Femme Brûlée: Flourless Chocolate Cake

I’m officially running away from home. I’m three weeks into my east coast trip and was due to fly back to the land of sun and palm trees in a few days, but I am not getting on that plane. No way, I’ve joked about “missing my flight” almost every time I’ve come back east for a visit, and this time I finally meant it! For one thing I’m having too much fun to leave. Following that dream retreat in Vermont that inspired last week’s apple bread I spent time lazing on a dock looking out onto a gorgeous lake in upstate New York’s clear and blue as the sky surrounded by the Adirondack mountains, driving windy back roads, and eating my weight in maple flavored everything. I went from there to New York City for bagels and pizza till I dropped, the incredible Dapper Q New York Fashion Week show, and quality time with friends and the beautiful NYC Autostraddle crew.

This post however comes to you from Philadelphia where I’ve posted up the last few days for more relaxing, eating, and catching up with loved ones. This trip has been the ultimate comfort for my heart and soul. I guess that’s because I’m not so much running away from home as back to it. Back to the people and places that formed me, and I had no idea how thirsty I was for this connection until I got here. I’ve had a smile plastered on my face so permanently people side-eyed me in New York, I’ve spent enough time with friends to make new memories rather than just reminisce on old ones, and am sleeping so soundly at night that I’m starting to wonder if that new mattress I bought was really necessary, or if I just needed a change of pace. By far one of the biggest perks of freelancing is I can do my job from anywhere, so for now and possibly as long as it takes, that place is here.

This trip is also doing wonders for my kitchen creativity. I was in a bit of a dry spell before I left LA and now I have so many juicy, decadent recipe ideas floating through my head that I can’t wait to share with you, starting of course with this glorious flourless chocolate cake and its source of inspiration. I’m fortunate to have incredible friends lending me space in their apartments all up and down the east coast for this trip, and this week I’m staying with my friend Arden who is also an incredible cook. She’s one of the first people who taught me it was okay to love and enjoy food unapologetically, and that life is short so you might as well spring for the good stuff whenever possible! We also have a deep love of chocolate in common so when I asked what she’d like me to make while staying with her, chocolate was the only guideline she gave me. I took it and ran right into this luscious, irresistibly fudge-y cake.

With both melted bittersweet chocolate in bar form, and deeply aromatic almost coffee like cocoa powder in the mix, this is about as chocolate forward as you can get. The actual coffee added to the batter amplifies the mocha flavor and elevates this cake from “good” to exceptional, so please for the love of cocoa do not skip it. Plus the lack of flour but ample use of butter lends a melt in your mouth experience with every bite that just might make your little heart flutter.

Like all flourless chocolate cakes, this is dense and succulent but in only the best ways, and just as comforting to eat as my trip has been to experience. I’ve always found that I like flourless chocolate cake on it’s own, but LOVE it with sauce that I can drizzle and dip to my heart’s content, so I’ve paired this with a simple, sweet cherry sauce lightly spiced with cloves and brightened with a hint of lemon. I use canned cherries for ease, but you’re welcome to try it with fresh! Apart, the cake and sauce are wonderful. Together, they’re what chocolate dessert cravings are made for. I would order this in a pre-menstrual heartbeat at any restaurant but fortunately, none of us have to! You can make it at home, preferably with some slow jams playing in the background so you can sway to the beat while you stir the silky batter and get ready to fall so, so in love with this cake.

Ingredients:

For the cake:
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2oz) strong brewed coffee
4oz bittersweet chocolate
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup(95g) cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the cherry sauce:

One 15oz can sweet cherries (NOT maraschino, just regular canned cherries in syrup)
1/4 cup (2oz) juice reserved from can
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tbs maple syrup
2 whole cloves
Pinch of salt

Powdered sugar for garnish (optional):

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Butter the paper as well, then set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Honestly I just really liked this picture and that’s the only reason this is getting its own step.

Remove from the heat and add the coffee and bittersweet chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is fully melted.

Now add the sugar and cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, and salt, and mix until incorporated.

You should have a smooth, glossy batter that thoroughly coats the back of a spoon when its done.

Pour into your prepared baking dish, and bake 25 to 30 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the cherry sauce! Take the same small sauce pan and add in the cherries, reserved juice, lemon juice and zest, maple syrup, cloves, and salt. Stir to combine.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, then simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid reduces by half, stirring and breaking the cherries into small pieces along the way. This should take about 5 minutes.

Once the mixture is thick and reminiscent of chunky applesauce, it’s done! Fish out the cloves, then set aside.

