank you David. Reply

  • taffy
    December 6, 2018 8:41am

    Wow, and I thought I was up on my baking equipment, but “non”, had never seen or heard of a glass bottom springform pan. Looked them up on Amazon though…quite “cher”!! Reply

  • rachel
    December 7, 2018 1:14pm

    Could this be made in a regular cake pan? I would serve it from the pan rather than attempting to get it out. This looks amazing and i would love to make it with almond flour as a wheat-free option for a party next week, but I don’t have a springform pan. Reply

    • Sally
      December 8, 2018 2:05am

      If you live in the US, Target sells springform pans for as little as $8. Reply

    • December 8, 2018 3:14pm
      David Lebovitz

      Because the cake is rather tender, you likely won’t be able to pull out very clean slices, but it could definitely be baked in a regular cake pan. Reply

      • rachel
        December 8, 2018 7:00pm

        thanks!
        sally- thanks for the suggestion :) I don’t live in the US…but the bigger issue is my tiny apartment kitchen will barely fit another pan and I don’t tend to make things requiring a springform often. Reply

  • lia
    December 7, 2018 5:50pm

    Just made the almond flour version, and it was wonderful. Thanks for the recipe!
    Another advantage of the flourless chocolate cake is that it’s great for Passover. I’m definitely going to make it for Seder this year. Reply

    • December 8, 2018 6:42pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it is. Glad you liked it! Reply

  • Janet
    December 8, 2018 5:42pm

    This recipe has been around for a long time – Patricia Wells published it in her 1989 cookbook, Bistro Cooking. She attributes it to Marie-Claude Gracia of La Belle Gasconne. It’s a good recipe that has stood the test of time. Reply

    • December 8, 2018 6:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it’s a cake that I’ve been making for a while and has been in my recipe files ever since I baked professionally. It’s very similar to the Racines Cake in Ready for Dessert, which I found on the men’s room wall at a restaurant in Paris (!) but I don’t recall where this one came from originally. I have changed it over the years and I do credit people and books if I use recipes from elsewhere, so I’ll take a look at her book and see if it’s similar. I have seen a lot of similar recipes in France, like the one of the bathroom wall ; ) Reply

  • Victoria
    December 9, 2018 5:38am

    The only bittersweet chocolate I could find that wasn’t outrageously expensive was 70% extra bittersweet. Then after I got home I read in your notes that it could lead to dry cakes if it is above 70% cacao. Hoping the one I got is ok. I was surprised that Central Market in Texas didn’t have a better selection of bittersweet chocolate. The have bulk 70% Valrhona but it wasn’t labeled bittersweet or semisweet. Reply

  • joan hersh
    December 9, 2018 6:37pm

    i want to suggest using a loose bottom pan (usually called a cheesecake pan) instead of a springform pan for this, and any cake that doesnt have a runny bottom (such as an upside down fruit cake). it’s much easier to remove a difficult cake- just push up, remove the side, hold the flat metal bottom on your raised hand and carefully slide a long knife between the metal and the cake. i’m a pastry chef, and never use springform pans…i hope this helps Reply

  • kerri
    December 10, 2018 8:46pm

    You don’t actually list any almond flour in your list of ingredients…. I noticed because i made an almost identical one from cooks illustrated Nov 2018 last night Reply

    • December 10, 2018 8:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      In the 5th line of the ingredients, it says “5 tablespoons (45g) all-purpose flour, or 4 tablespoons (30g) almond flour.” Reply

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