Scientifically Sweet: Deep Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake

You know those kind of people who seem so intense and mildly intimidating on the outside but once you get to know them you realize it's just on the surface?

Inside, that person is soft and gentle. Conversation is actually quite light and goes down quite easy.

If this cake were a person, this is the personality it would have.

At first glance you think you're in for something heavy. It looks rich. It looks decadent.

But then once you have a bite, you're shocked! It's light on the palate. It is still rich in flavour - very chocolatey. But it doesn't weigh you down. In fact, it actually screams for a bit of thick cream! Not what you'd expect, but totally welcome.

As the story of a soufflé goes, we need to separate eggs. This cake is no different.

The easiest way to do this is with your hands. The whites will slide right past your fingers and you can gently cradle the yolk and transfer it to another bowl. If you want to keep your hands clean, use the two halves of egg shell to pass the yolk back and forth until you lose the white. Just be careful not to pierce the yolk with the sharp shell edges.

Did you know it's actually a myth that you can't whip egg whites if you get a bit of yolk in them?

Forget whatever you've heard in the past. I'm going to change your mind! Getting a bit of yolk in your whites just means it will take you longer to whip them but it doesn't mean you can't whip them at all. The worst is when you're making a recipe with 8 eggs and everything's peachy until you get a little too confident with the eighth egg. Well now I'm telling you don't ever throw out a whole lot of egg whites ever again - what a waste.

The fat in the yolks slows down foam formation by interfering and making it harder for the proteins to trap air, but it doesn't mean it won't happen at all. Just give it a bit more love.

 Because of all of the air built into the whipped eggs, this batter puffs up in the oven and then collapses dramatically as it cools. Don't freak out - this is supposed to happen. The collapse is what creates that moist, slightly dense and fudgy interior.

This is the complete opposite of what should happen in a restaurant. In my pastry chef days, I spend most evenings preparing countless chocolate soufflés. I used a special technique to ensure stability and prevent the disappointment of a flop. My soufflé had to stay tall in the hands of the waiter and survive the journey from my kitchen pass to the diner's table. This is serious business!

The secret is a "crème pâte", or cream paste, roughly translated. Essentially, crème pâte is a very thick, almost gel-like pastry cream that uses a hefty dose of hydrated starch to stabilize it. This would form the foundation of the soufflé before melted chocolate and softly beaten egg whites were folded in. I nearly never had a failed soufflé using this method.

Today we are using a lot less starch - only 2 tablespoons of flour. This has anti-structure written all over it. We're also essentially making a giant soufflé, and when making anything giant, you reduce the surface area. That means you decrease the amount of surface of the cake that is directly exposed to heat... hence, why the center is the last bit to cook. Basically, I'm rooting for a sinker!

This dark beauty is striking as it is presented, all caved in and crackly with a generous dusting of cocoa powder to reinforce how chocolatey it is.

A clean slice on the plate with a dollop of cream is the quintessential perfect way to end a meal. Pure class. Period. The only way one would deny this is if they have an aversion to chocolate. And, in that case... that person should never have been invited. Sorry.

Deep Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake
Serves 8-10

250 g/9 oz dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids), chopped
7 tbsp/100 g unsalted butter
6 tbsp sugar
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter the sides of a 9x5-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper.

In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the egg yolks and flour.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and whip until the whites are smooth, glossy and hold firm peaks.

Use a wide rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg whites until the chocolate mixture. Once incorporated fold in the remaining egg whites in two parts just until the mixture is smooth and no white streaks are visible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake has puffed up and feels slightly firm in the center. Do not over-bake. Let the cake cool in the pan. It will collapse as it cools as it should. Let it cool to room temperature before serving.

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  1. This cake looks so tempting! Just beautiful :)

  2. Sweet mother of all that is good and holy. I can't wait to make this.

  3. You are killing me here! Can't wait to make this. And I mean that!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I just baked this recipe and the final product looked somewhat different than that shown in your pictures. It rose uniformly and then shrunk uniformly too -- no collapsed center. It basically looked like a giant brownie with a more fudgey center. Any tips for improvement? Thanks!

    1. I would try increasing your oven temperature to 375 degrees F (your oven might be running a bit cold). This will help it souffle and set more on the outside while still being soft and fudge-like in the center. Cheers!

    2. Can baking soda or baking powder be added to retain a more airy structure?

    3. Baking powder will add more gas bubbles, but to retain them you would need to add more starch via flour, but then it wouldn't have that nice moist brownie-like texture...


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