Author Notes: Like the layers of the Earth itself this cake comprises very distinct layers of confectionary bliss. The soil, represented by the fallen flourless cake, is rich and deep in flavor. The middle layer, a chewy baked meringue, is what I consider the “life” of this cake, holding up the fluffy atmosphere: a crown of sweet whipped cream. Labor intensive (the Earth wasn’t built in a day, after all), but well worth the effort.
(P.S. The cake in the photo is enhanced with a white chocolate “collar”. For simplicity, I have not included that in the instructions, however I can explain it in the comments if anyone is particularly interested.) —PieceOfLayerCake
Serves: 10 – 12
ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
cups brown sugar
tablespoon vanilla extract
large eggs, separated
ounces egg whites, at room temperature
cups granulated sugar
cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
teaspoons vanilla paste (extract is acceptable)
whole bittersweet chocolate, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F and set a rack to the very bottom position. Remove any racks that sit above it. Generously spray/grease a 9 – 10″ springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray/grease the paper.
- Set the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high power for 10 seconds. Stir the chocolate and continue heating, in 10 second intervals, stirring in between each pulse, until the chocolate is fully melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl and mix vigorously with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until creamy and smooth. Add in 4 egg yolks and the vanilla and mix again until shiny and well combined. Add in the melted chocolate and fold until fully incorporated.
- Whip the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium-high speed until stiff. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cake and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. The cake will puff and crack in the oven and fall significantly as it cools. Do not turn off the oven.
- While the cake cools, combine the egg whites and 1 T. sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until the whites begin to foam. Begin adding the sugar in small amounts (¼ c. at a time or so) as the meringue whips. After all of the sugar is added and the meringue is nearly stiff, increase the mixer speed to high and whip until the meringue is VERY stiff.
- After the meringue is done, use a rubber spatula to transfer a large dollop to the cake. The cake should not be hot, but should still be warm. Use the spatula to gently press the meringue into the edge between the cake and the side of the pan. Both of these step will ensure the meringue creates a more successful seal. Scrape the rest of the meringue onto the cake and smooth out with the spatula. It may or may not reach the top of the springform pan, but should not extend over. Place the cake back in the oven for another 25 minutes. The meringue will expand dramatically, crack and brown slightly, but will fall significantly as it cools. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before chilling it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
- After chilled, use your hands to crush the meringue down into the springform pan. Be assertive, but don’t compact the meringue too much. Run a small paring knife or offset spatula between the cake and the side of the pan before releasing the collar. Use the knife/spatula to pry the pan bottom from the cake and peel the parchment circle off. Place the cake on a serving platter.
- Combine the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks are achieved. Add the vanilla paste and whip to combine. Using a large spoon, heap large, rustic dollops of whipped cream on the top of the cake. Chill the cake completely before serving, approximately another hour. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the block of bittersweet chocolate directly onto the cake before slicing and enjoying.
- Note: Both the cake base and meringue layer can be made ahead. After either step, wrap the entire pan well in plastic wrap and either chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.