A delicious weekend project

Flourless Chocolate-Basil Torte 1

The project isn’t actually in making this cake – the most difficult part is melting the chocolate. Whirling basil leaves and sugar into a vibrant emerald-green snow takes all of 30 seconds.

No, the project is in the eating. It requires a slow, deliberate rationing of its 8, no 16, no 32 slivers, sliced off compulsively and dissolved in the mouth with medicinal urgency at odd times of the day, for days on end.

I made this on Monday, after tasting Theo‘s chocolate-basil confection at David’s book signing last weekend. Forget chocolate and orange, chocolate and basil must be soulmates. We ate some Monday night; I gave my neighbor a big hunk on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we took fat slices to some friends’ house for a barbecue, and shoveled it in with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. After shaving off smaller and smaller slices throughout the day Thursday (there may have also been a few breakfast tastings), we’ve finally finished it, and all I’m left with is a cheap, shiny metal cake stand smeared dull by dark chocolate.

And oh! I didn’t even taste it with the tomato sorbet.

Flourless Chocolate-Basil Torte (Whole)

Recipe for Flourless Chocolate-Basil Torte
Recipe 187 of 365

Although a true torte typically replaces a cake’s flour with nuts or breadcrumbs, this deeply chocolaty, dense confection, rimmed with dark ganache, just seems too decadent for the word cake. It’s a take-off on a chocolate-basil truffle I tasted Seattle’s Theo Chocolate.

Note: If you have a double boiler, use that to melt the chocolate.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.

Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.

Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.

While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small saucepan, and stir constantly over very low heat until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired. (Hint: Using the ganache immediately will mean a thin coating that drips easily down the sides of the cake; in this case, it’s best to frost the cake over a cooling rack, then transfer it to a serving plate. You can also let the ganache cool a bit, then spread it just on the top, more like a thin frosting.)

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.

Flourless Chocolate-Basil Torte 2


Filed under Cakes, recipe

13 responses to “A delicious weekend project

  1. Dylin

    I’m so pumped about trying this recipe! I just found out I can’t eat gluten, but I’m OBSESSED with chocolate and basil. Something interesting to give some thought to: I used to do a molten chocolate cake, then make basil whipped cream. You crush basil leaves with some sugar in a mortar and pestle (or whatever), then add the heavy cream and whip it up. It’s so delicious.

    Thanks again for this one!

  2. Oooh, I bet if you just added 2 T extra sugar when making the basil sugar, then used all but those 2 T in the cake, you could use that for the whipped cream .. .question is, how do I feel about green whipped cream?

  3. Dylin

    That’s a good idea! Luckily, it turns out just a minty green, otherwise I think we’d have to save it for only St. Patty’s Day. 🙂

  4. I would like to try the basil sugar on other things. Sounds awesome!

  5. Anne

    This is fabulous!

  6. I totally abbreviated this recipe and mixed a handful of finely chopped basil into brownies… I’m not positive that it was enough, because none of my friends could tell what the ‘secret ingredient’ in the brownies was. But, I felt that it was a perfectly delicious addition.

  7. Hmm. . .maybe you needed more, Danni – I used a full cup of basil for the cake. But hey – if you can taste it, does it matter if they can tell?

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