Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

DessertValentine's DayCakeChocolate

Bittersweet chocolate cake, adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Almost a pound of chocolate, a dozen eggs, 2 cups of sugar, almost a pound of butter, a cup of flour.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

There is one day a year in which I will happily indulge in a piece of chocolate cake, and that is Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be my birthday. This is the cake I made for this year’s birthday fete.

It comes from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook and includes the addition of a touch of grated orange peel. With almost a pound of chocolate, almost a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, and only one cup of flour, you can just imagine how delectably rich it is.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake Recipe



  • 14 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, grated or broken into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp water (or more if needed)
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 3 1/2 sticks (3/4 lb plus 4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • Powdered sugar


1 Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Add a few tablespoons of sugar and gently shake so that all the sides and bottom of the pan are coated with sugar. Tap out excess sugar.

2 Beat egg yolks with the granulated sugar until they are thick and pale yellow and form a ribbon when they fall from the beater.

3 Place chocolate and 3 Tbsp of water in the top of a double boiler. Melt over simmering water, whisking until smooth. If the chocolate gets too thick, and looks like it will firm up, whisk in a tablespoon or more of water. Let cool slightly.

4 Fold the warm chocolate into the egg mixture. Stir in the softened butter. Stir in the grated orange peel. Fold in the sifted flour. Mix thoroughly but gently.

5 Beat egg whites until stiff. (See this wonderful explanation of whisking egg whites taken from La Bonne Cuisine de Madame Sant-Ange.) Stir a large spoonful of the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg whites. Mix well. Pour this mixture into the chocolate mixture, fold together gently, incorporating the whites completely. Be careful at this stage not to overmix.

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6 Turn batter into the springform pan. It will come close to the top of the pan. Set the pan on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove the outer rim. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate.

7 When ready to serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 20 small, but quite rich, servings.

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Recipe adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Showing 4 of 16 Comments / Reviews

  • Kim

    I love this cake but I hate making it! I’ve been making it for about 25 years. I add the water before the chocolate is put on the heat but, instead of adding more water when it stiffens and starts to seize I add butter from the 3 1/2 sticks. I learned the hard way that the butter works way better!
    I would like to see a video of someone making the chocolate pourable with water.

  • Miguel

    I tried this recipe this last weekend for a party of 10 people and everybody was deligthed. To my taste, it was a little dry (perhaps it was a little overcooked since I left the cake 8 minutes longer than recommended…). However I served the cake with vanilla ice cream and yogurth-blueberry – strawberry ice cream (both home made) and the result was great….
    I needed as much as 4 tablespoons of water to disolve the chocolate, and used 70% bittersweet chocolate…. Very tasty…. The addition of orange peel is a must. Next time I´ll try adding some walnuts to the batter…..


  • audrock

    This cake is excellent! I made it for my mom’s birthday because she is a chocolate lover. I felt it needed a little something extra (I must be crazy!) so I made a simple chocolate sauce to go over each piece. Sinful!

    Thanks for posting the recipe.

  • Colleen

    Terribly confused about adding water and chocolate!

    My good friend Robin and I rolled up our sleeves on Saturday night and set out with all the correct ingredients and good chocolate. We recoiled at the idea of adding water to chocolate and watched in horror as the smooth, shiny, rich and velvety chocolate instantly turned into the consistency and matte-finish of chocolate cake frosting when we added our 3 tbs water. What happened?

    The rest of the cake was so difficult (how can anyone delicately fold thick and lumpy chocolate masses into beautiful stiff egg whites)! We still baked it and it was still rich and delicious, but we know that its intended consistency was vastly different from the thick and dense cake we baked.

    Can someone please let us know what went wrong? Were we alone in this experience?

  • Elise

    Hi Colleen, if you don’t add water, as the chocolate cools, there is no way that it would be thin enough to mix in with the cake ingredients. And you can’t mix it in too hot or it will cook the eggs. I ended up mixing in at least a 1/3 cup of water to the chocolate when I made my cake because I let the chocolate cook too long and some of the moisture evaporated.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Cake