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Flourless Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue

I have a guilty pleasure. I love to watch cooking and baking shows. Amongst my favorites, I love watching the British Baking Show and attempting to make gluten-free versions of the foods featured on the show. When I see a technical challenge featuring a naturally gluten-free selection, I get especially excited. What makes a technical challenge rife with complications is all the nuances of a multi-step process, usually the interactions of ingredients that need to be combined, heated, chilled, or vigorously or minimally worked, somehow in a very specific manner that if done incorrectly could lead to a poorly constructed final product.

Needless to say, a significant variable is the issue of gluten in baking. Gluten works like glue to bind ingredients. It creates the texture of bread and is essential for fine pastry work. Try as I might, I have not been able to make nor find an acceptable gluten-free phyllo dough.

The cake technical challenge for the American holiday edition of the British Baking Show was a flourless chocolate cake with a meringue topping. There are no gluten-free substitutions necessary because this cake requires zero flour. Instead, it requires nothing more than 12 tablespoons melted butter, 6 ounces melted semi-sweet chocolate morsels, 5 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup unsweetened ground cocoa. No flour. No gluten substitutions. What makes this cake challenging for most bakers is the lack of flour, gluten or gluten-free. If any of the precise steps are missed, the timing or heat is off, you could end up with a cake that’s more fudge than cake.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350.

Step 2: Melt the butter. I used a saucepan, but this could be done in a microwave;

Step 3: Melt the chocolate in the butter. Mix periodically.

Step 4: In a stand-in mixer (or using a handheld mixer), beat the eggs with the sugar.

Step 5: Mix a third of the butter/chocolate mixture to the eggs/sugar mixture. Add 1/4 cup unsweetened ground cocoa. Repeat until all of the ingredients are combined.

Step 6: Butter generously a 9-inch springboard cake pan. Pour in the batter and bake for 35 minutes.

Step 7: Test with a toothpick, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

The merengue is tricker. Meringue consists of egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. The ingredients may be simple, but the technique can vary from region to region. The three main types of meringues are French, Italian, and Swiss. The French technique is to whip egg whites until they have reached stiff peaks, then gradually adding sugar. The Italian technique is to gradually beat a sugar syrup into the egg whites after they have reached stiff peaks. The Swiss technique involves whisking the egg whites with sugar over a double boiler until they are warm to the touch, then beating them to stiff peaks. All three techniques use the same ingredients, but the texture and stability of the final product vary, making them ideal for different types of uses.

I went with the Swiss meringue for my cake. It doesn’t rise as much as the French or Italian, but the heating step in the double boiler makes it better suited for baking on top of cakes or pies. Italian is best for frostings and mousse while French is best for soufflés and delicate desserts.

Step 0.5: Hopefully, the oven is still set to 350. If not, turn the oven back on.

Step 1: Separate four eggs. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand-in mixer.

Step 2: Add 3/4 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Step 3: Take a large pot and fill it with about an inch of water. While it is coming to a boil, hand whisk the egg white mixture in the bowl. NOTE: Do not overfill the pot with water. You want steam to heat the bottom of the bowl, not boiling water.

Step 4: Once the water is boiling, place the bowl on top and set your timer for three minutes. Whisk. Do not stop whisking unless you want steamed egg whites.

Step 5: When the timer goes off, carefully with oven mitts, move the bowl to the stand-in mixer with the whisk attachment, and turn on to full blast. When the egg whites reach glossy stiff peaks, it’s ready.

Step 6: (Do not proceed until the oven is fully preheated). Carefully pour the meringue into the center of the flourless chocolate cake. Since the meringue will pretty much stay in place, you can get a little fancy with creating textures on the top, or you can smooth it so it’s about an inch from the perimeter of the sides of the spring-board pan.

Step 7: Bake for 12-15 minutes. Your glossy white meringue will have a crisp tan when it’s ready.

Step 8: Cool completely on the rack before serving.

This tastes like a dream. The meringue has a soft pillowy texture that just melts on my tongue while the cake is rich chocolate without being a fudge brownie. The contrast of textures between rich chocolate cake and pillowy meringue makes this a delicious comfort food without requiring any gluten-free substitutions.

Now, normally I’ll make a keto version of my recipes for Maggie. I won’t this time. Maggie does not need a keto chocolate cake. Since her keto diet is so restrictive, I want to save indulgent calories for special occasions instead of my “I feel like cake” craving. Mommy doesn’t need a chocolate cake either, but Mommy is old enough to indulge in a decadent dessert from time to time.


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