Once the cake is done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Next, invert the cake onto a plate or cutting board, and allow to cool at least 10 more minutes before flipping back over. It’s very soft and prone to breaking (like mine did) if you move it too soon without cooling!

Post flip!

Now that the cake is sufficiently cooled, slice into that fudgy goodness and serve.


I like to put a swoosh of the cherry sauce directly onto the plate, then place a slice of cake on top so I can drag each bite through the sauce.

I mean…come on, can you even handle this?

Finally, garnish with a little dusting of powdered sugar, and you’re good to go!

Reneice Charles is a just another queer, liberal, woman of color using the Internet to escape from reality and failing miserably. She received her MSW from New York University and is an Entrepreneur and Vocalist living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time wishing she didn't have to use her spare time convincing people that everyone deserves the same basic human rights.

Reneice has written 98 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. UHHH how did you know all of my favorite flavors and textures and somehow put them into one gluten-free dessert that I desperately need to make as soon as possible? Fudgy, chocolate, cherry, AND coffee?! Please watch your mailbox for the invitation to my wedding when I mARRY THIS CAKE.

    (if I knew how to use gifs on here, I would use the one of the crying woman saying “it’s so beautiful” followed by one of a standing ovation.)

  2. “so please for the love of cocoa do not skip it” is the best phrase I’ve heard all day! I don’t like coffee and generally think adding it to cake is a waste of a perfectly good cake but I trust your recipes so this will be a rare time I include the coffee.

    Can I ask, what bittersweet chocolate you use? It’s not a term I’ve heard in the UK and googling it confused me more. Can I use a decent quality dark chocolate? Or is it something else?

    • I looked up the definition of bittersweet chocolate and this is what it have me.

      NOUN NORTH AMERICAN
      dark, slightly bitter, chocolate without added milk. British term plain chocolate.

      Don’t know how helpful this is.

    • Yes, just dark chocolate. One of my sisters likes it best when they’re made with milk chocolate, though. My mum makes flourless chocolate cakes more than any other type of cake, so we’ve tried out a few variations over the years – I’ll have to recommend this cherry sauce…

    • Thank you both! I found the term plain chocolate too but it’s actually not used that much here, I think maybe it’s an older name for it? Too many chocolate terms! I like the idea of trying it out with milk chocolate too, playing around with ingredients is one of the joys of repeatedly making a recipe.

      • I’m British and I use the term plain chocolate ( dunno whether that’s coz I’m a Northerner or 52 or both/neither) but it’s a common term to me! I’m vegan so I’m not gonna recommend non-vegan brands but if you have a LIDL they have a decent plain ”cooking bar” and it’s about a third of the price of crappy supermarket ones ( high sugar content but all the cheap ones and even many pricey ones have). Most people don’t use above 50percent cocoa bars for cooking coz it’s quite hard to work with. Thus endeth the choc lecture!

    • Wow thank you all for jumping in here to help with the chocolate question! I didn’t realize there are different names for the types in the UK! Very good knowledge.

      And yes, as mentioned the difference is about milk and sugar levels in the chocolate. If you make this with milk chocolate you’ll need to adjust the sugar levels as it’s all highly sweetened. That may affect the texture of the cake but i haven’t made it that way so can’t say!

      As for the coffee, you won’t taste it! Coffee has a magic power of amplifying and deepening chocolate flavor. I’ve added up to a full cup of chocolate to batters trying to get the chocolate level I’m looking for without success, but adding in just a little coffee or instant espresso powder always does the trick.

  3. Reneice, I love your writing so much. I rarely read this column because I have chronic health issues that make cooking and baking challenging, but I am a sucker for chocolate, so I had to click on this even though I won’t be able to make this recipe any time soon. I love your way of drawing connections between and among your life, your experiences, and your baking. Thank you!

  4. So I just made this cake as a birthday cake for the GF Virgo who bore and raised this Gemini and was thinking about people who’ve never done a flourless bake like this one which is similar in ingredients and process to GF brownies that I’ve been doing for years.

    In the oven this sort of batter WILL visibly rise, but it will NOT as it cools maintain that height It will deflate to the low height you can see in those lovely pictures, and I promise you oh inexperienced or first time gf baker that IS supposed happen.

    You didn’t mess up the recipe at all hon; it’s supposed to be a cute, dense, lil shorty.

    RENEICE I’M GOING USE THAT SAUCE ON WINTER HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE IT LOOKS SO GORGEOUS, couldn’t make it for the cake on this occasion and the celebrant isn’t a cherry&chocolate fan but someday I will.

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