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April 21, 2011

Do you remember those beautifully elegant black boxes that contained an assortment of chocolates? In days gone by if you wanted to show your appreciation to someone you would go out to the grocery store and purchase one of these boxes as a gift. Black Magic! I always used to pick out the dark chocolate ones and hide them until I could savour their richness all on my own. I’ve always been a bit of a dark chocolate lover, even as a child. But it has only been in the last couple of years that my appreciation for the silky smooth, melt in the mouth richness of dark chocolate has really developed. My favourite treat these days is a block of dark chocolate with sea salt…..I pop it into my mouth and allow the warmth to gently melt the chocolate, the little flakes of saltiness just cutting perfectly through the rich darkness of the chocolate! I’ve become really adventurous and have even started using it in my cooking…..grated into a risotto, in a rich mole sauce, in a sauce to top a perfectly grilled fillet steak.Heck, last week I even used it in my caramelized onions for a topless tart that I was making!  That however is for another posting….maybe tomorrow!!

Sometimes you see something and it rings a bell in your subconcious about something that you have hidden there for some time…..waiting for the right moment, but not knowing when exactly that right moment will be. A little while ago I was surfing the internet (as I often do) and I came across a recipe for the River Cafe Chocolate Nemesis cake on my friend Sam’s blog Drizzle and Dip. This was totally unrelated to my search by the way. I don’t even remember what I was googling when I came across it. But it rang that bell. I remembered reading comments from people who had tried the cake and it had flopped, others had given different recipes for the same cake. Lots of advice accompanied the posts. Sam mentioned that she had one of the River Cafe pocket books: Puddings, Cakes & Ice Creams by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers and in it was a recipe for the “easy” version of the Nemesis Cake, which she had made very successfully. I had filed recipes of the cake in one of my earliest recipe files…circa 1995 I think….put away for a time when I was ready to attempt this contrary sounding cake. And I had never gone back to them…!

Last week I was deciding what to bake for my birthday when I suddenly remembered that lurking in that same cake recipe file I had saved a recipe for something that I dreamt about for awhile…..something so dark and decadent that it sounded almost indecent! Even the name had played havoc with my psyche at the time…..Bête Noir… or dark beast…… hardly bore thinking about in my conscious moments…..

Wikipedia gives this explanation: The term bête noire (pronounced /ˌbeɪtˈnwɑr/ or /bɛtˈnwɑr/; French: [bɛtnwaʁ], “black beast”) is used to refer to a person, object or abstract idea that is particularly disliked or avoided. The term may also refer to:

In culinary arts:     Bête noire (cake), a rich, flourless chocolate cake

It was time to haul out my feather duster and brave the dust in the archives and find that recipe! When I did find it I realized that I was right. It was almost identical to the famous River Cafe Nemesis Chocolate Cake. I felt that I was ready….and celebrating my birthday in dark style was exactly what I felt like!! I studied it for a day or two, made one or two little tweaks ( I AM, after all, the queen of recipe pimping) then called my dear heart and asked him to bring me home 400g of the darkest chocolate that he could find…..well, I got calls from the shop…”there isn’t any plain dark chocolate here”….”I have to have it” said I so he hot footed it over to another store….eventually I got that one call after 3 or 4 others inbetween….”found some 85%. Is that dark enough for you?” Was it ever??? Oh he moaned about the grotesque price of the chocolate but it WAS my birthday after all and after a gentle reminder about that fact he put the phone down and bought the chocolate….and the unsalted butter and fresh free range eggs. I was most explicit in my instructions and he followed them to the letter!

Once I had the ingredients I went into the kitchen with heart pounding…..printed out recipe in my hand. Would it work for me? What if it flopped and I had just made my hubby spend a small fortune on the ingredients?  I had a house full of guests arriving the next day for lunch and they were expecting homebaked cake for tea! I donned my apron and set to work.

This recipe for Bête Noir cake is attributed to author, spokesperson, lecturer, cooking instructor and business owner Lora Brody who has written 22 books, a number of which have been best sellers and it comes from her cookery book “Growing Up on The Chocolate Diet” I could definitely grow up on THAT diet!


Slightly adapted by me

This is what you need:

360g Dark Chocolate – use the darkest that you can find. I used 85%

250g Unsalted Butter – at room temperature

5 Extra Large Free Range Eggs

280g Superfine Castor Sugar

1/2 Vanilla Pod – slit with a sharp knife and seeds scraped out (Bury the used pod in some castor sugar in a bottle with a lid and you will have wonderful vanilla sugar to use in future baking expeditions) 

1 Orange  – finely grated zest only – this is entirely optional, I just love orange with chocolate

250ml Boiling Water

This is how you make it:

Preheat oven to 160deg Celcius

Place oven rack in the centre of the oven

Brush a 20cm deep cake pan with soft butter and dust lightly with cocoa powder – I used a mixture of flour and cocoa but if you are gluten intolerant use only the cocoa powder

Line the base of the pan with baking paper which you also brush with butter

Chop the chocolate into rough chunks and cut the butter up into cubes

Place the boiling water into a medium saucepan on the hob. Add 3/4’s of the sugar, stir until dissolved then boil rapidly over high heat for no longer than 3 minutes to reduce it to a sugar syrup

While the water is boiling crack your eggs into the bowl of your mixer, add the remainder of the sugar and beat until you pale and thick

Turn off the heat!!

