When I first walked into the kitchen of Fabrizia Lanza at Anna Tasca Lanza, you could smell the chocolate from outside. She was baking a flourless chocolate cake for dinner — a dinner which was like a warm embrace after all these months of not being able to meet or travel or get together, one of the most welcoming dinners that began with a comforting, steaming bowl of minestra di tenerumi (a minestrone made with the leaves and tendrils of the long cucuzza squash) and ended with this cake, a melt in the mouth flourless chocolate cake, served with simply whipped cream. I knew at first bite I needed to bring this to my kitchen repertoire.
We had arrived for the first opening of the cooking school since the pandemic, a week of celebrating the tomato harvest which is done, in Anna Tasca Lanza style, by making tomato extract and sun dried tomatoes and figs (below) in the hot Sicilian sun, which to this day is one of the most special activities I’ve ever been involved in doing.
Fabrizia’s cake has very quickly become my favourite chocolate cake, which is saying a lot, especially when the cake it has just surpassed has been favourite for over a decade — I wrote all about it and its author, Elizabeth David back in 2011. David’s flourless chocolate cake from French Provincial Cooking is very, very good. And similar. It’s a tad smaller, proportions wise. And has a splash of black coffee, which is nice. But Fabrizia’s cake has something else. Maybe it’s the simplicity, one less ingredient — the almond meal — is honestly appealing to me (which is why I also love this chocolate cake, eggless and butterless, written a century ago by Ada Boni). It could be the texture — fudgy, melt in the mouth but not too rich, just perfect with some whipped cream or on its own. And that wonderful, delicate crackle on top.
Unfortunately I’m not the only one who loves that crackle on the top and the edges of the cake — Luna, 3, who helped me whip the cake (and incidentally caused me to be slightly distracted while doing so — I accidentally forgot to separate the eggs and whip them separately, turns out this in no way affects the cake, which is another bonus, one less bowl to wash up), instantly — in the blink of an eye — stuck her fingers in the top of the cake! Then, quick as a fox, snuck a piece out of the side of the cake! So I didn’t take the photographs I thought I would get from this, but I think you can understand, even with the gouges (see the last photo), how good this cake is.
By the way, I’ll be hosting a September Harvest workshop at Anna Tasca Lanza, 5-10 September, 2022. See their calendar for more information! And don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter, Notes from my Kitchen, if you want to always be in the loop about workshops like these, plus receive recipes, food essays and tips on food writing or food photography.
Fabriza’s Torta al Cioccolato
I use very slightly less sugar (30 grams less) than the original and have found accidentally that separating the eggs is not so important but if you accidentally do this, give the eggs an extra good whipping so they are spectacularly fluffy. Otherwise this is just as Fabrizia gave it to me.
120 grams butter, plus some more for greasing the pan
cocoa powder, for dusting pan
200 grams dark chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
4 eggs, separated (or not, if you forget…)
150 grams sugar
pinch of salt
Heat oven to 160C (320F). Heavily butter a 10-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder. Over a double boiler, melt together the butter and dark chocolate, whisking until combined. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until a ribbon forms, then add the chocolate to the egg mixture. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and gently fold in to the chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the sides just start to pull away and the top begins to crack. Allow to cool completely. Release the springform ring, run a knife under the cake and move to a serving platter. Dust with more cocoa powder — and keep away from 3 year olds.