Earthquake Chocolate Cake

Growing up my mom would make chocolate cake out of a box and we called it “baking.”  That was all I knew until I attended culinary school.  From then on, those Betty Crocker boxes were replaced by cocoa powder and real vanilla extract (not the imitation stuff…).  Since the Napa earthquake that rocked me, my cocoa powder, and the rest of the contents of my well stocked cabinets onto the floor, I refuse to ever purchase the most obnoxiously messy baking ingredient that is cocoa powder.  Seriously, try cleaning up iced tea and vinegar saturated cocoa powder that has seeped into your kitchen floors.  The smell is worse than a three week old dead fish coated in simple syrup and pickle juice.  A dried cocoa powder spill is already hard enough to clean, let alone sticky, acidic chocolate goo, while your nerves are on edge from aftershocks.  So when I saw a recipe for chocolate cake that was made entirely from bar chocolate instead of cocoa powder, I was on it quicker than flies on three week old dead fish.

I got this recipe from Baking by James Peterson.  Its been one of my favorite cookbooks pre- and post-culinary school.  It is his “Chocolate Sponge Cake,” but tweaked slightly.  If you are in the market for a new book to test out, check out this book!

Earthquake Chocolate Cake : Yields two, 8 inch cakes

  • Bittersweet Chocolate  250 g
  • Water                               1 C
  • Eggs, warm*                   8 ea
  • Sugar                                200 g
  • Cake Flour                       210 g

*If your eggs cold, you can submerge them in warm water until they are room temperature.

1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Cut out parchment circles by tracing the bottom of your cake tin with a sharpie.  Then cut out the circles (does not have to be a work of art, I’m far from a Picasso).  Spray your cake tins down with some cooking spray and press the parchment circle cut out (butchered, roundish parchment in my case) into the bottom of the cake tin and then spray that down too.


2. Take a small heap of flour and throw it into the bottom of the tin.  Move your tin around over the next tin or over a garbage can to fully coat the tin with flour.  You don’t have to go hogwild here, this is just to make sure that the cake comes out looking pristine.



3.  Sift your cake flour and place it aside for later.


4. Now heres a step that I never thought I’d ever be recommending, but combine the water and chocolate in a small saucepan.  Usually, water and chocolate should be NOWHERE near each other due to the fact that water will cause the chocolate to seize, not desirable.  But in this case, I’m asking you all to take a leap of faith and trust me.  Boil the chocolate and water down, stirring continuously until the chocolate looks like pudding.

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5.  Combine the eggs and sugar and beat on high for about 12 minutes with a stand mixer until it reaches ribbon stage.  Ribbon stage is reached when you lift the paddle out of the eggs and the mixture falls down gracefully in a band onto the surface and remains for a good few seconds.


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6.  Once you’ve hit ribbon stage, transfer the egg yolk mixture into a large bowl.  Working quickly but gently, fold the chocolate into the yolks.

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7.  Fold in your sifted cake flour.  Be sure to fold it completely into the batter or else you will wind up with lumps of flour in your finished cake.  You want to scrape the bottom of the bowl and jiggle the spatula up the center, trying to break up any pesky lumps.  Once you’re sure that you are lump-free, transfer your batter into your prepared pans.


8.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Once the cake is pulling away from the sides of the tin and the top does not jiggle when shaken or touched, your cake should be done.  If you are absolutely unsure, poke a toothpick into the center of the cakes.  If it is dry when pulled out, your cakes are done.

9.  Let the cakes cool completely, then remove from cake tins.  Before icing, be sure to remove the parchment paper.  Serve and enjoy!

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