12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 5: Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake

20141106_131346I discovered this recipe when I was browsing through Amanda Hesser’s old columns in The New York Times, pre-Food52. I am a big fan of her writing, and she shares some really interesting recipes and tidbits about the history of food. This comes from her Recipe Redux column, which she wrote as she researched and compiled The New York Times cookbook. Hesser would take a recipe from the NYT archives, hand it over to a contemporary chef, mixologist or cookbook author and ask them to add their own twist and update the recipe.

While she uncovered dozens of old gems, many of the recipes, when tested by modern chefs, weren’t met with enthusiasm- they lacked flavour, texture, or both. Many NYT readers, however, preferred the older recipes. For her farewell column, Hesser chose a recipe titled Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake from 1969, which was a universal hit. A recipe ahead of its time, quite similar to the molten chocolate cakes/bull’s eyes/chocolate decadence cakes you’ll find in restaurants today.

I’ll vouch for one thing: it’ fudgy, rich and oh-so-chocolatey, a safe end to any meal. It’s fudgy in the middle like a brownie, but has a moist crumb as well. It’s not entirely flourless, but calls for just a smidgen of flour- a tablespoon. One could easily swap in almond meal or a gluten-free flour to make a gluten-free version.

There’s another thing I’ll vouch for: you absolutely must use the nicest dark chocolate you can lay your hands on. Spend a little more, buy Callebaut/Lindt/good quality chocolate and your cake will not disappoint.

I made this recipe twice before posting. Once, with a cheap chocolate I found at the grocery store and the second time around with Lindt intense dark chocolate. The first slab of chocolate I used- which was packaged nicely and labelled “stone ground dark chocolate compound,” was a quarter of the price of the Lindt bars, but TERRIBLE. I kid you not- the cake smelled like a baked potato and tasted like plastic. I threw it out, the entire thing. The recipe is all about the chocolate, so use the best.

 

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EVELYN SHARPE’S FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 450 grams semisweet chocolate
  • ½ cup/110 grams butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

 

METHOD

  • Heat oven to 220 C.
  • Grease the base of an 8-inch cake pan or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate gently using the double-boiler method.
  • Once melted, pull off heat and stir in the butter, flour and sugar. Lightly whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix into the chocolate. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg whites until they hold a definite shape but are not dry. With a light hand, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. (Overbeating and underbeating will ruin the cake!)
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Open the oven door, leaving it ajar, and allow the cake to cool completely in the oven.
  • Serve warm, with some whipped cream or ice cream.

WHO IS EVELYN SHARPE?

As for who Evelyn Sharpe is, I honestly don’t know- a 1960s New York society lady, perhaps? Luisa Weiss has a link to the comments section of the original NYT recipe on her blog, but unfortunately, it doesn’t open. We’ll just think of Evelyn is a nice lady who gave the world a fabulous recipe!

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