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Chocolate cake recipe

The word ‘consulting’ always sounds like a dream job when you’re working in a restaurant kitchen, slaving over a hot stove as a line or prep cook. As a consultant, it sounds like you sweep into a kitchen whenever you feel like it, and bake something up with the staff. But it’s rather challenging work.

Chocolate cake recipe

Restaurants call in consultants when the kitchen is in dire trouble. You walk into the kitchen and no one wants to talk to you or change anything. (Which is why they needed to call someone for help in the first place!) I took a job like that once, when I was between jobs as a pastry chef, and although the kitchen staff was friendly and fairly helpful, desserts were not a high priority to them. In fact, they were storing the dessert sauces in the same cabinet as the chopped garlic. Yikes.

Chocolate cake recipe

Chocolate cake recipe

I decided that I needed to create a cake for them that was fool-proof. It needed to be made without any fancy techniques or ingredients, and the cooking didn’t have to depend on the whims on whatever cook was called upon to make the cakes that day. And it also had to keep well.

Chocolate cake recipe

But most important, it had to taste great. I like chocolate cakes that are straight-on chocolate. While I don’t mind frosted, multi-layered wedges of cake, this one is pure, uninhibited chocolate indulgence. There’s not much to get between you and the deep, bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate.

Chocolate cake recipe

I jokingly called this Chocolate Idiot Cake, since anyone can make it, and it’s hard to screw up. (Although I didn’t say that to anyone’s face, of course.) Later I made it when I was in the pastry department at Chez Panisse, where a co-worked looked at them as they were coming out of the oven and dubbed them, “Chocolate Orbit Cake,” due to the little craters on top.

Whatever you call it, it’s a pretty great chocolate cake that just requires four ingredients, no special techniques, except for a few moments of whisking, and can be refrigerated (once cool), for a couple of days, until ready to serve.

Chocolate Idiot 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. Use a good chocolate — you’ll appreciate it when you taste your first melt-in-your-mouth bite. Make sure to wrap the springform pan very well in foil, perhaps in several layers, to prevent any water seeping in during baking.
  • 10 ounces (290gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 7 ounces (200gr) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200gr) sugar
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for preparing the cake pan
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).
  • Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, in several layers if necessary (see headnote), making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the cake 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 reach halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.
  • Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It should feels just set in the center, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away almost clean.
  • Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • When cool, serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with crème anglaise,
    ice cream, or whipped cream. It could also be served with a drizzle of
    chocolate sauce.


Storage: This cake can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Note: I often get asked about how to remove a cake like this from a springform pan. You can dip a chef’s knife in very hot water and slide it under the cooled cake to remove it from the bottom of the pan. But I generally use my glass-bottomed springform pan, since I don’t need to wrestle the cake from the bottom of the pan for serving.




    • Barbara

    Oh David! I’m no idiot, but I’m sure my husband will forgive me for declaring my undyinglove for you…as long as I bake this cake for him!

    • Rachel

    Chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar . . . that’s it? Sounds awesome and I LOVE the name.

    I used to be an consultant. Not for food but in I/T for big companies and we were changed the same way. Except we did all the work and they got the credit and they blamed anything wrong on us after we left :)

    • Barbara

    And now the question….does the springform pan sit inside another, larger pan? Sorry to be so slow, but I’m just not clear about this….

    • Gary

    David, I hate to ask you this, but for those of us who are trying to avoid flour and sugar (lowcarbers), this cake would be terrific if I could use Splenda (sucralose). Do you have experience using this sugar substitute and would you recommend it for this cake?

    • Randi

    Looks so good, btw, did you receive my entry?

    • Lydia

    I’m a bit of an idiot about baking (though I do know enough not to store anything next to the garlic….), so this cake might be right up my alley. It looks divine!

    • Morgan

    The cake looks DELISH! Can’t wait to give it a try!

    • David

    Hi Gary: I’ve never baked with Splenda. They were bribing…er…I mean, offering pastry chefs thousands of dollars to try it out and do some recipe testing with it, but I never got my check! (or my Splenda)

    Maybe it’s at La Poste… ; )

    I would imagine you could use chocolate sweetened with maltitol, but am not sure about Splenda. They do have a ‘baking mix’ of some sort that I hear works well for some things, but maybe one of my readers knows more about it?

    • Hande

    I made this cake with liquid natreen (brand name, consists of water, cyclamat, saccharin and fructose) and it had a funny bitter, almost burnt taste to it. Not enjoyable and nothing to compare with the original which I have made before. And no, it wasn’t really burnt. Would be interested in experiences with sucralose.

    • Hande

    Ups, I think my first comment got lost…
    I made this cake with liquid natreen (brand name in Germany, consists of water, cyclamat, saccharin and fructose) and it had a bitter, burnt taste to it. (No, it was not really burnt!) Have made it before with sugar and the low-sugar version was nowhere near it. Would be interested in any other experiences with sucralose or any other non-sugar, as a flourless cake is always a great starting point.

    • Sil

    I’ve tried “the orbit cake” from your book with a malbec icecream…it was great!!

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    Your story hits home more ways than one – when I was doing my MBA, we did an operations project on…ScharffenBerger! We luckily got a tour of the plant in Berkeley and made some suggestions for their operations. Consultancy + chocolate = delicious business.

