September 4, 2011

Gotham's warm chocolate cake...for B's birthday

I talked a bit about my sister on her birthday and I wanted to acknowledge my big brother on his special day here too.  I'll try to keep this rather concise and to the point, not my forte when it comes to talking or writing but it is more along the lines of how my brother would handle things.  I mean, when we send him an email, there's probably a 50:50 chance of getting a response and if there is one, it will rarely contain more than say "okay" or "yes" as a reply.  Don't get me wrong, he talks a lot in person, although you have to draw it out of him sometimes.

So happy birthday to my big brother!  Thank you for taking me to all those awesome restaurants - from the hole-in-the-wall Japanese places near your office for lunch to the fancy ones we looked up in Zagat - when I was a kid.  Thank you for giving us $20 before you went off to your part-time job so my sister and I could get ice cream and gather the fixings to make a big lunch.  Thank you for taking me on my first trip to Disneyworld.  Thank you for helping me cut off the brush that was stuck to the bangs of my hair (I think I was about 12 years old) while our sister laughed at me and told me I'd have to chop the whole thing off!  Thank you for doing my English homework for me all those years ago when we first came to the States and there was no way I'd be able to summarize an article from the newspaper.  As you well know, I never forget the bad (remember the scallop story) but I remember the good as well *wink*.
To celebrate, I decided it was apt for me to try my hand at Gotham Bar and Grill's warm chocolate cake.  As I mentioned previously, it was one of the first "fancy" restaurants I ever went to in New York City and my brother took us there.  Also, my brother was always into the whole Gotham/Batman thing.  We had a great time at Gotham that day way back when.  I had this cake for dessert and it was a memorable experience.  The cake is still on the menu today. 

The cake gets chills for about 4 hours after baking, then sliced.
And remember that cooking class on New York restaurants' signature dishes that I took at the ICE?  Gotham's chocolate cake was part of our course so I have the recipe.  Honestly, I can't guarantee you this is the exact recipe used by the restaurant but it tastes like it (as far as I can's been too long since I've been there).  It is rich, dark (the higher percentage cacao chocolate you use, the darker it will be), decadent, and delicious - you must love chocolate though.  I highly recommend you eat a slice of this cake with some ice cream.  The restaurant serves the cake with various seasonal ice creams they make in-house.  At home, I think some vanilla ice cream is just the ticket against the warm cake to balance out all that dark goodness.  Sounds ironic, I know, to say we need ice cream to "balance out" the richness but it's a necessary contrast since the cake has almost too much chocolate.
It gets warmed in a 150 degree oven and served with a scoop of cold ice cream.
When I took this cooking class in the Spring, I didn't work on this cake.  I deliberately joined a team working on the entrees since I bake at home often enough.  The only contribution I made was to whip the cream when the others were getting tired and I messed that up since I hadn't read the recipe and thought that we were going for stiff whipped cream rather than soft peaks.  So this was going to be an interesting project.  All in all, this is a bit more work than your ordinary cake and more complicated than its fairly humble appearance might suggest.  And I think it's a testament to the thought and work that goes on behind the kitchen doors at restaurants like Gotham Bar & Grill.  There is lots of melting, whisking, and folding involved in making this cake.  But I think the result was worth it.  My brother enjoyed it, jokingly licking his plate!  But my family knows I like to bask in the glory of their praise so I was pretty sure they'd love whatever I brought.  

Happy Birthday, B! 

Making Gotham Bar & Grill's Warm Chocolate Cake 

There are actually just a handful of ingredients in this flourless chocolate cake.  It does have a ton of chocolate in it while eggs are used to lift the whole thing and some heavy cream comes into play as well.  If you're interested in making this cake, it's important to read the recipe a couple of times before starting.  You need to do some equipment planning in advance as well since the recipe requires the use of a few big bowls and a roasting pan.

The recipe uses a 10" springform pan and I really think that is best.  The cake is quite rich so you don't need a very thick slice.  Unfortunately, I only have a 9" pan and it's also not very heavily gauged.  Since the cake needs to go into a roasting pan filled with hot water, a heavy bottomed pan would be ideal but I worked with what I have. 

