Aunt Amélie’s Smooth Chocolate Cake Recipe

Le Fondant au Chocolat de Tante Amélie

[Aunt Amélie's Smooth Chocolate Cake]

None of my aunts are named Amélie, I thought I should make that clear from the start. And if I am to explain the origin of this recipe, I will need to rewind the tape back to early January, when French food writer Thierry Roussillon asked if I would answer a few questions for one of the interviews gourmandes he publishes on his blog.

A few days after I did, a severe bout of procrastination found me browsing through other people’s interviews. I happened upon that of Augustin, of Michel et Augustin fame, who made a passing mention of “le fondant de Tante Amélie, un gâteau au chocolat épatant cuit au bain-marie” — “Aunt Amélie’s smooth cake, a stupendous chocolate cake cooked in a water bath.”

Stupendous? Smooth? Chocolate? And a novel technique? My curiosity itched so badly it had to be soothed with tiger balm. I called Augustin and asked in my sweetest voice if he was willing to share the recipe — provided it didn’t break any sort of culinary omertà of course. He was, it didn’t (Amélie is in fact the aunt of Augustin’s wife, Victoire, which leaves us with a pretty daisy chain of French names), and I gave the recipe a whirl at the first opportunity.

It is indeed an unusual, and very easy recipe that begins with a sirop de sucre (a syrup of equal parts water and sugar) in which you melt the chocolate and butter. As for the hot water bath, its role is to conduct the heat gently around the pan, resulting in a smooth crustless texture that swathes your tongue.

And so I had made the cake and set it to cool, the kitchen counter had been cleared and I was taking a minute to admire the finished product, my head slightly tilted to the right, when it occured to me that something was missing. My cake looked naked.

Now, as regular readers may have noted, I rarely submit my cakes to the suffocating torments of frostings, icings, or glazes: I prefer the looks of a simple cake, and I don’t enjoy the mouthfeel (nor the extra work) of most frostings. But if I was going to serve this one to company — and company was expected any minute — it really needed some sort of headdress.

This is when I remembered that Les Petits Mitrons — a pastry shop on rue Lepic that specializes in beautifully old-fashioned but excessively caramelized fruit tarts — sells a similar chocolate cake that is decorated with a shiny topping of sliced almonds.

I wasn’t certain how they achieved that finish, but I opted for an abricotage, the trick that makes classic French fruit tarts so glossy: you combine two parts apricot jam with one part water, heat gently until thin, fish out any bit of apricot skin, and brush lightly over your tart or cake or body.

I didn’t have apricot jam on hand, but I did have a half-eaten (no: half-full) jar of Christine Ferber‘s strawberry and mango jam, and that worked splendidly. I toasted a handful of sliced almonds, stirred them into the mangofraisage, and spooned that atop the cake, which I served with mango sorbet, to soft moans of approval from my dinner companions.

Le Fondant au Chocolat de Tante Amélie

165 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
165 grams (5 3/4 ounces) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
165 grams (3/4 cup) butter, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60 grams (1/2 cup) flour, sifted

For the topping
2 heaping tablespoons apricot jam
30 grams (1/3 cup) sliced almonds, toasted

Grease the sides of a 22- or 25-cm (9- or 10-inch) round cake pan with a pat of the butter and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set a rimmed baking sheet (lèche-frite in French) in the middle of the oven, or a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the cake pan. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Combine the sugar with 165 mL (2/3 cup) fresh water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the butter, and keep stirring until that’s melted too. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. In the meantime, bring water to a boil in the kettle.

Add the eggs into the chocolate mixture and whisk until incorporated. Add the flour and whisk it in. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, set the pan on the rimmed baking sheet in the oven, and pour hot water into the rimmed baking sheet until it reaches a depth of about 1 cm or 1/3 inch.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is set at the center. Transfer to a rack for a few minutes, turn out onto a serving plate, and let cool completely.

Combine the jam and a tablespoon water in a small saucepan and set over gentle heat, stirring with a spoon until melted. Add the toasted almonds, stir gently to combine, and spread with a spoon over the top of the cake. Let set in a cool spot for an hour.

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  • http://adelices.canalblog.com/ Adèle

    Ca me tente, les fondants au chocolat c’est ma passion!

  • http://www.maminaclaude.canalblog.com/ mamina

    Amélie a de bien bonnes recettes. J’adore le dessus aux amandes.

  • Alisa

    I LOVE this post! I giggled all the way through, and now I get to make that delicious cake. :)

  • http://noemiecuisine.canalblog.com noémie

    I love the topping: sweet and crunchy. Apricot is a really combination with chocolate but your mangofraisage seems good too!

