A late-night craving, a classy dessert

By J.M. HIRSCH, Associated Press
Published April 5, 2006

CONCORD, N.H. - Love is baking a chocolate cake at 4:30 a.m.

Actually, it's more of a coping mechanism. Love would have been telling my wife to sleep in while I got up with our - yet again - sick son. But we've been married long enough to be at that if-I'm-getting-up-you're-getting-up stage. Ah, love.

And so it was that at 4:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday I found myself consuming a pot of coffee, taking turns tending to our son and baking a rich chocolate dessert billed as a cross between a cake and a mousse.

"You're not going to write about this, are you?" my wife said, squinting through sleep and not enough caffeine.

Of course not. Well, maybe.

Not sure why it struck me this particular morning to start baking. But if I was going to be up at such an ungodly hour, I figured I might as well make use of the time.

I'd drooled for months over this recipe, torn from a magazine ad for a brand of high-end chocolate. Life is too short for bad chocolate. This recipe called for baking chocolate with 70 percent cocoa.

The recipe is for a flourless chocolate cake, which means it is dense and rich. Melt butter and chocolate with sugar, then beat in five eggs and a dash of ground almonds. That ratio means the cake is a tiny bit gooey.

That ingredient list also means it's easy to pull together. Anything I can do before sunrise while also playing nurse has got to be simple.

I was amazed at how easy it was. The batter was ready in less than 10 minutes.

The best part is there are no complicated techniques, no fussy water baths or delicate measurements. Melt, whisk and bake.

The resulting cake is more delicious than I imagined. Just 45 minutes in the oven was perfect to develop a crisp, crackling crust over a layer of brownielike dough that concealed an almost molten chocolate center.

The cake is impressive in a rustic-dessert sort of way to serve guests or bring to a party. It is elegant with a simple dusting of powdered sugar. Or you can drizzle it with a raspberry sauce, or top it with vanilla ice cream.

Now that's easy to love.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

1 tablespoon ground almonds, plus additional to dust pan
10 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
5 large eggs
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, then dust it with ground almonds, shaking off any excess. Set aside.

In a double boiler set at a low simmer, melt the chocolate, butter and sugar, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and ground almonds. Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate and stir until thickened, several minutes. Pour the cake into the pan, smooth the top and bake 45 minutes, or until the top is set and begins to crack.

Remove the side of the pan and let the cake cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Green & Black's chocolate