Add all the chocolate at once to the just boiled sugar syrup and whisk with a balloon whisk until all melted

Start dropping in the butter one or two cubes at a time and whisking it into the chocolate mixture until it is all melted in and the mixture is thick and glossy – set aside until you are ready!

Add the vanilla seeds and orange zest to the eggs and beat in

Now add all the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and fold in gently until combined. Don’t overbeat as you don’t want to introduce air bubbles at this stage

Scrape all the mixture into the prepared cake pan

Set the cake pan on a folded tea towel (stops it from slipping) into a slightly bigger pan and fill up to the brim of the cake pan (without getting any of it into your cake mixture) with hot (not boiling) water. I find it easiest to do this once I have already placed the pan into the oven. Pouring water to the brim of the cake pan allows for really even baking

Bake the cake, in its water bath, for approximately 30-40 minute. It needs to be firm on the top but still have a slight wibble wobble when you move the pan. A cake tester inserted should come out with some sticky crumbs attached

Remove from the water bath and cool, in the cake pan, on a cooling rack. Once cold you can wrap tightly with glad wrap and put into the refrigerator for the night

Remove from refrigerator an hour or so before you are going to be eating the cake

To remove it from its cake pan, run a spatula around the edge of the cake then set it onto a hot plate for a second or two. I have a chefs blowtorch which did the job perfectly for me. I just heated all around the sides of the pan and the base of it then turned the cake out onto a plate.

Remove the baking paper and then invert the cake onto another plate so that the top is upside.

You can frost this with chocolate ganache if you wish but this cake is just so utterly decadent and rich that I simply dusted it with sifted icing sugar and served it with a dollop of créme frâiche and a few fresh raspberries which cut wonderfully through the richness of the chocolate. A thin wedge is more than enough for a portion.

This is seriously the most deliciously decadent rich mousse like cake that I have ever baked or eaten. It just melts in your mouth…no chewing necessary. Besides, you need to be able to moan softly when you eat it 🙂

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…..I have been dreaming about it ever since. I simply HAVE to make it again…..very soon!! I’m thinking next time I might add 1tsp of coffee granules to the boiling water and omit the orange zest…..endless possibilities!

A fantastic cake to bake for Easter!


browniegirl xx

PS  Thank you so much to everyone who left birthday wishes for me. I so appreciated them all.

I had a wonderful day surrounded by family and loved ones. Lots of fun, laughter and good food! And of course spoiling 🙂

Food Network UK

FoodNetwork UK is running a challenge on their facebook page where you can create a virtual wedding cake (Royal Wedding fever has struck!) using their Cake Creator app. Go on! You know you want to……unleash that creative baker that is lurking inside you!

And while you are there….please vote for my cake that I designed. Food Network are going to be giving away 5 copies of Eric Lanlard’s cookery book “Master Bakes”

You will find my cake under the Most Voted in the Gallery. Just scroll to the right until you get to Colleen Grove 🙂 That’s me…..I need about 100 votes to catch up to the leader so could really use some kindness about now. Thank you! And if you create a cake…let me know and I will return the favour!

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Wickes permalink
    April 21, 2011 2:06 AM

    Wow! I want some! I think I may just have to make this for Easter!

    • August 15, 2011 9:05 PM

      Thank you Jennifer. It is a sublime eating experience xx

  2. April 21, 2011 2:46 AM

    you remember when i first found your blog? How I told you I hated you for what you did to my insides, quivering with delight at what you wrote and photographed.

    Well it’s back with a vengance!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    AND orange zest in it – ok you are DEAD!

    • August 15, 2011 9:06 PM

      HAHA!!! You can’t win against me Sidey….come on over to the dark side. When you come to CT I will make this for you xxxxxx

  3. April 21, 2011 5:35 AM

    OK, well I will just have to make this for Sidey to stop her from killing you ;p

    • August 15, 2011 9:08 PM

      LOL!! And??? Did you make it? Im still alive………….whoohoooooo xxx

  4. April 21, 2011 6:45 AM

    Decadent perfection!
    🙂 Mandy

  5. Santana permalink
    April 21, 2011 8:10 AM

    Beautiful !! My mom , made something very similar to this . In Italian its called Bocconotti , (tiny kisses) and every Italian Mamma from Abruzzo had their own version of it.

    Im going to make this . Thanks Colleen .