  • Caroline

    Finding the perfect chocolate bain-marie cake has become an obsession of mine. One of my French cookbooks has a recipe for a similar cake (albeit flourless) and it’s one of my favorite desserts to make. I thought it was the best chocolate cake ever until I had an ever better one on a Royal Carribean cruise. When no one was looking, I copied the recipe out of the Royal Carribean cookbook. Not surprisingly, it was the same recipe except the egg/chocolate/butter/sugar ratios were slightly different (I haven’t tried it yet because other projects got in the way). I like your topping idea; although a cake like this is best without a topping, you can’t help but feel like you’re selling your guests short if you present them with an unadorned cake.

  • http://www.monikakorngut.com Monika

    I love how inventive you are with your concoctions, “the half-eaten jar”. I too giggled while reading this. Very nice story :-)

    Monika

  • Christina Oldenburg

    I’m a big fan of yours, live in the San Francisco Bay area.

    Julia Child has a recipe published in Julia Child and Company, 1979 for a chocolate cake which she claimed to have invented, called Le Gâteau Victoire au Chocolat, Mousseline. The recipe and method are not exactly like your Amélie, but Julia’s is done in a bain-marie. You mention the name Victoire – Well, I don’t know where Julia got that name, but??

    I made it once. It was rich and fabulous. The only problem is that I used a spring-form pan which leaked! Some water from the bain-marie got into the cake so it was more liquid than I wished!

    We have a “family” recipe much like yours which comes from a professional culinary family in Lyon (France.) It is also to die for, though I never thought to make it in a bain-marie. I shall try it.

    Thank you – your work is great!!!!
    Christina Oldenburg

  • http://suzycantcook.wordpress.com suzy

    mmmm …. this recipe has just been added to my weekend list. i cannot wait to try it out!

  • goldensyrup

    Hi there,
    This cake looks absolutely lovely. I make a similar version without the topping and it has made me the hit of my husband’s office… I’ll have to try the almonds myself because I have been looking for a little something to mix it up a little. I moved to France myself a year ago and I’m a self confessed food nut. I find so many cakes with the word ‘fondant’ in the title, but the translation ‘smooth’ never really quite cuts it! For the anglophone we tend to banter around the words fudgy, mud, etc… but there seem to be so many opportunities in the discussion of food where the phrase ‘lost in translation’ is apt! I have discussed this exact word with my bi-lingual husband and he can not really translate any better than ‘smooth’ either.. but it is funny because when asked to translate the word ‘fondant’, a bewitched smile flits across his face.. Somewhere the division is annoying, but somewhere else the difference is delicious and delightful at the same time! When I see that expression on my husband’s face I know that cake, chocolate, sugar, butter.. these things unite our world no matter what the tongue!

  • lisette

    I bet you could use raspberry jam melted with a little Chambord to have a more “traditional” combination for the chocolate cake. Delicious!

  • http://www.TasteTV.com Kevin at TasteTV

    This is the first chocolate recipe I’ve seen in a while that I feel I have to try as soon as I can.

    J’espere que je peux le faire precisement comme vous dites.

  • http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.com mrbunsrocks

    This looks awesome. I love how dark and decadent it is. Don’t know if I’m a huge almond fan, but the idea is definitely worth exploring further…..

    Thanks! :)

  • http://buttercupandbean.blogspot.com/ buttercup

    My god, that sounds divine.

  • Marilyn

    A great valentine idea. Chocolate ALWAYS works.

    Clothilde, We are flying to Paris from Chicago next week. We would be happy to bring you Cocoa Puffs or any other U.S. products that you crave. We would be happy to drop anything off at a designated spot. Guessing that you are swamped with work on your publishing deadline. Just let us know.

  • Caro

    Clotilde–your comment about the unbearable nudity of the plain cake reminds me of a story MFK Fisher tells in The Measure of My Powers(?) and again in As They Were. In one of her first independent cooking projects as a small child, she makes a white pudding for her mother, who has just given birth. The tale of the decorative blackberries has a tragic turn, but Fisher recognizes her instinctivel revulsion at the dish’s initial plainness, its nakedness (I think she uses that word too), as the first stirring of her eventual calling. A gorgeous little parable about beauty and danger, like so many of hers. If you haven’t read it yet, do!

  • Lynn in Tucson

    I make a flourless chocolate cake like this each year for Passover (Laura Brody’s “Bete Noire”). Same syrup, same cooking method. Since I usually make two or three at a time (the stand mixer will handle the batter for two; three gets unruly), I’m anxious to try the cake strips sold by King Arthur flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/list.jsp?term=strips
    They wrap around the pan and conduct heat evenly, instead of baking in a bain marie.

    Et merci! I didn’t know there was a word for “abricotage.” But of course there is…

  • http://www.theportlychef.com/blog Chef Scott

    Sounds great, and simple to boot. I’ll attempt it next week.

