Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake turned out to be a big success — a straightforward recipe with delicious results and a rich chocolate flavor. As you can see, it was designed for Easter. The top ridge of the cake caves in, creating a base for a whipped topping that looks like a nest. Lay some candy eggs on top and you’ve got much more than a flourless chocolate cake — you have an Easter Egg Nest Cake.

This was a Nigella Lawson recipe I clipped from The New York Times eight years ago. I don’t tend to have a lot of luck with her recipes, but as I suspected, the recipe’s appearance in the Times meant it was a winner. I hope you have similar results.

Yield: 1 9-inch cake

For the cake:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
6 large eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted and cooled
Approximately 1 cup small candy eggs, like robin’s eggs

1. Heat oven to 350F degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then grease the top of the paper.

2. For the cake, stir the softened butter into the just-melted chocolate and let cool. Whisk 4 egg whites until foamy (this is best done in a stand mixer). Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and whisk until whites hold their shape but are not too stiff. Reserve.

3. In a separate bowl, by hand, whisk 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar and vanilla until combined. Stir in chocolate to mix.

4. In three additions, fold whites into chocolate mixture*. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake rises, cracks, and center is no longer wobbly.

5. Cool cake on a wire rack; the middle will sink and the sides will crack. Carefully remove cake from pan and place on serving plate.

6. For topping, whip cream with vanilla until it is firm but not stiff. Fold in melted chocolate. Fill top of cake with whipped topping, easing it out gently toward the edges. Arrange candy eggs on top.

*A tip for folding mixtures: Folding is not the same as stirring. It requires gentle and methodical mixing with a spatula. Holding the bowl on the left side, cut through the batter with the edge of the spatula from left to right, then lift upwards with the broad side of the spatula along the half of the bowl closest to you. Give the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat, doing this until the batter is slowly mixed. Doing it this way preserves the air bubbles in certain batters where the bubbles are necessary for lift.

Coconut Rhubarb Muffins

Makes 8-9 muffins

125g (4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
40g (1.5 oz.) flaked coconut, plus extra for topping
225g (8 oz.) rhubarb (about 2 large stalks), chopped
100g (3.5 oz.) light brown sugar
30g (2 large Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
125ml (a little more than half a cup) milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Butter muffin tins and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add coconut and stir again. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the rhubarb with the brown sugar and toss to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Add the rhubarb and stir to combine, then add the flour mixture and stir until just mixed. Spoon into muffin cups, filling almost to the top, and sprinkle a bit of flaked coconut on top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and springy to the touch. Let cool completely in muffin tins. Be gentle when removing from the pan, especially with the bottom of the muffins.

*Tip: To make the muffins look especially nice, make sure a few pieces of the chopped rhubarb stick out from the top of each one just before you put them in the oven — maybe save a few from the brown sugar mixture and stick them in at the very end.

Strawberry Sour Cream Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups strawberries (fresh, frozen, or canned)*

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly and alternately add the dry ingredients and sour cream to the wet mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Gently fold in the strawberries, then pour the batter into the pan. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

*Believe it or not, frozen and canned work best in this recipe. If using either, make sure they are well drained before adding to the batter.

Melissa’s Banana Custard Muffins

These muffins are full of banana flavor with a soft custard center. They are one of the few recipes I’ve invented in my life, and the result of a lot of trial and error.

Makes 9-12

For the custard:
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/4 cups heavy (double) cream
4 egg yolks
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the muffins:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 small banana, halved lengthwise and sliced
1-2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large bananas, mashed well with a fork
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla

For the garnish:
12 large and round banana chips

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C degrees. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

Whisk together sugar and flour in heavy saucepan, then whisk in remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When bubbles appear, keep stirring until mixture gets very thick. (Don’t worry if it gets lumpy.) Remove from heat and whisk occasionally while you make the muffins.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, banana pieces, allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, cooled melted butter, and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, gently mix this mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring only until just combined. Do not overmix. Batter will be thick and chunky.

Spoon a little bit of batter into the tins. If you want 12 muffins, spoon in only a tablespoon or two. If you want 9 muffins with muffin tops, fill the cups about halfway.

Gently spoon about a tablespoon of custard into each muffin, then fill tins with remaining batter. (Tip: When filling with the remaining batter, start by dripping a circle of batter around the custard to prevent the custard from seeping to the sides. You want it to stay in one big dollop in the center. Then cover with the rest of the batter.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are a nice golden brown. Immediately after removing them from the oven, gently but quickly insert a banana chip upright in one of the cracks of the muffin. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Madeleines

I love clipping recipes. I paste them onto pages of a three-ring binder and file them into detailed categories, arranging them just right so they fit together on a page. I have so many clipped recipes that what started out as one binder in 1993 has become three, so full of recipes that I may have to opt for a fourth. Those cookbooks gave this blog its name. They’re a treasure.

Occasionally when I find I’ve clipped a recipe for one that’s already in my book, I’ll do a bake-off to determine which one to keep. I make both at the same time and then compare them side by side. The winner gets a prized place in my cookbook, along with a notation that it won the contest.

One of these bake-off winners is these madeleines, little tasty cakes that are perfect to have alongside a cup of tea or coffee. I think I actually compared three recipes on the day of the bake-off in August 2007, and this one came out on top.

Makes 24-30
125g/4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
3 medium eggs, plus 1 yolk
125g/4 oz. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. orange flower water
Pinch of salt
125g/4 oz. plain flour, sifted
Icing/powdered sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Use butter to grease madeleine trays or tins.

Put the eggs, yolk, sugar, orange flower water and salt into a large bowl and, using a hand whisk, beat until creamy and thick. Whisk in the rest of the butter, then use a large spoon to fold in the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the molds, half filling them, and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and turning brown on the edges.