Must Try: Flourless Chocolate Cake & Salted Caramel Sauce

As much as I love pasta and potatoes, I think dessert has to be my biggest weakness.

Every night my partner in cuisine crime and I look at each other and say, “What’s for dessert?”

There’s a certain, otherwise unattainable, joy that comes with a sweet treat.

For me, cake belongs on a pedestal, literally and figuratively. It’s the best. So many flavors and fillings, varieties, icings, levels, and toppings. I mean, cookies are great, macarons are phenomenal, and ice cream is incredible, but cake is king.

To celebrate this carb bomb, I decided to make one without its signature ingredient: flour.

A flourless chocolate cake is something I started seeing on food reality shows. I first paid attention to it when it got a home cook onto Nigella’s team on The Taste.

I had this theory that it would be thick and dense. But I was wrong.

A flourless chocolate cake is a lot like a fudgey brownie. It’s rich, moist and decadent. The eggs, butter, and sugar create a custard which accounts for the cake’s body. Good chocolate and cocoa powder give it deep, rich flavor.

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After reading recipes, I chose one from Aaron McCargo Junior, also known as Big Daddy, a winner of Food Network Star. It uses an acceptable amount of butter and hazelnut liqueur. I was sold.

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Here’s what you need:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick cold butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces hazelnut liqueur (recommended: Frangelico)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick butter spray and line bottom with parchment.

I used a 9-inch pan, because it’s what I had.

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To make the parchment lining, cut a square as big as the pan. Then fold it in half twice to make a small square.

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Then fold it to make a triangle.

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Line up the point of the triangle to the center of the pan and cut away whatever hangs over the edge, but cut it on a curve.

Unfold.

Spray your pan with cooking spray, then set in the parchment.

Put the chocolate, butter, vanilla and hazelnut liqueur in a large bowl on top of a double boiler. Stir the mixture frequently until combined and smooth.

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To save time, I did this in the microwave. Heat in 30 second intervals stirring between each one. Three rounds should do it.

Remove the chocolate from heat and put the bowl into an “ice bath” to cool the chocolate.

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This keeps the eggs from cooking in hot chocolate.

Mix in the sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in the eggs and pour into the prepared cake pan. Put the cake pan on a sheet tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Using the 9-inch pan gave me a thinner cake, but that’s good (in my opinion), because this is a rich cake.

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Aaron McCargo Junior covers it in chocolate ganache. While that sounds amazing, I wanted to do something that would break up the intensity of the chocolate.

First, I topped it with a shower of powdered sugar.

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Then I made Kelsey Nixon’s (another Food Network Star competitor) salted caramel. It is so easy.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon gray sea salt, crushed or kosher salt

I was shocked that this recipe didn’t call for vanilla, but you don’t need it. Trust me.

I didn’t have unsalted butter (I ran out, GASP!), so I used salted butter and a 1/2 tsp. of fleur de sel.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool.

The salt and deep sugar flavor team up with the intense, fudgey chocolate cake to make a match that could put Divorce Court out of business.

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Try this dessert and you’ll quickly realize that a cake doesn’t need flour to flourish.

Tip: to avoid the alcohol in the hazelnut liqueur, use 1 tsp. of almond extract combined with enough water to make 2 ounces.

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