If you’re looking for a good baking cookbook, I am more than happy to suggest Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible. The author isn’t only interested in telling you how a recipe is made, but also why a recipe works. Baking (and cooking, really) is science, so the more you understand about its fundamentals and techniques, the better you become as a baker. But the book isn’t complicated or impossibly technical. Kimball walks you through each recipe in a fun and very clear manner, and provides you with a list of products, ingredients and techniques that you can easily work with at home. It’s an excellent book for beginners and experienced cooks alike.
And this fallen chocolate cake is just one of my favorite recipes from The Dessert Bible. It’s easy to make. And it’s also easy to understand just why it’s so good: chocolate is a delicate substance that contains highly sensitive smell molecules or volatiles. You can’t smell food unless its aroma volatilizes and evaporates into the air. Smell is a big part taste. Without it, our experience of food or drink becomes incomplete. Coffee would be nothing but bitter water. Calamansi juice would only be sour and sweet. Applying heat is a great trick to getting more aroma out of anything (just imagine a freshly reheated loaf of bread). But in the case of chocolate, too much heat carries too much of these volatiles out. Your whole kitchen might smell heavenly, but your cake will be a little bitter and less complex. This “undercooked” cake retains the chocolate flavor.
This cake should be delicious even without the orange, so if you prefer your fallen chocolate cake without the orange, simply take out the zest and the extract. But you know how much I love citrus in baked goods (incidentally, citrus fruits are also full of volatiles), and the marmalade sauce was the favorite part of many of my taste testers.
For the cake:
8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 stick / 8 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all=purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
1 tbsp orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
For the orange sauce:
1 cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
Make your cake. Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour (or dust with cocoa powder) an 8 or 9 inch cake pan or springform pan. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave oven. Beat whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, sugar, zest and extracts until the volume of the mixture has nearly tripled and its color has become very light. If you lift the beater, the mixture should drop in a smooth and thick stream. Scrape the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Sprinkle flour on top. Gently fold until everything is well-combined and uniformly colored. Pour batter into your prepared pan. You can also keep this batter in an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to 8 hours, but remember to let it sit for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a thin top crust has formed and the center jiggles when the pan is shaken gently. Cool the cake for at least 15 minutes. The cake will fall in the cooling process, but not to worry. In this case, it’s exactly what you want.
Make your orange sauce. Combine marmalade, butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add orange juice. Stir over medium-low heat until marmalade melts and sauce is heated through, about 5 minutes.
Have your cake. Give it a light sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder. Bring out the whip cream. Pour as much sauce as you like.