• Yield: 8 servings

  • Time: 10 minutes prep, 25 minutes cooking, 35 minutes total

This rich, intensely chocolate cake is the perfect dinner party dessert because it is both so easy to make and seriously delicious. Like a little black dress, the recipe can be improvised on endlessly to create different effects. Add exotic flavorings such as freshly ground pink or black peppercorns, ancho chile, Mexican cinnamon, curry powder or garam masala (about 1/4 teaspoon); dried, unsprayed lavender flowers or herbes de Provence (1/2 teaspoon, crumbled), or ground Earl Gray tea (2 teaspoons). Or stir 3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts such as roasted pistachios, hazelnuts or pecans into the finished batter. For chocolate almond cake, add the barest whisper of almond extract (a scant 1/8 teaspoon) and chopped toasted almonds (Spanish Marcona almonds are sensational).

Serve the cake with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Makes one 8-inch cake that will serve 8 people. (For a dramatic 10-inch cake double the recipe and use a 10-inch cake pan or springform pan.)


  • Butter and flour for coating the pan

  • 8 ounces bitter or semi-sweet chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped (fresh, fragrant chocolate is essential)

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or half vanilla extract and half Cognac

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 or 2 teaspoons cocoa powder


Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Rub the inside of an 8-inch cake pan or a springform pan with butter. Swirl a few teaspoons of flour around to coat completely. Invert the pan and tap out the excess.

Combine the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. (Or, alternatively, combine in a medium, heavy saucepan and set on a flame tamer/diffuser over very low heat). Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; whisk well and set aside.

Combine the eggs, vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until light and frothy, 1 minute. Blend in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, whisking to blend completely each time.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 22 to 25 minutes until a skewer inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean. When inserted in the center, a bit of moist batter will cling to it. Do not over bake.

Cool the cake on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Invert back onto the rack so the shiny side is up. Cool the cake completely before sliding it onto a serving plate. Sift the cocoa over the top.

Copyright 2009, Sally Schneider, The Improvised Life.

Sally Schneider
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.