Ah, the flourless chocolate cake (swoon). Rich but light, decadent yet airy, and incidentally gluten free-whether you care about that or not. With only five ingredients (most of which you probably have right in your pantry), it’s my go-to dessert for entertaining. (Here are more simple recipes worthy of dinner parties.)
You won’t believe how easy it is to make, either. We teamed up with the experts in the Test Kitchen to walk you through the step-by-step process. In about an hour, you could be sliding a chocolate cake into the oven.
How to Make Rich, Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake
5 large eggs, cold
12 ounces semisweet chocolate,* chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter,* cubed
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)
A double boiler (or a metal bowl placed over a saucepan)
9-inch springform pan
Stand mixer with whisk attachment, an electric hand mixer, or a whisk (and some serious elbow grease)
*Quick notes on ingredients:
Chocolate: Since this cake has so few ingredients, try to choose the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use any type you like (we like semisweet because it’s not overly sweet and has a deep, chocolaty flavor), but whatever type you choose, skip the chips. They’re made to hold their shape, not melt, so they won’t perform as well.
Butter: When it comes to butter, we recommend using unsalted for this recipe. It won’t add saltiness to the cake, and it’s less likely to absorb off-flavors from your refrigerator. It’s generally fresher when you buy it, too, because without the salt for a preservative, stores can’t keep it in on the shelf as long.
Step 1: Prepare the eggs
Start by separating the eggs. Crack them one at a time; after you crack the shell, let the white slide out into a bowl and trap the yolk in the broken shell half. Transfer the yolk from shell half to shell half, until all the white has fallen into the bowl. Then, drop the yolk into a separate dish.
Test Kitchen tip: You may want to use a third bowl while you’re cracking. Separate the white over this bowl, and once the white comes out cleanly, pour it into a bowl with the other whites. Then drop the yolk into the yolk bowl. This third bowl allows you to make sure no yolk spills into the whites, which could prevent them from beating to their full volume.
Once all your eggs are separated, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Why? It’s easiest to separate the yolks from the whites when the eggs are cold, but the whites will whip up to their greatest volume at room temperature. (More on that later!)
Step 2: Get the oven ready
Preheat the oven to 350°, and grease a 9-inch springform pan. (Read how to ensure the cake won’t get stuck over here.)
Why do we do this so early on in the process? Once your cake ingredients are mixed together, you want to start the baking: letting them sit will make the batter deflate. Also, turning on the oven this early ensures that it comes up to the full temperature.
Step 3: Melt the chocolate
In a double boiler (or a metal bowl resting over a pan of barely simmering water), melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth and glossy. Then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
Test Kitchen tip: Be careful not to let any water or steam come in direct contact with the chocolate. Water causes the chocolate to seize, and if that happens there will be no saving it. (Here are 10 more cake mistakes to avoid!)
Step 4: Beat the egg yolks and add chocolate
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and lemon-colored. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, and beat to combine. Set the chocolate mixture aside and clean your beaters.
Test Kitchen tip: Egg yolks can’t incorporate as much air as beaten whites, but they still do their part! When beaten at high speed, the yolks become thick and pale yellow from the incorporated air. You know you’ve beaten them correctly if the yolk forms into “ribbons” when you lift the beater from the mixture. This means the yolks will fall off of the beaters and ripple onto the surface of the liquid in the bowl, with a distinctly ribbony appearance.
Step 5: Beat the egg whites
This is the magic step. Whipped egg whites are what gives this recipe its body, that oomph that makes the cake light and airy. Other versions of flourless chocolate cake may not use beaten egg whites, but they’re just not as light as this recipe. For me, the mix of richness and light texture are what make flourless chocolate cake so special. (Want more decadent chocolate recipes? Of course you do.)
All right, let’s whip it!
In separate clean, large bowl, combine the egg whites with the cream of tartar and start beating on medium speed until they are foamy.
Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating on high after each addition until the sugar is fully dissolved. This gradual addition allows the sugar to incorporate into the whites without becoming gritty.
Test Kitchen tip: Cream of tartar is an acid that stabilizes the egg whites, helping them stay fluffy and tall without deflating. You don’t strictly need it, but it’ll help you out.
Step 6: Continue beating until you have stiff, glossy peaks
Why’d we make this a separate step? Because you should keep on beating until you get really glossy, stiff peaks. This can feel like it’s taking forever, but you’ll get there.
Look for visual indicators to know you’ve reached the stiff peaks stage: When you lift the beaters, the whites should stand up straight (the stage immediately before stiff peaks, soft peaks, will tend to droop). The final test? When you tilt the bowl, the whites won’t budge. Dip your finger into the mix: it should feel satiny and smooth, without any grit from sugar.
Step 7: Fold it all together
Time to combine the chocolate mix with the egg white mix-the last step before baking! Don’t rush this step, as you want to preserve as much of the aeration you’ve beaten into those egg whites as possible.
Here’s the secret: don’t just dump all the chocolate mix in with the egg whites at once. Instead, pour about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold them together, gently and carefully mixing with a wide rubber spatula.
Once that mix is combined, add it in one or two batches to the egg whites bowl. Fold gently until just combined.
How to fold? We like to dip a spatula down in the middle of the bowl, then scoop it back up toward the edges of the bowl. Rotate the bowl with your other hand, and keep working from the middle outward until the mix is mostly uniform.
Test Kitchen tip: Better to err on the side of slightly undermixing than on overmixing. Overmixing can make the cake too dense, as you deflate the egg whites too much. Small pieces of egg white visible in the mix are OK.
Psst: this step might sound kind of intimidating. Don’t fear! The worst thing that can happen is the cake will be slightly denser than you intended. Just call it a fudge cake and no one will be the wiser!
Step 8: Bake it
Transfer the batter to your greased, 9-inch springform pan. Bake the cake in a 350° oven for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Some moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick are fine!)
Test Kitchen tip: You might notice a flaky, crackly top layer-this is normal! It’s actually a very thin layer of meringue that rises to the top and sets as the cake bakes. You might notice this with brownies or other recipes where beaten whites are folded into a chocolate mixture. It’s going to be delicate and crispy on the top and moist and fudgy in the center (also known as perfect).
Step 9: Cool, slice, enjoy
This may be the hardest part. Let the cake cool completely in the springform pan set on a wire rack. When cool to touch, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a knife before removing the pan’s rim. If you want a little extra fancy touch, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Cut your delicious, indulgent cake into 12 pieces and enjoy!
Test Kitchen tip: For the cleanest slices, dip your knife in hot water, wipe it clean with a dish towel, and slice. Repeat the process for every slice and you’ll have restaurant quality slices!