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.

16 Comments / Reviews

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  • 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.

  • Beth

    This cake is amazing. I made it for my fiance’s birthday last year, and he ate most of it himself despite not being big on sweets.

    Getting the egg whites right can take a long time if you’re like me and have to do everything by hand, but it is SO worth the outcome. This is probably the best cake I’ve ever made. The orange adds that extra little oomph which pushes the flavor from delicious to perfect.

  • Becky

    Always good to meet another Valentine baby! ;) But I will not be waiting until my next birthday to make this cake… that would be just torturous.

    Though I have not made this recipe, I have made several others that call for melting chocolate with water and it always turns out fine. The trick is to melt them over a double boiler TOGETHER. If you melt the chocolate first, then add the water, you will have brown chunky concrete (trust me, I know). They must rise and fall in temperature at the same time.

  • Mick

    I’ve made this cake for years, since the SP cookbook was published. It’s great to see photos of it! Never knew if mine looked right since the origi recipe has no photo. Mine looks exactly like yours.

    It’s been my favorite chocolate cake since the 1980s.

    I do like the idea of swapping milk for the water, this batter is way stiff. I never feel like the whites Are folded in completely, leaving some light spots in the cake, but I’ve overfolded before and the result is too dense on the bottom and too airy on top.

    Anyway, it’s an awesome cake and thanks for the photos

  • Andrea

    I made this cake last weekend and here is my review: it was too difficult and not good enough for the amount of work involved. I used FIVE bowels and the recipe is incredibly hard to follow. Additionally, I think there are other easier and just-as-good flour-less cakes out there not to hassle with this complicated recipe. For taste, I didn’t think it was as rich as I would have liked considering it takes close to a pound of chocolate. Off to try the Chipotle Cake :)

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Bittersweet Chocolate Cake