Yesterday we had a small party at my office to celebrate my company's fifth anniversary, and our pendaison de crémaillère, which is French for a housewarming party. Une crémaillère is a trammel, i.e. the metal adjustable hook that was used to hang pots in the fireplace in the days of yore, and the hanging (pendaison) of this essential piece of equipment in a new house was as good an occasion as any to have a village gathering.
Our new offices are located in the south of the 13th arrondissement, close to the Parc Montsouris and the very nice Butte-aux-Cailles area. The street name happens to be Rue Brillat-Savarin, in reference to Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin*, who's considered the first food writer/critic in history. Cool, huh?
I had offered to bake a cake for the occasion, and decided to make a chocolate cake, a sure crowd-pleaser. I headed straight for Trish Deseine's Je Veux du Chocolat!, and used a recipe I had already successfully tested on my friends for Marie-Laure's birthday.
The recipe is called Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie. I have no idea who this Nathalie person is, but if her cake is anything to judge by, can we please be friends? Also, I like it when cookbook authors credit other people for their recipes -- a smart way to make you believe all the others are their own, as the cynics will agree.
It is a very easy recipe that does not require a food processor, and like all dark chocolate cakes, it is better if made the day before -- or at least in the morning, if served for dinner.
Edit: Over the years my way of making this cake has evolved, and I've updated to recipe below to reflect that. I now use 200 g of sugar (instead of the original 250 g) and 4 eggs (instead of the original 5), I bake the cake at 180°C (instead of the original 190°C) for slightly longer (25 instead of 20 minutes), and I sprinkle the surface with fleur de sel, which enhances the chocolate flavor and provides tiny jolts of saltiness here and there.
The cake was gorgeous, and was suitably wolfed down by my appreciative coworkers. It had a nice crumbly crust, while the inside was 100% melty gooey chocolate goodness. Needless to say, it is pretty rich (I mean, did you look at the ingredients?), so it is best served with something refreshing -- ideally, Marie-Laure and Ludo's fruit salad, but your own fruit salad, fresh strawberries, ice cream and/or whipped cream will be great too.
* Brillat-Savarin published a treatise on the art of dining called "La Physiologie du goût" ("Physiology of taste") and he's the one who said "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es", translated as "Tell me what you eat, I will tell you who you are" or "You are what you eat".
Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake
- 200 grams (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 200 grams (7 oz) high-quality bittersweet chocolate
- 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
- 4 large eggs
- a rounded tablespoon of flour
- fleur de sel or kosher salt, for sprinkling
Note: like all dark chocolate cakes, this cake is best made a day ahead (or at least in the morning if you serve it for dinner).
Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter the sides of an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (no need to if you're using a non-stick pan).
Melt together the butter with the chocolate (in a double-boiler or in the microwave slowly and for just a few seconds at a time, blending with a spoon between each pass). Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add in the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and let cool a little. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the flour and mix well.
Pour the dough into the prepared pan, sprinkle the surface lightly with fleur de sel, and put into the oven to bake for 25 minutes, until the center is set. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the cake to loosen, then transfer to a serving platter. If you're making the cake a day ahead, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and take it out about an hour before serving.
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