    Thanks for sharing, I’m going to pick some more up when I head home in March.

    • Barbara

    Help! I’ve GOT to bake this cake! Does the springform pan sit within a larger pan filled with water? Or is the water poured on to of the aluminum foil used to cover the cake? I must be an idiot after all because I found the directions to be VERY CONFUSING! Help please!

    • Gary

    Splenda *claims* you can use it 1:1 for sugar “in cooking and baking in a variety of recipes.” I guess I’ll just have to try it and let you know. I don’t wish to act as a proponent of the stuff, as in principle I would prefer cane sugar as my sweetener of choice, but some of us who are trying to enjoy a few luscious desserts while on an otherwise strict lowcarb diet might like to know about it. (I question how many of your readers fit into this category. ;*)

    • David

    Hi Barbara: It’s very simple; it’s just like baking a custard:

    1) Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan

    2) Cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil

    3) Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan (like a roasting pan, or whatever it will fit in, and fits in your oven)

    4) Add enough hot water to the baking pan (the larger pan, like the roasting pan) to come about halfway up to the outsides of the cake pan.

    Gary: Yes, let us know. I’d love to find out how Splenda works. I don’t know much about the stuff.

    • Ash

    David, that looks awesome. I’m going to try it. I watched Idiocracy recently. Bet those guys couldn’t make your cake ;)

    • Barbara

    Thanks for the clarification David. Altho I was fairly sure that was the procedure, the recipe really didn’t make it clear, at least not for me.

    There are 2 types of Splenda, one that’s “pure” Splenda (!!!!) and one for baking that’s a mix of Splenda and sugar. Perhaps a test with the blend would be a safer first choice….

    • mags


    I’m a culinary arts student currently finishing up a Kitchen Management course…we JUST got finished talking about the ups and downs of being a consultant…thanks for sharing your thoughts on it…every opinion helps, espeically when it’s from you!

    • AngAk

    Barbara, I have used 100% Splenda many times with success when baking. Prefer “real” ingredients, but when lo carbing it worked well for me and especially for this chocolate cake recipe. The pourable Splenda can be measured 1:1 but the packets are concentrated. The Splenda site has many good tips and recipes. Now I’m hooked on Michel Cluizel chocolate.

    • jennifer

    Have to comment on Splenda. I develop “healthier” recipes for a large contract foodservice company and tested Splenda in many, many baking recipes. I have never had great results. Muffins I have made are very spongy and almonst non-food like. The texture of everything I tried (muffins, cakes, custards) was odd and unpleasant and I personally can’t recommend it.

    • Aaron


    any reccomendations on scaling the recipe down to say 2 servings? i love the look of the desert but cooking for just me and my girlfriend the cake looks like way too much. and the bigger problem is i think i would end up eating it all.

    i was thinking something along the lines of baking it in silicon muffin cups, any comments?

    • David

    Hi Aaron: Although I’ve never done it, you could most likely scale down the recipe. If you cut it in half, you could bake it in a loaf pan. I am sure you could bake them individually in custard cups, and bake them similarly to a custard. (If you make smaller cakes, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time, in the downward direction.)
    Let me know how they work out!

    Jennifer: It’s good to get your perspective, having “Been there, done that.” I think with any of those things you sacrifice texture and/or flavor. Thanks!

    • sam

    Hi David
    I was craving for chocolate and got ur SHF posting for choc idiot cake
    it came out beautiful and tastes yummy. wonering do u have any foolproof eggless cakes ? my MIL is coming and she is allergic to eggs. help…

    • David

    Sam: Why not make a War Cake? There’s recipes from war times, when eggs (and butter) were scarce, so someone developed a cake without ’em. A quick Google search outta turn up some recipes.

    (And your mother-in-law is lucky to have such a good son-in-law. I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there that’d be happy to serve their egg-allergic MIL’s something eggy…)

    Sam 2: Yes, for some reason, even though I wrote the deadline twice, in bold, there were a few stragglers or friends who missed it. It was too bad I couldn’t include them but unfortunately it took so much of my time to put together the round-ups, and I can’t work on them anymore. (Plus I’m recovering from a morning of oral surgery.)

    If you do post it, please put the link in the comments for the final post…would love to see what chocolate dessert you whipped up!

    • sam

    I want expected to be squeezed in to the round up, just sad I didn’t do as i was told. I understand your position – there comes a point when no more stragglers should be tolerated.

    still everyone at worked loved my tart today – so all was not lost, it was still worth doing from my pov!

    hope your toothache is bettrr soon.

    • Spencer

    Hi David,

    I just made your Chocolate Idiot cake. The cake came out a bit dense and heavy..almost like a cheesecake consistency. I was just wondering is it suppose to be like that, or is it suppose to be a light consistency?

    • David

    Yes Spencer, that right. As mentioned “This cake is extremely rich, and tastes like the most delicious, silkiest, most supremely-chocolate ganache.

    Since it’s so rich, I advise serving it in small, thin wedges as well. Enjoy!

    • Spencer

    David, thanks! After letting the cake cooled down for a bit and removing it from the springform pan, I knew this is not going to be an ordinary chocolate cake. I did make your Ginger cake from your “Room for Desserts” book, and it was wonderful!! Your book is very unique, and I will treaure it!


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