  • Anna

    Rose Levy Berenbaum has a very similar chocolate cake, name the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte, in The Cake Bible. It’s also cooked in a bain-marie (but only for 15 minutes) but its only ingredients are chocolate, butter and half a dozen eggs. It’s delicious and really easy to make. For the “fondant” fans I recommend trying it.

  • Estelle

    I’m quite shocked to find out you show ads with the face of the dead Anna Nicole Smith on your blog. This is highly disrespectful and utterly nonsensitive.

  • http://cook-chinese-food.blogspot.com Voidan

    This cake looks soo delicious! I’m going to a party tonight & I have to give this cake a try :)

    However I think I’ll cover it with half-full jar of my home made red currant jam. Red currant combined with chocolade makes great sweet & sour taste I love ^_-

  • http://cuisineplurielle.canalblog.com cuisineplurielle

    tout cela a l’air délicieux

  • http://daydreamdelicious.blogspot.com Bonnie

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve just made the cake twice! Both turned out wonderfully and it is so simple to do. Thanks for this amazing recipe.

  • http://suzycantcook.wordpress.com suzy

    is it supposed to turn out like short-cooked brownies? the outside is set, but the inside … i mean, not that i don’t like gooey cake, but i feel like that’s not how it was supposed to turn out. hrrrmm. wonder what i did wrong?

  • http://bronmarshall.com bron

    oooh I DO like the sound of this, great topping!

  • aragones

    Merci pour cette recette aussitôt testée et… délicieuse ! Je n’avais pas de confiture d’abricots alors je me suis rabattue sur une excellent confiture d’oranges et c’était très bon !

  • http://ParisBreakfasts.blogspot.com ParisBreakfasts

    This chocolate cake looks divine…
    Paris and perhaps all of France is obsessed with glossiness.
    I am going back to do more research on this subject..PHd etc.

  • rainey

    It sounds almost as thought it could be like an American-style cheesecake. Except, of course, for the fact that there’s no cream cheese. Still, that’s the texture I’m imagining.

    This will definitely be on the list of things I can’t wait to try when I get a kitchen again.

  • http://coupecouture.fr sylvie

    Abricoter… Justement, nous venons de revoir Cyrano de Bergerac à la Comédie Française. Ragueneau, pâtissier qui se pique de faire aussi des vers, donne cette recette :

    comment on fait les tartelettes amandines.
    battez, pour qu’ ils soient mousseux,
    quelques oeufs ;
    incorporez à leur mousse
    un jus de cédrat choisi ;
    versez-y
    un bon lait d’ amande douce ;
    mettez de la pâte à flan
    dans le flanc
    de moules à tartelette ;
    d’ un doigt preste, abricotez
    les côtés ;
    versez goutte à gouttelette
    votre mousse en ces puits, puis
    que ces puits
    passent au four, et, blondines,
    sortant en gais troupelets,
    ce sont les
    tartelettes amandines !

  • http://www.theportlychef.com/blog Chef Scott

    Loved this recipe! I used a raspberry jam and drizzled white chocolate on top for a Valentine’s Day treat! You can see the picture over at http://www.theportlychef.com/blog.

    Thanks for yet another winner!

  • SallyBR

    Suzy

    the same happened to me – I think we probably underbaked it. It was hard for me to judge if it was really done, but now I think it could have profited from a little longer stay in the oven. I did not add any topping, went for the “naked fondant”

    Clotilde, it is wonderful anyway – but a little too gooey for a cake. I used to have fondant au chocolat in Paris when I lived there, this definitely brought me and my hubby good memories

    I “went creative” with the leftovers – put what was left in the fridge overnight, cut it in heart shapes and sprinkled powdered sugar on top.

    Brought to my lab early this morning, there is not a single piece left!

  • http://tomek.plumbum.pl Tomek

    This cake is delicious and melt-in-the-mouth though easy to make. Thank you for the recipe :)

  • Donna Smith-Harrison

    We’re having two dinner parties this weekend and I plan on making this for one of them! I have been thinking perhaps puttting the almonds in a caramel sauce!

    Will let you know how it turns out!

  • rainey

    Chef Scott- Hmmmmmm! Sounds like a Valentine dream come true.

    Donna- We’ll be in Monterey. If you have any leftover maybe your throwing arm is good? ;>

  • Kate

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.I like the part where u bake it like a cheesecake.Different for a choc cake.I will definately try it.

  • http://www.blueVicar.com blueVicar

    Sure, I’d be glad to partake. Maybe a nice piece of fondant au chocolat just after the veal shank mentioned below. The stories one could tell during such a meal…

    Meilleurs voeux!!

