Ten years ago I received a copy of Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites cookbook for Christmas. Her recipe for Chocolate Cloud Cake was an instant hit with everyone who tried it, and it became the most-requested dish I’ve ever made. It got to the point where I had to insist on bringing something different to gatherings. Even a good thing can get to be too much!
This is a flourless cake that rises in the oven and then collapses as it cools. It has a light, crispy crust and a dense, moist filling that breaks into soft shards as you eat. Topped with whipped cream, it is indeed a chocolate cloud.
It’s far more simple to make than most people think. The title of this post actually contains all the ingredients I use, apart from the topping, although you can fancy it up with orange zest and liqueur.
Jenn and I made the cake last night for Mere’s birthday today, since it’s her favourite. The recipe calls for dark chocolate, and I have always used Baker’s semi-sweet. Unfortunately, when I went to the market after work yesterday there was only unsweetened chocolate. Since the cake is quite sweet, I thought I could get away with that. Oops, I was wrong.
When I took it out of the oven it didn’t look right. It hadn’t risen as high as usual, and it didn’t collapse as it cooled. When I served it tonight, both the texture and the sweetness level were ‘off’ and there were no raves or requests for seconds. It was, at best, alright but nowhere near the cake of our dreams. (Sorry, Meredith!)
Trust me, made with the right chocolate, this cake is amazing. I decided to go ahead and post about my misadventure to show that even experienced bakers can get it wrong once in a while! Sometimes my girls lament that the things they make don’t turn out as good as mine. That happens to me too from time to time! Don’t give up, but assess where you went wrong and try again.
Substitutions are possible in baking, but as this illustrates, they can be tricky. I’ve certainly learned from this experience! I should have listened to the inner voice that told me to go to another store to find exactly the right chocolate even though I was short on time (hindsight…).
Here is the recipe, as I have adapted it from Nigella Lawson’s original (and not as I made it this time). I’m showing her original metric measurements and my Imperial conversion.
Chocolate Cloud Cake
- 250 g semi-sweet chocolate (8 oz)
- 125 g unsalted butter, softened (1 stick + 1 tbsp)
- 6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
- 175 g sugar (3/4 cup)
- 500 ml whipping cream (2 cups)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F
Prepare 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan by lining bottom with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, then let the butter melt into it. Stir and set aside.
Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 yolks with 75 g of the sugar (not quite 2/3 the total amount), then stir in the chocolate/butter mixture.
Whip the 4 egg whites, gradually adding in the remaining sugar when the whites are foamy. Beat until they hold their shape but are not too stiff.
Stir a big dollop of the whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it up a bit, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake should be risen and cracked and the centre no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.
When ready to serve, remove the cake from the pan and peel the parchment off the bottom before placing on the serving plate. There will be lots of cracks and loose bits, but that’s part of its charm. Whip the cream and vanilla to soft peaks, and then pile into billowy clouds on top of the cake. If you like, sprinkle with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve, and enjoy the accolades!