recipe image

Elizabeth David's Chocolate Cake

Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes
    one 8-inch cake
Author Notes

This cake was made in my family over and over again for birthdays and festive celebrations throughout my childhood, and it’s been a favorite whenever I’ve put it on my dessert menus.

It’s sort of my little black dress of a dessert, as it’s quite simple to make and keeps well for a few days, yet is stylish and elegant at the same time. The rich, dense chocolate tastes festive and indulgent, but in a very adult way. You can dress it up with a ganache frosting or keep it plain with just a little confectioners’ sugar. I like it best with a little dollop of tangy crème fraiche on the side.

It reminds me very much of the flourless chocolate walnut cake of Capri where Elizabeth David vacationed with some very flamboyant British expats, and I like to imagine she got the recipe from there.

—Sara Jenkins

  • Test Kitchen-Approved


  • 4 ounces

    bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 1 tablespoon

    espresso or strong coffee

  • 1 tablespoon

    brandy or other hard liquor (I’ve used grappa in a pinch)

  • 3 ounces

    butter, plus extra for greasing the pan

  • 3 ounces

    ground almonds (or substitute ground walnuts or hazelnuts)

  • 3 ounces


  • 3

    eggs, separated

  • Confectioners’ sugar, boozy whipped cream, or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 290° F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan generously.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the coffee and brandy. Add the butter and melt, then add the almonds and sugar and mix well. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks one at a time, adding them only after the previous one has been thoroughly mixed in. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter and pour the batter into the buttered cake pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes. This is a dense and moist cake so don’t expect the cake tester to come out dry. Depending on your oven, it may take up to 20 additional minutes to cook.
  3. Remove from oven, allow to cool on a rack, then, once cool, invert onto a serving plate. I like to dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and it’s particularly pretty if you put a paper doily on top so as to get a lacy effect. I find this cake is intense and rich, but if you need an addition, stiffly beaten and very boozy whipped cream is a good one

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