Recipe Review

The Flourless Chocolate Cake from 101 Cookbooks Is a Tall, Crackly-Crusted Beauty

published Feb 6, 2023
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Flourless chocolate cake by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks on a sheet of parchment paper
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

When I found this recipe for flourless chocolate cake from 101 Cookbooks, I knew I needed to try it for one main reason: Unlike many other versions, this one uses olive oil for the cake instead of butter. Would a half-cup of the fruity, peppery oil make the flavor or texture of the cake markedly different from the others? This recipe also uses beaten egg whites for lift. How would that play out in the final results? I was excited to get in the kitchen and find out. 

How to Make 101 Cookbooks’ Flourless Chocolate Cake

The recipe begins by explaining that you’ll need a deep 8-inch cake pan — and indeed you do. I used an 8-inch springform pan and needed every bit of its nearly 3 inches to hold the batter. The recipe instructs you to line the entire pan (bottom and up the sides) with parchment paper. As the oven preheats, you’ll melt bittersweet chocolate in a makeshift double boiler, then whisk in olive oil, sugar, and salt. If the mixture isn’t too hot at this point, you’ll whisk in some egg yolks and stir in chopped bittersweet chocolate.

The next step is to beat egg whites until they’re at about soft peak stage, then add sugar gradually as you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. There are five egg whites, so this mixture is quite voluminous. You’ll gradually work the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes. After cooling the cake for about 15 minutes, you can lift it out of the pan using the parchment paper. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of 101 Cookbooks’ Flourless Chocolate Cake

The first thing to note about this cake is that it is majestically tall, a little over 2 inches (which might not sound that tall, but it is). Aside from its lofty height, it also ends up with a wonderfully thick, crackly sugar crust on top. When you cut in, you’ll notice that the interior of the cake is quite delicate with a light, airy texture somewhere between a soufflé and a mousse — quite soft. The recipe calls for extra-virgin olive oil, and I used California Olive Ranch’s Everyday oil, which doesn’t pack as much of a peppery wallop as other brands or pressings, yet the olive oil flavor was very prominent so that it overpowered the richness of the chocolate, and the cake had a faintly oily mouthfeel. Overall, it’s an impressive cake with an irresistible sugar crust, but the strong oil flavor and slight oiliness on the palate detracted from the overall effect.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making 101 Cookbooks’ Flourless Chocolate Cake, a Few Tips

  1. Go deep. As noted, the recipe instructs you to use a deep 8-inch cake pan (there’s also guidance on how to use a 9-inch pan, but the author’s clear preference and recommendation is for the smaller, deeper pan). If you don’t have or can’t find a 3-inch-deep 8-inch cake pan, use an 8-inch springform pan as I did.
  2. Study the photos. It’s helpful to see how to line the pan with parchment, all the way up over the top so that there’s plenty of overhang.
  3. Use a large bowl. The recipe tells you to use a large bowl for the makeshift double boiler, so make sure you do grab a fairly big one. After you whisk together the base chocolate mixture, you’ll be folding in a large volume of beaten egg whites. Make sure you give yourself plenty of room.

    Overall rating: 7.5/10