Here’s the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth. The cake recipe I adapted, named Chocolate Decadence and wrote a book about, is as delicious now as it was then, in the mid 70’s. Perhaps even more delicious, now that such wonderful chocolate abounds. Made with a pound of chocolate, Chocolate Decadence is quite the showcase for excellent chocolate. We originally used Ghirardelli dark, sweet chocolate. Not exactly knowing what that means any more, Ghirardelli’s 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar makes a great choice today.
It had been many years since I last baked a Chocolate Decadence cake. So baking it in my recent December cooking class was a treat for all of us. I made another Chocolate Decadence for friends at a Christmas party a few days ago. For that cake I served the single-layer 8-inch round cake cut into 20 portions. On the side were a bowl with Whipped Cream and another with Raspberry Purée. One-twentieth of the cake seemed just the right size portion.
Quite different from the “original” Chocolate Decadence, which is how we presented it in the class. “Traditionally” it was cut into twelve portions and grandly covered with cream and chocolate curls and rosettes all around. Each serving sat in a pool of Raspberry Purée. Guess that’s why the name Chocolate Decadence fits so well.
I’ll spare you the very involved whole story. It’s more important that you have the recipe for the original Chocolate Decadence than the story.
A hand-typed letter from Julia
I do want to share with you an excerpt from the wonderful hand-typed letter I have from Julia Child. Her letter was in response to receiving from me a copy of the Chocolate Decadence book I wrote in 1976. My friend Veronica di Rosa illustrated the book, and another friend Rebecca Martinez designed it.
Incidentally, I only remembered that I had a letter from Julia Child after watching the movie Julie and Julia for the third delicious time.
An excerpt from Julia’s very gracious letter
Once you read it, you’ll understand why it now hangs in a frame on my kitchen wall.
25 October 1977
Dear Ms. Feuer,
We are simply delighted delighted (sic) with your Chocolate Decadence; it is a beautiful book, a lovely recipe and the most delectable drawings. My husband, Paul, who is an artist and photographer, particularly enjoyed them, and savored every bit of it, while I savored every page of the recipe….
Anyway, I am simply delighted to have your book and I hope that you are continuing on in your career as a great cook and pastry chef. Many thanks and all good wishes.
Mrs. Paul Child
A pound of chocolate and a tablespoon of flour
Technique is the all-important ingredient in making Chocolate Decadence. My first cake made according to a recipe I was shown for European Truffle Cake, came out mediocre at best. And definitely not worth repeating.
Early on while working as pastry chef at Narsai David’s eponymous restaurant in Northern California, the chef Maurice Kau taught me how to make a classic genoise (European sponge cake). The rise of a genoise relies completely on whipping whole eggs until they become thick and light and absolutely gorgeous.
A while later, a friend asked for something really chocolate and really decadent for a special dinner guest at the restaurant. Okay, it was time to try that cake again. This time though with my newly acquired techniques. I adjusted both the recipe and the ingredients. What a difference. We now had a most amazing chocolate cake.
Obviously, I called this cake Chocolate Decadence. A name that stayed with the cake ever since. The next morning, a very pleased Narsai offered the suggestion of serving it with puréed raspberries. And so we did.
I developed the original Chocolate Decadence cake while I was the pastry chef at Narsai’s Restaurant in Kensington, California (just north of Berkeley). That cake was enveloped in Whipped Cream. Large chocolate curls filled its center encircled with rosettes of cream. Individual pieces of cake sat in a pool of Raspberry Purée.
I now suggest just a light sprinkling of organic powdered sugar along with a dollop of sweetened Whipped Cream so the intense chocolate flavor comes through undiluted. The Raspberry Purée still works deliciously. But then so does my Chunky Raspberry Sauce. Your choice: Raspberry Purée, Chunky Raspberry Sauce or even fresh raspberries.
Makes one 8-inch cake, 12-20 servings Printer-Friendly Recipe
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time 13½ hours including baking the cake, an overnight stay in the freezer, plus time for it to return to room temperature
1 pound Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar
5 ounces butter
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar OR 1 tablespoon light honey, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed, puréed and strained of seeds
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
- Combine the chocolate and butter in the top pan of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Heat until the chocolate and butter are just melted. Set aside.
- Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl into a pan of simmering water. Whip the eggs and sugar with a wire whisk until warm to the touch.
- Immediately remove the bowl to the mixer. Whip at high speed until the eggs triple or more in volume, thicken and pale in color.
- Gently stir a fourth of the eggs into the melted chocolate.
- Sprinkle the flour over the eggs. Then with a light hand, use a rubber spatula to fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs, deflating them as little as possible. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake on the middle shelf in the hot oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Wrap it in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 12 hours and up to a month.
- To unmold, spin the pan for 15 seconds over a lit gas burner on low. Run a small knife around the perimeter of the cake. Turn the cake out onto a cutting board.
- If you enfold the cake with Whipped Cream, trim the top of the cake so it is even. Place the cake upside down on either a plate or a cake board for decorating. Note you will need to whip 1½ cups of cream for this presentation.
- If you’ll sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar, there’s no need to trim the top of the cake. Place the flat bottom of the cake on a plate.
- Prepare the Whipped Cream and Raspberry Purée.
- Let Chocolate Decadence return to room temperature before serving.