Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Julie & Julia-Inspired Gal Pal Christmas Dinner Party – the Desserts

Bourbon Chocolate Cake

For our Julie and Julia-inspired Gal Pal Christmas dinner party, we had two desserts.  If it was up to me, I would have had just one dessert for everyone – again, driven by my philosophy of  less choices means less calories consumed.  Carolyn wanted to do two.  I must say, I had fun doing them both with her and everyone loved being spoiled rotton.

Both recipes were chocolate(a given):  one was a more traditional cake with icing and the other was more akin to a flourless cake.  It was a nice contrast and I personally preferred the flourless chocolate cake (Boubon Chocolate Cake recipe) because it was so moist. 

Since we were preparing everything at Carolyn’s home, we used her electric oven (not convection).  I have a gas oven and it always takes longer to cook anything – I can never follow a recipe exactly.  In her case, it was done exactly at the time the recipe said.  Surprised the heck out of me.

I had to really concentrate and read the recipe I was preparing three and four times to make sure I did not leave anything out because we were talking so much about this and that.  She’d think of something and suddenly, I am looking at a relative of hers, from New England, who is in a cookbook that she has in her collection.  Or I’d ask her how her mother made Strawberry Shortcake – – my unscientific poll to see whether it was whipped cream or ice cream (it was whipped cream).  I wouldn’t have changed a thing, though.  Definitely quality time together.

IMG00167Bourbon Chocolate Cake
(serves eight to ten)

This mousse-like cake really does melt in your mouth.  It can be baked up to a day before serving and stored tightly wrapped at room temperature.  If you don’t have a 9×3-inch cake pan, use a standard 9×2-inch pan and construct a parchment collar so the cake has room to rise.  For this cake, it’s worth splurging on the best chocolate you can buy.  Callebaut is a great choice.

  • 11 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 oz (12 T) unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 oz (1/4 c) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. bourbon
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt


  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 – 2 T granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar to dusting

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degres F.  Butter a 9×3-inch cake pan (or line a shallower one).  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment and butter the parchment.  Set the cake pan in a roasting pan large enough to accomodate it.

Melt the chocolate and butter together.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar on medium speed until very pale, thick, and fluffy, about three minutes.  Reduce the speed, add the chocolate mixture, and mix just to combine.  Add the flour, mixing just to combine and scraping the bowl as needed.  Blend in the bourbon and vanilla.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In a  clean, dry mixing bowl with clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt on high speed until they hold soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes.  With a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then gently fold in the remaining whites.  Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Set the roasting pan on the oven rack and add enough warm tap water (see photo) to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan.  Bake until the top feels set, 40 – 45 minutes.  Remove the cake pan from the water bath and run a paring knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake and then let the cake cool completely in the cake pan on a rack.  When the cake is completely cool, loosen the sides once more with a paring knife.  Cove the cake with a serving plate and invert the cake onto the plate.  The bottom of the cake is now the top.  Peel off the parchment (Don’t worry if the surface looks a little ragged; you’ll be dusing with confectioners’ sugar).

To serve:  In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat the cream and sugar to medium-soft peaks.  Dust the top of the cake generously with confectioners’ sugar, slice, and serve each slice with the whipped cream.

IMG00176Fastest Fudge Cake
(serves eight to ten)

This cake is super easy to make, but it’s delicious enough for company.  Fabulous on its own, it’s even better topped with ganache (which is what we did).

  • 4 1/2 oz (1 c.) all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz (1/4 c plus 2 T) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. table salt
  • 1/4 lb (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. hot w1ter
  • 1 c. warm ganache (optional; see separate recipe below)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom of an 8×2 or 9×2-inch round cake pan or line it with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Sift only if the cocoa remains lumpy after whisking.  In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Add the eggs and vanilla; stir until well blended.  Add the flour mixture all at once and stir just until all the flour is moistened.  Pour the hot water over the batter;  stir just until it’s incorporated and the batter is smooth.  Scrape the batter into a prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes  for a 9-inch pan;  35-40 minutes for an 8-inch pan.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edge and invert the cake (peel off the parchment if necessary).  Invert it again on  the rack and let cool completely.

Once cool, set the rack over a baking sheet or foil.  Pour the warm ganache over the cake and use an icing spatula to spread it over the top of the cake and down the sides.  Let set for about an hour before serving.

(yields 1 1/2 c)

If you have a bit of this ganache left over after icing the fudge cake, use it as a sauce for ice cream or another dessert.  It keeps for a week in the refrigerator.  Rewarm gently.

  • 1/2 lb. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 c. heavy cream; more as needed
  • Granulated sugar (optional)

Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  (If using a 70% bittersweet chocolate, the ganache might be a bit thick; add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, to thin it.  You might also want to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar when you add the hot cream.)

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  1. If I’m not mistaken, the Bourbon Chocolate Cake is what we’d serve periodically at the Plantation under the name Boca Negra. It was always popular (which is why it showed up in the rotation fairly often), served in a pool of creme anglaise.

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