  • http://www.thym-thym.blogspot.com rose

    nice,simple and most important yummmmmmmmy.
    bonne continuation et bon courage avec le livre

  • http://www.tangoinhereyes.blogspot.com miss tango

    I shall just have to satisfy myself and lick the screen. There is no oven in this casa to bake a cake! eew…screen is not so good tasting!

  • Kate

    Hi Clotidle,
    i tried your recipe.It did’nt exactly have the same texture as yours.i guess i should’ve baked it for a little while longer but it tasted really good.I used raspberry jam and mixed sunflower seeds with the almonds.Thanks for sharing. Pictures are here http://aapplemint.blogspot.com/

  • Dorothy

    I am a grateful reader of your blog, so perhaps I may be permitted to tell you that the word is accommodate, so often misspelled.

  • Jke

    Clotilde, the type of almond coating on top looks like the ones I’ve eaten on top of Swedish Toska (Tosca?) cake and German Bienenstich (another cake).

    I’ve made the topping once, myself. It’s easy and tastes very good.

    The recipe involved cooking sliced almonds in butter and icing sugar until everyting sticked together, then spreading it over the nearly-fully baked cake dough about 15 mintues before the end of baking time. My cake dough was pound cake.

  • http://www.cforcooking.com Jeff

    No aunts named Amelie? You sure you are French?? hehe j/k

  • http://www.bfeedme.com/ Allison

    To die for!

  • http://chewonthat.blogspot.com Max

    Hands down best part about Valentine’s Day: all the chocolate cake recipes on the food blogs! Thank you! :)

  • http://www.thelifeofaprivatechef.blogspot.com Niall Harbison

    i really must hand it to you, wonderful execution of recipes. Like i said i cook for a billionaire and have tried a few of your recipes now and he loves them! What i love is that you have clearly tested them and they work and are the best for said dish!So many sites just re hash old useless recipes! I will continue to cook for this billionaire(top ten richest in world)using your recipes under the guise they are mine! Sorry
    BTW i have plenty of my own on my site!!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  • http://grandmamasrecipes.blogspot.com/ Lynn

    Absolutely beautiful recipe that I would love to try. I love visiting you. And thank you for the half full glass!

    Lynn

  • http://www.quicklittlesplinter.com rach

    I made this the other night as part of my Lonely Hearts Valentines dinner, and it’s my new favourite chocolate cake. It came out beautifully and everyone adored it. Thanks!

  • LordBest

    I just cooked this cake last night, it came out very well. Rather fudgesque, I perhaps overcooked it slightly, but undeniably delicious.

  • http://www.paristriptips.com paristriptips

    PRECISELY the recipe I needed for today…snowy, cold, blech. This will lift my spirits.
    Besides, dark chocolate is good for you! I’ll have it with a glass of red wine and be good to go…

    Thanks!

  • Lydia

    Deliciously fudgy! I made this cake tonight for a birthday party to rave reviews. And I love the ease of preparation and clean-up — only one pot! Thank you.

  • http://breadchick.com breadchick

    Oh my goodness! I made this cake to bring into work and it was the fudgiest most wonderful cake I’ve ever brought in. People devoured this…
    I topped it with raspberry jam and a bittersweet granache frosting and a dusting of cocoa powder. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make either. Definitely a keeper.

  • DarkAeons

    I made this cake, I really liked it but I had no almonds around… so I used dried cranberries instead… It was good :)

  • Carrie

    I made this cake last night and it is absolutely amazing. Smooth is the perfect adjective to describe the texture and the flavor is sinfully rich. I didn’t have any apricot jam so I used a combination of homemade apple jelly and store bought raspberry jam. It’s delicious with the almonds. I brought it in to work this morning and everyone is crazy about it!

  • http://katiasfoodblog.blogspot.com Katia

    i just made this cake and it turned out absolutely divine!!! Thank you so much for the recipe! I love your stories before the recipe, I think that putting the dish in context makes the food all that more appealing.
    This dessert reminds me of a chocolate moelleux that i tried in Paris which I attempted to replicate, it’s a much easier recipe than this one but also gives a smooth velvety taste. Enjoy :D

  • http://kulinariusz.blogspot.com kulinariusz.blogspot.com

    I borrowed that recipe from you about 5 or 6 years ago & baked it at many occasions – works great every single time! I made just one change to your original recipe – my topping is as sour as possible to counterbalance sweetness of the cake itself. Insted of apricot jam & almonds I’m usualy using sour redcurrant jam or cherry jam. Thanks to that you can eat a little more of this “haven on a plate”. You should try it! :-) Thanks for that recipe & your entire blog – lots of inspiration here!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I will give that a try, it sounds lovely! I’m glad you adopted this recipe into your repertoire.

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