    • August 15, 2011 9:10 PM

      I hope you made it Santana. If you lived any closer I would make it for you. Sending you warm hugs xx

  6. Rob. permalink
    April 21, 2011 8:14 AM

    Good coffee granules like Nestle’s Alta Rica AND orange zest Colly .. ! 🙂 .. shu .. my day has just begun and you have me salivating for the elusive and unobtainable at present !!!
    I remember Black Magic choccies – they were my mum’s favourites and always found their way into her christmas present from me .. sad that they have not been available for so long.
    Have an awesome day down in the bay

    • August 15, 2011 9:21 PM

      🙂 Thank you so much Rob. Hugs to you. The bay misses you…xx

  7. April 21, 2011 8:51 AM

    Oh my! This is heaven on a plate, Colleen!!!!

  8. April 21, 2011 8:56 AM

    Colleen, your writing is heavenly, every word and every description perfect! I hung on every single word and found myself smiling ear to ear. Ah and lovely Donald, he is the sweetest man alive! Even my man who is absolutely nuts about me would not have gone on that wild search for just the right chocolate! And the cake? Wowee is this a stunner! Simply gorgeous! The Chocolate Diet? Hmmmm… beautiful writing, decadent cake, wonderful post! xoxo Man I wish we were neighbors!

    • August 15, 2011 9:26 PM

      I could definitely live with us being neighbors Jamie 🙂 Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. So appreciate it coming from you. Much love and hugs xxx

  9. April 21, 2011 9:23 AM

    Colleeen, I am so glad you got to make this cake in the end and I love the addition of the orange. 85% would definitely have taken up a chocolate notch too.

    sam x

    • August 15, 2011 9:03 PM

      Thank you so much Sam, also for encouraging me along the way. Much appreciated. the orange and the darker chocolate was stunning xx

  10. April 21, 2011 9:36 AM

    Hmmm this look so decadent. Will have to try it. thanks for the recipe.

  11. Griet permalink
    April 21, 2011 10:05 AM

    Soulsista, how am I going to make this for only Dennis and I? *Griet wondering if Dennis` uncle and aunt would like to come for tea on Easter Sunday*

    Hugs and lots of love, phone you over the weekend.

    • August 15, 2011 7:57 PM

      So who all ate it then?? I can tell you who would eat it if it were just Don and I here….. 🙂 love you xxx

  12. April 21, 2011 2:14 PM

    Royal Decadence of the Highest Tea!! 😉
    Colleen, your beautiful photo’s gave me chocolate-infatuated goosebumps!! I practically AM your neighbour… I can RUN the few kilometers, and happily! tee hee…
    Storing this blog post away for a future kitchen endeavour… mm-mm-mmm.

    • August 15, 2011 7:45 PM

      Heehee….I keep looking over the fence to see where you are……thank you so much Princess! MWAH!! 🙂

  13. April 21, 2011 2:27 PM

    Hmmm… right up my alley. Looks amazing Col!

  14. April 21, 2011 2:40 PM

    I juts looooove the recipe!! Especially with the orange!! Take care,Brownie and may you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Easter!!

  15. April 21, 2011 3:44 PM

    Totally my kind of cake!!! Will have to make it this weekend. Thanks Colleen!!
    PS: Thin slice “se ma se voet”!! 🙂

    • August 15, 2011 7:42 PM

      HAHA! Thank you so much! Hope you did make it and enjoyed it xx

  16. April 22, 2011 12:20 PM

    Oh I just had to control myself from licking the screen, this is wow Wow WOW!

  17. Christie-Anne Wolmarans permalink
    August 15, 2011 2:01 PM

    This looks absolutely FABULOUS! Do you take your own pictures!

    • August 15, 2011 6:29 PM

      Hi Christie-Anne, thank you so much! And yes, I do take my own pictures! 🙂 xx

  18. May 9, 2013 1:25 PM

    hey browniegirl – long time no read!

    and to think that i stumbled upon this because of a google search for decadent moist chocolate cake!

    thinking of doing this for mother’s day – is it difficult to get out of the tin? would it work if i used a springform pan and lined the edges with baking paper?

    i hope you are well otherwise.

    • Colleen permalink*
      May 18, 2013 10:43 AM

      JK so lovely to see you here…thank you for visiting and good to know that I am visible when searching google! I am so sorry that I didnt see this before now. I have had no internet for over a month. Telkom fail! If using a springform pan be sure to seal the outside of the pan well with tin foil as it has to go into a water bath in the oven. If you don’t cover the outsides with foil then water will seep into the cake mix and you don’t want that to happen. It will not be necessary to line the sides of the pan at all. Just brush well with butter and dust with cocoa and flour mix. Before removing from pan just run a hot dry spatula or knife around the sides to seperate the cake from the pan then pop open the spring and remove the cake! Hope this helps and hope, if you did make it in the meantime, that it turned out well for you. I love this cake! 😉 xx

  19. May 9, 2013 1:34 PM

    hey colly wolly!

    thinking of doing this for mother’s day – is it difficult to get out of the tin? would it work if i used a spring form pan and lined the sides with baking paper too?

    keep well!

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