French Chocolate Cake
This cake will look very familiar if you ordered the holiday issue of Simple Scratch Cooking last year. It’s what I consider an essential recipe this time of year. Holiday baking tends to be time consuming, even the easiest recipes requiring attention we don’t always have time to commit. This French Chocolate Cake is the opposite of all those recipes.
It’s short on ingredients—just chocolate, eggs, sugar, tad bit of flour (almond flour works, too!), sugar, and salt. The preparation is incredibly easy, and can be done with just a whisk and bowl, provided you don’t mind beating egg whites by hand. I must confess, I love hand whipping egg whites, It’s quite therapeutic, and works wonderfully if you have a copper bowl, though that’s not a requirement (but certainly a great reason to treat yourself to one).
My friend Marina is one of the best cooks I know, except she’ll never agree with me. Whenever I go over for a meal, be it lunch, dinner, brunch, even afternoon tea, for heaven’s sake, she always apologizes for all the amazing food she puts her heart and soul into preparing. On one occasion, she brought a chocolate cake to my house that left me speechless, and dabbing the crumbs with my fingers to enjoy every last taste. My eyes grew wide with the first bite. It wasn’t a fancy-looking cake by any means. It was dense, in a structured sort of way, but not heavy. The flavor was intensely chocolate, but not overly rich.
When I pressed her for the recipe, she said it was simple, a staple every French woman knows how to make. She mentioned a few rough measurements (all in grams), and I set about in my own kitchen a couple of weeks later to make it myself. It took a few tries because, as with many home cooks who are comfortable enough to improvise, Marina uses a bit of this, that, and whatever she has on hand. I often take that same approach when I’m not in work mode; it’s ever-so freeing, and often my starting point when creating a new recipe.
A few things to know about this cake. You’ll need a friend, or one heck of a fast metabolism to enjoy it all, since it yields two cakes. It is not easily divisible to make just one since you need 5 eggs. I decided to stick with Marina’s method of generally making two cakes—one for the baker, and one to share. Smart woman, and great way to keep the friend list long.
It’s also easily adaptable to special diets since it only uses a mere tablespoon of flour. I’ve made it with gluten-free flour, regular all-purpose flour, hazelnut flour, and almond flour. You can’t really go wrong here. As for the chocolate, go with what you like. I prefer bittersweet, but my kiddos are more fond of milk chocolate. You can either swap in a different chocolate, or increase the sugar to adjust the sweetness to your liking. And in case it wasn’t obvious, this French Chocolate Cake is also dairy-free.
Oh, and the best part, the reason why I think this cake is perfect for the holidays? It gets better with age, which makes it perfect for gift giving, or shipping to far away friends. In fact, I much prefer eating it the next day, or the day after that. I find three days after baking is perfect, and it’ll last up to five days. Just be sure to keep it wrapped tightly in parchment paper (not foil or plastic wrap).
Updated 2018: This cake is a lovely, dairy-free dessert you can make for Passover. Just use an equal weight (11 grams) matzo cake meal in place of the flour. For a gluten-free alternative, an equal weight of almond or hazelnut flour may be used, too.
Seven Years Ago: Star-Anise Spiced Apple Cider
Six Years Ago: Peanut Butter Bon Bons
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Doughnuts
Four Years Ago: Homemade Eggnog
Three Years Ago: Candied Pecans
Two Years Ago: Gingerbread Crispy Treats
One Year Ago: Peppermint Fudge Brownies
This recipe is now part of my new site, Simmering. It can be found here.
looks delicious. It’s going on the list for Christmas baking. Any thoughts on how it freezes? Could I make it in advance and hold it in the freezer until it is gifted?
This cake looks so beautiful. I love the loaf shape, so simple. So there is no butter or oil, just the fat from the chocolate chips? Would you consider this a moist, tender cake? And what is the reason for the parchment wrapping vs. saran/foil. Is it to keep a crunchy exterior? I always fear things will get hard and dry without wrapping them, but I trust you!!! I think I am going to try this cake tomorrow.
I wonder why someone would give it a 4 star review when they haven’t made it yet?
It looks delicious!
I have made several versions of French Cake, but they all seem to require butter. I am going to try this one ASAP. I love your recipes, Jennie!
You can halve 5 eggs by beating 3 and only using what you would consider is 2 and a half. I don’t know that I would need two of these cakes. So to halve it would be more practical.
Yes, you could do that if you were using the eggs whole, but they are separated for the purpose of this recipe. The whites are beaten separately, and then folded in. Just want to make sure you read that part of the recipe. If you can find medium eggs where you live, then three medium sized eggs night work for half a recipe. -Jennie
Thanks, Natalie! I was so surprised that this one uses no butter, too. xo-Jennie
It’s not a moist cake, as you might think of a layer cake, let’s say, but’s it not dry either, if that makes sense. A little slice goes a long way, as it deliver big on intense flavors. xo-Jennie
Hi Penny. I’ve never frozen the cakes, but I think that would work fine if you freeze them once they’re completely cooled. I’d thaw them in the fridge before gifting. Hope that helps! xo-Jennie
Why would you assume I hadn’t made the cake? Seems a bit mean spirited. I was having a sleepless night so when the recipe arrived in the wee hours of the morning, I decided to go for it. I didn’t have 275 grams of bittersweet chocolate chips so I used what I had, chopped up some squares and made up the difference with semi sweet chocolate chips. I think I would have found it a bit too bitter for my taste with all bittersweet chocolate. It is fabulous a day or two later.
So glad you like it Penny. When I make it for my girls I sometimes use milk chocolate, too. They’re not bittersweet fans. And, oh man, how I can relate to sleepless nights. xo-Jennie
Do you have any thoughts about using turbinado or coconut sugar in this? Is a combo of turbinado and maple syrup or molasses crazy? I haven’t played around with different sugars while baking something chocolate heavy, but I’m eating far less refined sugars these days, so would love to make this with less…
While I haven’t used coconut sugar in this specific recipe, I’ve found it works well as a 1:1 substitution in many others. I think you can swap it in here with no problems. I wouldn’t use turbinado as it is a coarser grain (and is still a refined sugar). I wouldn’t use molasses (too strong a flavor), and maple syrup would probably make it too liquidy, you can, however, give maple sugar a try. It is not an even swap, so try scaling the maple sugar back to only 1/4 cup (you might find it needs a bit more depending on how sweet you normally like your desserts). Regarding the chocolate, there’s a brand called Lily’s that is sweetened with Stevia. You can use that for the chocolate in here (I’ve gotten it at Whole Foods & my local health food store). Hope that all helps!
Thank you, Jennie, for getting back to me! I REALLY appreciate it! Can’t wait to try this. 🙂