10 January 2010

Chocolate Fitness Cake

The title is off-putting all by itself, isn't it? When confronted with such a title, my mind conjures up a vision of a weak cocoa-dusted confection stuffed with shredded carrots, black beans, and perhaps a stalk or two of broccoli. Maybe you imagine a cauliflower puree, or perhaps a zucchini-infused sham of health that calls itself bread when really it's a cake in a loaf pan. Whatever your vision of a "chocolate fitness cake," I am here to help you shift that paradigm.

Now, I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. That said, I understand them, and I most understand that they follow the excesses of the holidays celebrated by many of the world's major religions, political groups, ethnicities, and cultures. After a little excess, one like to reevaluate and find ways to not only recover from that excess, but to continue in the vein of improvement. To you who resolve, or make plans, or set goals, or redefine, or realize that you really like things the way they are, I say, "Happy New Year!" And to celebrate this fine dawn, I present you with perhaps one of the most deceptive desserts I've ever encountered. Don't fool yourself, this is no Chocolate Truffle Cake, but it's a serious shot of rich chocolate during a time when people are traditionally passing over the rich shot of chocolate for something, um, greener and more fibrous, although chocolate itself is rather fiber laden (between 21 and 33 grams of fiber for every 100 grams of cocoa powder—that's about a cup.) Enjoy it for what it is—dark and rich, not too sweet, and rather moist and delicious, as well as for what it isn't—fatty, sugary, starchy, or bland. It's good enough to serve company, although I would make sure you have a little (light) whipped cream to go with it. Mine wanted it tonight.

Chocolate Fitness Cake
from The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz

6 servings

3/4 cup (75 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, regular or dutch-processed [I used regular this time, and it was plenty chocolate]
1/2 cup+3 Tbsp (100 grams+ 35 grams) granulated sugar, divided
7 large egg whites

[Yes, that's all the ingredients, and while the instructions look long, I can sum it up like this: whip the whites to soft peaks, fold in everything else, then bake. Very simple.]

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Butter a 2-quart soufflé mold or similar-sized over-proof baking dish or bowl. [I used an 8-inch springform; it worked well this time.] Sift or whisk together the cocoa powder and the 1/2 cup sugar to remove any lumps.

Whip the egg whites until they form soft, droppy peaks. Whip in the remaining 3 Tbsp of sugar. Carefully fold in the cocoa mixture in 3 batches, just until incorporated, stopping just before the mixture becomes smooth. Do not overfold.

Transfer the mixture into the soufflé mold or baking dish. Set the mold in a larger pan. Add warm water to the larger pan so that the water reaches 1-2 inches up the side of the mold, creating a water bath. [Now, I skipped this because my springform isn't water tight and I didn't want a watery cake. My cake came out a little misshapen, and I think the bain-marie would have fixed it, so I say use it.]

Bake 35-40 minutes [start checking around 28-29 if you're using my oven], until cake is barely set in the center. [It was fine at 35, but I think I overcooked it a little, and it left it feeling ever so slightly dry. Avoiding this might negate the need for cream when serving.] Remove the cake from the water bath. Wait 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate and serve.

Chocolate Fitness Cake is lovely served warm [as I served it], although it can be served at room temperature and will keep 2 days if wrapped in plastic. Mr. Lebovitz likes his topped with honey-drizzled orange segments, but also suggests fresh mint and white chocolate Crème Anglaise. These would, of course, do serious damage to the idea that one is eating a healthy dessert.

By my estimates, the entire cake contains about 800 calories, which of course, puts you in a state of complete mental shock on the 10th of January. And, yes, that's quite a load if you plan to eat the entire thing yourself. It is, however, merely a trifle when compared to just about any other chocolate cake recipe you'll ever see. The recipe says it serves six (134 kcal/serving) but I cut it in 8 (100 kcal/serving) and it was a nice little shot of chocolate heaven. You will likely never again see caloric information on this site, but I had a hunch this time of year it might yield a little gratitude.

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