As a child, while many of my peers were playing house and imagining their dream wedding, I used to draw elaborate plans of my dream kitchen. I was always hanging around kitchens, watching my mother and my grandmother cook — trying to get some small job, however minuscule it was. There was this one time, my mother gave me scraps of dough and I tried to mold a little person out of it with raisins for eyes and a cinnamon mouth. I was doing well until I decided to put a peppercorn for the nose. Six-year-olds rarely appreciate peppercorns in their baked goods.
When I did, fleetingly, think of my future wedding, it was only in regards to what I was going to feed people, specifically, what kind of cake I wanted to serve.
And if you give me a piece of cake and a cold glass of milk to chase it down, it’s an easy way to win my affections. What I look for in cake isn’t fancy piping or a next-level technique. A simple cake, unadorned, might be my favorite (though well-made buttercream is a thing of beauty, too). And, when it comes to simple cakes that hit the spot, this one might just be crowned winner.
It’s the kind of cake you make to take with you as a gift for your hosts in the North Fork, or cake you make for a friend who unexpectedly shows up for dinner. The kind of cake that, after you send said friend home to bring a piece to her sister, makes that sister demand that cake each time you get together. The kind of cake that wins, hearts, minds and stomachs.
Should you make this cake, you may also want to share it with your loved ones. It’s a dead-simple, no-fancy-equipment-needed, one-bowl marvel of just six ingredients that transform into something truly memorable and special. If ever greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts moniker was appropriate, it is here. It can take on any multi-tiered wedding cake despite being humble and simple enough to whip up on a weeknight. I dare you to find any fault with it.
Winning Hearts & Minds Cake
Adapted from Orangette
[updated 2/15/21 – tightened recipe language and added salt after making it for my people on Valentine’s Day.]
7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted butter, preferably European-style, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Fresh unsweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional but highly recommended)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Generously butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with circle of parchment paper cut to fit, and butter the parchment, too.
In a large bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), combine the chocolate with the butter and stir regularly until melted and uniform. Add the sugar and salt and stir well to dissolve, a few minutes. Remove from the heat and aside to cool for about 7 minutes. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the flour just to combine. The batter should look silky and luxurious.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and invert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Let cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools and may even sink a bit. When you cut into the cake, you should have a slightly gooey, fudgey center.
To serve, cut the cake into wedges and top with a loose dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and some fresh berries.
Note: this cake tastes even better served the following day.