Recipe: Chocolate Moon Cake

updated Jan 21, 2020
Chocolate Moon Cake
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(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

You may remember from last week that I’ve been involved in the creation of a meal around a very challenging theme: space. Last week I shared with you the Tang Cocktail that kicked off the evening. Today, I’m sharing the dessert.

This dinner had been an auction item at a fundraiser for my daughter’s school, and in addition to the space theme, the friend who ultimately bought this dinner also wanted to celebrate her partner’s birthday. My challenge was the cake. The birthday fellow liked chocolate pudding and didn’t want a “big birthday cake,” and he was also keen on the idea of recreating a modernized version of the menu from Nixon’s state dinner in 1969 celebrating the astronauts of Apollo 11.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

After a lot of trial and error, I decided to turn to an expert: I asked my friend David Lebovitz what he would do. He told me about his flourless chocolate cake and how it develops craters on top during baking. How moon-like!

After playing around with my collection of disco dust and confectionary toppings, I found something extraordinary: Empress Pearl Dust. It smears on like eye-shadow and remains moon-scape-y for hours. This meant I could decorate my cake in the afternoon, hide it in the office, and bring it out to the celebrants at midnight.

Chocolate Moon Cake

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 10 ounces

    (290 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 7 ounces

    (200 grams) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    almond extract

  • 5

    large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 cup

    (200 grams) sugar

  • 1

    (2-gram) container Empress Pearl Dust, in Ultrasuper Pearl


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If you suspect your springform pan isn’t 100% water-tight, wrap the outside with aluminum foil, making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.

  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Stir in the almond extract. Remove from heat.

  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.

  6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  7. You’ll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.

  8. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.

  9. When the cake is completely cool, brush on the Pearl Dust with a clean fingertip. You will need a fraction of the 2-gram container.

  10. Serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with creme anglaise, ice cream, or whipped cream.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

This recipe was adapted from David Lebovitz's Orbit Cake, found in Ready for Dessert.

You can find the Empress Pearl Dust here.