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Monday, October 7, 2013

Better with Chocolate!

I have a theory.  I'm not sure if it's a sound theory, but I do spend a lot of time trying to prove it.  What is this theory, you might ask?  Well, I pretty much think that there is no problem in this world that chocolate can't solve.  Or at least make you feel slightly better about.  And if you don't have any problems?  Then you should definitely celebrate your problem free existence with some chocolate.  I would say that it is on my list of the world's most perfect foods (right up there with apple pie, crab, and peanut butter).  And besides - it's high in antioxidants, so I'm practically doing my body a favor!  At least that's what I'm telling myself.....

I've been noticing a trend lately of flourless chocolate cakes.  I know, I know.  The increase in recipes for these cakes is probably due to the gluten free necessity of a lot of people, and the low carb demands of others.  But I see flourless chocolate cake, and all I can think is "how rich is THAT?". That's like chocolate overload, without the pesky filler.  I'm in!  But, of course, I couldn't stop there.

Here is my other obsession - cheesecake.  I.  Love.  Cheesecake.  If there is no chocolate or cheesecake involved  I call it a "dessert tease".  Sure, it appeases your sweet tooth, but if I'm going to eat dessert, I want decadence.  So I figured, why not a flourless chocolate cake with a cheesecake layer?  (Genius, I say!).  So, off to the kitchen I went to make this decadent dessert adventure happen.  (Warning:  this is not for the faint of heart or diet conscious.  The mere amount of butter is enough to send Paula Deen into a happy fit, y'all.)  

Flourless Chocolate Tuxedo Cake

For the crust:
2 c chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar

For the cheesecake:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate cake:
1 stick of butter
8 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped roughly
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
5 eggs, separated
1/2 c sugar

Tools needed: 
Springform pan (9")

As always, start by preheating
your oven to 350 degrees.
Place graham crackers in a food processor and grind to a fine crumb.  Add melted butter and sugar and mix well.  Press buttery, graham crackery goodness into the bottom of your spring form pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes to set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Once your crust is out of the oven, it's time to start that cheesecake!  In your mixer, place cream cheese and sugar, and beat on medium until well combined and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla, and continue mixing until everything is incorporated and smooth.  Be sure to scrape down the sides and scrape up the bottom of the bowl so that you don't get chunks of cream cheese that haven't been incorporated.  Now, take that velvety cheesecake and pour into the middle of your cooled crust, spreading outwards towards the edge leaving about a half inch of space between the cheesecake and the sides of the pan.  Set this aside while you build the chocolate layer.

I'm not going to lie:  this part is FUN!  You get to employ many baking techniques here, and, of course, I will have pictures.  (Did you expect anything less?)  First, place a sauce pan on medium heat and plop a stick of butter into it.  Once that butter is melted, reduce heat to low and add your chopped chocolate. Once the chocolate starts melting, remove pan from heat and keep stirring to melt the rest of the way. Here's an important tip - make sure the spoon you are going to use to stir the chocolate is completely dry.  Make sure your pan is completely dry.  Make sure if you've washed your hands, they are completely dry.  I cannot stress this enough.  The problem with chocolate is that it is temperamental. If you get water in your chocolate, it will seize up.   If you heat it too high, it will seize up.  And once that happens, you're done.  There's no coming back.  I know this from experience. You will have a lumpy, curdled looking brown mess on your hands, and no one wants that!  You want a velvety smooth chocolate/butter mixture.  And if you are patient and pay attention and keep stirring, that is exactly what you will have.  Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, set aside to cool a little while you go on to your next step.  

Get out your five eggs.  These need to be separated.  I do this by grabbing two bowls and my mixing bowl.  The easiest way I have found to separate an egg is to crack it into your hand, then slightly separate your fingers to let the whites run through into the bowl.  I then place the yolk in the other bowl, then dump the white into my mixing bowl.  Repeat this four more times.  I always put each egg white into the mixing bowl so I have an empty bowl each time I crack and separate.  There is nothing more frustrating to me than getting four eggs in and having a bit of yolk drip into your pristine egg whites.  This will mess up your meringue.  Again, I know this from experience.  This way you know if you break one yolk, you're wasting ONE egg, not multiple eggs.  
Separating eggs can be easy....I promise!
Once all your eggs are separated, set aside the mixing bowl full of egg white, and dump the yolks into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.  Now, add the chocolate.  Because the chocolate is still slightly hot, you need to temper it.  If you were to dump the warm chocolate into the egg mixture, you'd get chocolate scrambled eggs. (EW!).  So, take a scoop full of chocolate (I usually just use a dry measuring cup), and pour into chocolate mixture while stirring constantly.  This will cool down the chocolate mixture.  You can do this a couple times to be safe, then pour the cooled down chocolate mixture into the remaining egg mixture in your mixing bowl.  Stir until well combined and set aside.  

Now,we make meringue.  I know, this all sounds pretty complicated, but I promise it's not!  Just breathe....this will all be worth it in the end.  Place the whisk attachment onto your mixer and whisk those egg whites!  Same principle as making whipped cream.  The aeration will stiffen up the whites and give you meringue.  So, place your mixer as high as it will go, and watch the eggs go from liquid to a fluffy little egg cloud. 
Hard to believe that egg whites turn into THIS!

See how it almost looks fluffy?
Once you have stiff peaks, it's time to add to the chocolate mixture.  I took about a quarter of the egg white and just stirred it in the chocolate with a whisk.  I then dumped the remaining egg whites into the chocolate, and with a rubber spatula, gently folded it in until well combined.  Then carefully pour the chocolate on top of the cheesecake layer and spread evenly in the pan.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  You'll be able to tell that it's done by gently shaking the pan.  If the outside is set and the center jiggles ever so slightly, you're good to go.

Once the cake is done baking, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Once the cakecools a bit, run a butter knife around the edge and gently remove the side of the pan.  Allow to cool completely before serving.  
Oh my!

I'm not going to lie, when I was taking the ring off the spring form pan, I was a little nervous.  All I could think was "did this work?".  I was half wondering if I was going to remove the ring and have a molten chocolate cake effect.  But, lo and behold, I could not have asked for a more beautiful cake!  The texture is amazing.  It's light and decadent all at the same time.  It's kind of like a mousse, kind of like a custard, kind of like a cake.  The crunch of the graham cracker combined with the creaminess of the cheesecake with the lightness of the chocolate is absolutely perfect.  And the top of the cake kind of cracks and forms yet another crunchy layer.  I served mine plain, but you could also top with whipped cream or raspberries or strawberries, or even just a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.  This cake could definitely get me through a bad day.  


  1. Thanks, Becca! I wanted it to look a little more neat, and not as "I just threw this together and wrote words".