Ever since I was little girl I have enjoyed cooking. I started because I liked brownies and wanted to get to the bottom of how they were made. I would only make them from scratch and failed repeatedly. They were so hard my stepbrothers called them “rockies” and used them as ammunition for their slingshots. My determination (and failures) impressed my father. Deciding that I needed to feel success, he gave me a case of Duncan Hines brownie mixes. I rejected them because they were too easy, inauthentic. But I liked the batter and made the mix just so I could spread it between two pieces of white bread to create a chocolate sandwich — a recipe I learned from a little Indian girl, the daughter of a scholar at The Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. I can’t remember the little girl’s name but I can still taste the chocolate sandwiches her mother gave us as snacks after school.
At a French restaurant with my father, I tried a flourless chocolate cake. I liked it better than any brownie I had ever eaten and became determined to learn how to make it. For our birthdays, my father gave my sisters and me “hundred dollar days,” that was a day in which we could do anything we pleased with the money. (One sister went to the race tracks to bet on horses.) For my eighth birthday, I asked my father to help me figure out the recipe to that flourless cake. We ended up at Dean and Deluca’s in NYC, combing through cookbooks until we found a recipe in Simca’s Kitchen by Simone Beck — Julia Child’s partner. With my $100 my father bought me the book, chocolate, all the equipment and we drove home to Princeton and started making the cake. I’ve been making it ever since, have even transformed the small little thing into a massive wedding cake, big enough to feed 200.
Gateau au Chocolat: Le Diablo
A note: I altered the recipe. Beck uses German sweet chocolate. In the icing she adds coffee.
6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate
3/4 cup of butter
3/4 cup of sugar
4 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons ground almond
2 tablespoons of flour
9″ spring form pan
In the top of a double boiler melt chocolate and butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside. Fold the chocolate into the yolks. Add the ground almonds and flour. Fold in the chocolate very gently.
Butter and flour the spring form pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the center is almost set. Don’t overcook. You want it very moist in the center, almost molten.
For icing: 1/2 stick of butter and 4 ounces of chocolate. Melt and then spread over the cake.
1986: Jenny helping me assemble the wedding cake. After icing with chocolate I covered the whole thing in whipped cream. As it happened, our Saint Bernard took an enormous bite out of the cake, a good fourth of one of the bottom layers. I started crying. Sarah turned the bitten section to the center of the cloverleaf, covered with loads of whipped cream and told me to cheer up. No one would ever know.