Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

DessertValentine's DayCakeChocolate

This Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook, has almost a pound of chocolate, a dozen eggs, 2 cups of sugar, almost a pound of butter, a cup of flour!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook, has almost a pound of chocolate, a full dozen eggs, almost a pound of butter, and only one cup of flour.

If you were looking for a chocolate cake that represented the excesses of the 1980s, I cannot think of a better one than this!

No frosting, but with those ingredients, who needs frosting?

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Since Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins introduced the world to this cake decades ago it has become part of our national baking repertoire. It’s like a pound cake, but with dark chocolate.

This cake manages to be both light and airy, while wonderfully rich and delicious, at the same time. Because the eggs provide so much structure, you can easily cut thin slices without having the cake fall apart.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Tips for making bittersweet chocolate cake

Making this bittersweet chocolate cake takes a little bit of baking skill, but is completely do-able. The parts that people may have trouble with are melting the chocolate, beating the egg whites, and folding the egg whites into the batter. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Whipping egg whites: When separating the eggs, make sure there are no bits of egg yolk in your egg whites. Any amount of fat in the egg whites will keep them from whipping up properly. Make sure your equipment — bowls and whisks or beaters — are spotlessly clean and free of any fat residue. Start on low speed and slowly increase the speed of your mixer.
  • Melting chocolate: Use chocolate meant for baking, not chocolate chips which have added stabilizers. Chop or grate the chocolate fine to make it easier to melt evenly. Add water to the chocolate before you heat them. Make sure that the bottom of the top bowl of your double boiler does not touch the water below it.
  • Folding beaten egg whites into the batter: Lighten the batter first by stirring in a third of the whipped egg whites until smooth. Then gently fold the remaining egg whites in, a third at a time, and do your best to not deflate the egg whites.

 

Updated September 13, 2018 : Recipe, intro notes, photos updated, originally published 2006

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake Recipe

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  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 20 small, but quite rich, servings

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs, separated (see how to separate eggs)
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 14 ounces (400 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, grated or cut into small pieces
  • 4 Tbsp (60 ml) water (or more if needed)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 sticks (3/4 lb plus 4 Tbsp, or 400 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 cup (135 g) all purpose flour, sifted
  • Powdered sugar

Special equipment:

Method

1 Preheat oven, prepare springform pan: Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a rack in the center of the oven. Place a baking sheet in a rack below it (to catch any drippings or spill-overs).

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. Add a few tablespoons of sugar and gently shake so that all the sides and bottom of the pan are coated with sugar. Tap out excess sugar.

2 Beat egg yolks with sugar: Beat egg yolks with the granulated sugar until they are thick and pale yellow and form a ribbon when they fall from the beater, about 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed of an electric hand mixer.

beat egg yolks with sugar

3 Melt chocolate: Make a double boiler by heating an inch of water to a bare simmer in a saucepan, and place a metal bowl on top of it. Make sure that the bottom of the metal bowl is not touching the water below.

Place chocolate and 4 Tbsp of water together in the top metal bowl of the double boiler.

Slowly melt the chocolate over barely simmering water, whisking it until smooth. If the chocolate gets too thick, and looks like it will firm up, whisk in a tablespoon more of water.

Whisk in a pinch of salt.

Let cool until just warm to the touch.

create a double boiler for melting the chocolate whisk melted chocolate

4 Make batter base: Slowly fold the warm chocolate into the egg mixture, gently stirring while you add the chocolate. Stir in the softened butter. Stir in the grated orange peel. Stir in the sifted flour. Mix thoroughly but gently.

mix chocolate and egg mixture for bittersweet chocolate cake batter mix softened butter into bittersweet chocolate cake batter mix orange zest into bittersweet chocolate cake batter mix flour into bittersweet chocolate cake batter

5 Incorporate beaten egg whites: Beat the egg whites until stiff. (See this wonderful explanation of whisking egg whites taken from La Bonne Cuisine de Madame Sant-Ange.)

Stir one third of the beaten egg whites in to the chocolate egg mixture to thin it. Gently fold in the remaining beaten egg whites, a third at a time until the egg whites are completely incorporated. Be careful at this stage not to over-mix.

gently fold beaten egg whites into chocolate egg flour mixture to make batter bittersweet chocolate cake batter

6 Bake: Pour the batter into your prepared springform pan. The batter will come close to the top of the pan. Set the pan on the middle rack of your oven and bake at 325°F for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean, or a digital thermometer inserted into the center reaches 200°F (93°C).

Do not worry if the top of your baked chocolate cake has cracks in it! As the cake cools the top will settle and the cracks will close.

7 Cool: Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove the outer rim. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate.

remove chocolate cake from springform pan and let cool

8 When ready to serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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14 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Chris

    Beautiful cake! I baked it to an internal temperature of 205F and it was a touch over done so I will back it off to 200F for the next bake. This is the first time (that I can remember) adding water to chocolate to thin it down, but it worked perfectly! The orange peel is a nice accent as well.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Kim

    I love this cake but I hate making it! I’ve been making it for about 25 years. I add the water before the chocolate is put on the heat but, instead of adding more water when it stiffens and starts to seize I add butter from the 3 1/2 sticks. I learned the hard way that the butter works way better!
    I would like to see a video of someone making the chocolate pourable with water.

  • Beth

    This cake is amazing. I made it for my fiance’s birthday last year, and he ate most of it himself despite not being big on sweets.

    Getting the egg whites right can take a long time if you’re like me and have to do everything by hand, but it is SO worth the outcome. This is probably the best cake I’ve ever made. The orange adds that extra little oomph which pushes the flavor from delicious to perfect.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Becky

    Though I have not made this recipe, I have made several others that call for melting chocolate with water and it always turns out fine. The trick is to melt them over a double boiler TOGETHER. If you melt the chocolate first, then add the water, you will have brown chunky concrete (trust me, I know). They must rise and fall in temperature at the same time.

  • Mick

    I’ve made this cake for years, since the SP cookbook was published. It’s great to see photos of it! Never knew if mine looked right since the origi recipe has no photo. Mine looks exactly like yours.

    It’s been my favorite chocolate cake since the 1980s.

    I do like the idea of swapping milk for the water, this batter is way stiff. I never feel like the whites Are folded in completely, leaving some light spots in the cake, but I’ve overfolded before and the result is too dense on the bottom and too airy on top.

    Anyway, it’s an awesome cake and thanks for the photos

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