A flourless chocolate cake is one of those restaurant-style desserts that it’s tempting to think is too fussy to make at home. It’s naturally gluten free, and easy to whip one up at home any time.
I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about flourless chocolate cake. Not just anything should be able to call itself by the name. And it is a cake. It is not a brownie.
Brownies can be cakey or fudgy, but if you’ve made proper brownie, no one will describe it as light. A proper flourless chocolate cake, made with the right ingredients and method, should be both rich and light.
Although none of this is truly important, in the world of things that are actually important in life. But all of it is “important,” in the sense that I care about it and want to show you the right way, as ridiculous as I realize I sound. Fair enough?
Is it really flourless?
Unlike some other desserts that some like to call “flourless,” this decadent chocolate creation is actually without flour of any kind. There are no grains or anything ground into a flour-like powder at all used in the making of this cake.
If it calls for almond flour, it’s not flourless. Oats or oat flour? Again, not flourless. If you have some chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and cocoa powder, you can have flourless chocolate cake.
Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, the quality of the chocolate and cocoa powder matters quite a lot. Use the best you can come by. Using Dutch-processed cocoa powder will make for a smoother, less acidic cake. And remember that the melted chocolate is the star of the show, so its quality will shine through as well.
If you’re looking for a flourless peanut butter creation, try my recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, which are very lightly sweet and healthy enough to have for breakfast (really). For instant gratification, my Flourless Chocolate Mug Cake (made with nut butter) is also a great choice.
What pan, what method?
This recipe doesn’t call for a water bath or any other sort of fanciness. It’s not a cheesecake, but it’s going to fall and crack a bit after it’s baked. It’s meant to. I promise.
You can make the cake without beating the egg whites separately and folding them into the batter. Simply beat the sugar egg whites and eggs vigorously until pale yellow in color before whisking in the cocoa powder and the melted butter and chocolate. Your cake will be more dense and even more fudge-like.
The truth is, for flourless chocolate cake, cheesecake or virtually anything else, I hate using springform pans. I’ll do almost anything to avoid them.
They tend to leak, they’re confusing to assemble if you’re not really on your game (which is the top, which is the bottom, for crying out loud?), and they’re just crazy hard to clean. But for this cake, you’re best off using one. (I have a link to my favorite springform pan so far in my shop, if you’d like to check it out.)
If you don’t have a springform pan, though, just use a round cake pan. The sky will not fall. I do recommend that you chill the cake for at least an hour in the refrigerator before transferring it carefully to a serving dish—whether you use a springform pan or not. Once it’s chilled, the cake will become much more firm and stable.
Don’t panic (!)
If you’ve never made a flourless chocolate cake before, you may find its tendency to rise like a regular cake and then fall abruptly after it is removed from the oven rather alarming. No worries. That’s what it is meant to do.
If you do use a springform pan that is dark in color, start watching it closely at 20 minutes as it will have more of a tendency to burn. You’re less than an hour away from creating the ultimate restaurant-quality, naturally gluten free flourless chocolate cake in your very own kitchen.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Dairy-Free: If you’d like to make this cake without dairy, it’s relatively easy to find a dairy free dark chocolate. The only other dairy containing ingredient is the butter in this cake, and it can easily be replaced with Earth Balance buttery sticks. The cake may rise a bit and fall a bit more, due to the extra moisture, but it will still be rich and fudgy.
Egg Free and Vegan: Once this cake is dairy free, it’s a short step to making it vegan if you replace the eggs. However, that’s a tall order. There are not only three eggs, but two egg whites in the recipe. The two egg whites can possibly be replaced by aquafaba, although I haven’t experimented with that replacement.
Generally, my favorite replacement for whole eggs is one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until it gels). But I generally only recommend replacing up to 2 eggs per recipe with chia eggs. It’s a risk, but if you’re vegan it might be worth it!
Chocolate-Free: Haha just kidding this is a rich chocolate cake. No making it without chocolate, silly!