When You Need to Make a Good Impression

Sometimes you want to make something easy that makes you look like you know what you’re doing, but puts your guests at ease. And other times you really want to show off. Like, really show off and make people feel like they’re getting one hell of a treat.

Last week, I had just such an occasion: the last night of my freelance writing class. My classmates had been encouraging me to bring baked goods in since finding out I’m a baker/foodie, and the managing editor of a big-time local magazine was coming to speak and meet with us. Yes, I would make something impressive.

I upped the ante, buying the best ingredients readily accessible to me, foregoing my standard Baker’s Chocolate from the baking aisle at the local SuperValu chain for higher quality Ghiradelli and Lindt, along with European-style butter and some pretty, local organic brown eggs from Harmony Organics. It really is true that with a recipe with so few ingredients the quality of each shows through.

Finishing right at the last minute (it wasn’t even fully cooled when I put it in my car), I didn’t get a chance to taste it before sharing it with my classmates. Or the editor.

I dished out slices for the room, finally taking a bite of my own. The silky batter had turned into a seriously silky, smooth, almost pudding-like confection of chocolate. Looks of ecstasy went around the room.

But the editor hadn’t had a chance to try his yet. Finally, when it was my turn to introduce myself, he realized he hadn’t had any and took a bite. The polite yet obligatory “Mmm! That’s good” came. I smiled.

Four seconds later: “MMMM! That is really good!”

“Thanks you! So, I like to write about food about as much as I like to bake…”

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Custard Cake
AKA,
Winning-Hearts-and-Minds Cake from Orangette
Adapted from Je veux du chocolat!, by Trish Deseine

Ingredients:
7 oz (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate (I used a combination of Ghiradelli 85% and Lindt 62% Semi-Sweet)
7 oz (200 grams/almost 2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter (as high of butterfat as you can get it), cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/3 C (250 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too (use the last tablespoon/oz of butter from the butter for this).
  3. Finely chop the chocolate (a serrated bread knife does an outstanding job of this) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler, stirring regularly to combine.
  4. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments.
  5. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition.
  6. Add the flour. The batter should be smooth, dark, and utterly gorgeous.
  7. Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (Start checking around 20 minutes initially, and then check it every two minutes thereafter until it’s done. At 20 minutes, it’s usually quite jiggly in the center.) You’ll know it’s done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.
  8. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a plate, then revert it onto whatever you’ll serve it on, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.
  10. Serve in wedges at room temperature. If you can swing it, add a dollop of whipped cream. See if you can hold off eating this cake long enough to make whipped cream. I dare you.

Note: This cake is (apparently) even better on the second day, so consider making it the day before serving.

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