For the first time ever, I was defeated by a cake. Not in the making, but in the eating. You might wonder how this could be possible, given that I’m a well-trained cake-eating machine. But I literally had to wipe the sweat off my brow and put the fork down after only 2 bites of a mere sliver. Then I stared at the rest of this enormous glossy cake before me, looking so huge and never-ending that I’m sure it actually disappeared into the horizon.
I’ve made plenty of other chocolate cakes before with just as much – or if not more – chocolate in them, but this one came out so dense, with a layer of ganache so overwhelmingly deep and dark that I couldn’t handle it. Maybe it was all of that 70% cocoa chocolate in there. Maybe my immune system was weak. Maybe I’d had a big dinner beforehand, although that has certainly never stopped me before. For whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I didn’t want to force it on anyone else either, even though there was an inordinate number of people who expressed disbelief over my predicament and wondered why I didn’t give it them. Instead, it sat in my fridge where I would sneak a look inside the cake box every now and then to see if it had transformed into something less scary. It didn’t.
I know you’re thinking that these look like chocolately slices of heaven. But you see those quenelles of whipped cream in the photos? They’re not for decoration. They will save your life. You will need at least 3 of these per slice to protect your taste buds and line your stomach, as well as to help diffuse the strength of the cake, I’m not even kidding. Each bite is a caffeinated slap across the face. I will not judge you for enjoying that sort of thing.
La Bête Noire, for those of you who took German instead of French in high school, translates to The Black Beast. When someone names a cake The Black Beast, you don’t take that shit lightly. But don’t let my experience put you off, it’s highly likely that it’s just me and not the cake at all. If this cake were a drink it would be 99% proof Bulgarian vodka, whereas my drink of choice is a banana milkshake so you can see there is a fairly large discrepancy there. There is close to a kilogram of dark chocolate in this thing and not really a lot of anything else so it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, but still. Do not feed this to small children or the elderly. Everybody else proceed with extreme caution.
La Bête Noire
lightly adapted from Bon Appetit
3/4 cup sugar
120g unsalted butter, diced
500g bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
300ml thickened cream
250g dark chocolate, chopped
Lightly sweetened whipped cream to serve
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan
Bake cake until centre no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.
Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.
Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve with whipped cream.