Prep the springform pan by spraying with cooking spray.  The original recipe doesn't call for this but I wrapped the base of the pan with a couple layers of foil to prevent water from getting in.  I vaguely recall this was done in the cooking class. 
I have to admit I wimped out a little.  I remember this cake tasting dark and extremely bittersweet on its own at the class so I dialed down the amount of chocolate just a touch (lots of young palates will be eating this cake).  So instead of using a total of 19 ounces of chocolate as the recipe states (yes, that's right), I'm using an even pound: 14 oz. of bittersweet chocolate and 2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate.  I'm using easily accessible Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate and some unsweetened chocolate from Scharffen Berger.  Again, we have young eaters with us so I thought the Ghiradelli's 60% cacao worked well.  If you are catering to an older, more sophisticated audience, try using a bittersweet chocolate that is a bit higher in cacao.  At the cooking class, I believe we used Valhrona chocolate with somewhere around 64% to 70% cacao.  Unsweetened chocolate is essentially 100% cacao with no sugar added whatsoever so contributes a very bitter, dark flavor.
In a large bowl, melt the chocolate, along with some coffee, instant espresso powder, and salt over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  There is a lot of chocolate investment at stake here so I watched carefully, making sure the bowl is not coming into contact with the water, which could scorch the chocolate. 
Place 6 eggs into the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk together with some sugar.  Then place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted.  The mixture should be warm at about 110 degrees. 
Transfer the egg mixture to the stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment on medium speed for about 5 minutes until it triples in volume.
Whisk a cup of cold heavy cream to the soft peak stage.  I do this by hand in a cold glass bowl.  The colder, the better.  It reaches soft peaks very quickly with a large whisk so watch carefully not to overwhip it.  At soft peaks, it should still falls back on itself when you lift the whisk.  Should you over do it, add a bit more cream and whisk until you reach soft peaks, then use a little less in the batter.  I only had a cup of cream so I was very careful! 
Time to incorporate the 3 components.  Whisk 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate to lighten it up.  Then gently fold in the rest in 3 separate additions using a rubber spatula.  I love folding things into chocolate!

Fold in the whipped cream in 2 additions.  Here you see why we don't want the cream to be stiff because you'd have trouble incorporating it smoothly and would deflate the cake batter.
Time to take out the Thanksgiving turkey roasting pan.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place it into the roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with about 2 inches of very hot tap water.  Bake for about 30 minutes and then rotate and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.  Mine took about an hour altogether. 
The cake does not rise further in the oven.  When it's done, it feels slightly firm to the touch and starts to pull away from the edge.  Let the cake cool for about an hour to room temperature and then wrap it in plastic and chill it for about 4 hours so it fully firms up. 
After that time, unmold by removing the ring.  Rewrap it again and leave in the fridge if you're not planning to serve it soon.  Be careful when unmolding and wrapping the cake.  It is very soft and I was very worried I'd drop it or drop something on it.  By the way, a little condensation trapped under the first plastic wrap dripped onto a spot on the cake...hence, the little light mark on the surface.  It went away after I re-wrapped it a second time.   
Plan ahead before serving since we need to re-warm the cake.  The recipe says to slice the cake into serving pieces and let it come to room temperature.  To get clean slices, I find a clean hot knife works best (run the blade under hot water and wipe it between slices).  Place the cake slices into a warm 150 oven for about 15 minutes or so.  The recipe actually says to warm it for 30 minutes.  Everyone's oven is a bit different so watch carefully and use your judgement.  You don't want the whole thing to melt into a pudde of chocolate but it is definitely meant to be eaten warm.   

At the cooking class, we were short on time and actually placed the cake for about an hour in the freezer to chill.  We also warmed the entire cake and sliced it afterwards and it worked fine.
Serve the warm cake with a side of vanilla ice cream.  The cake is moist, dark, very rich and, I think, just delicious.  A little goes a long way with this cake so I would serve relatively small slices after a meal.


Gotham Bar & Grill's Warm Chocolate Cake
Adapted from recipe provided at ICE's "Great NY Restaurants' Signature Dishes" course

- Makes one 9" or 10" cake -

14 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped*
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 large pinch of salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream, cold

* I am using a combined total of 1 lb. of chocolate but the recipe actually calls for 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate and 3 oz. of unsweetened chocolate. *

Prep work:  Prepare a 10" springform pan (9" pan also works; heavy gauge works best) by spraying it generously with cooking spray.  Wrap 2 layers of foil around the outside of the springform pan.  Have a roasting pan ready.  Pour the heavy cream into a medium size bowl and place in the refrigerator, along with a large whisk.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Chocolate:  In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, melt the chocolate, coffee, instant espresso powder, and salt together over a saucepan with barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not directly touching the water.  Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted.  Set aside.

Eggs and Sugar:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs together the sugar.  Place this over the saucepan with the barely simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the mixture is warm (about 110 degrees if you have a thermometer).  Again, make sure to do this over barely simmering water since too high a heat could cook the eggs.  Place the bowl into the stand mixer and whip on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the egg mixture thickens and triples in volume.  The mixture will hold its shape when you lift the whisk up.  This takes about 5 minutes or so.

Heavy cream:  Take heavy cream from the refrigerator and whisk to the soft peak stage.  This happens quite fast if you are using a medium or large size bowl and a large whisk so watch carefully not to overwhip.  At soft peaks, the cream will fall back onto itself.  (If you overbeat it, add a little more cream and whisk gently again to soft peaks.  Then, use a little less when incorporating into the cake.)

Combining it all together:  Whisk 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture.  Then gently fold in the remaining egg mixture in 3 separate additions using a rubber spatula.

Fold the whipped cream into the now combined chocolate and egg mixture in 2 additions.

Pour batter into the springform pan.  Place this into the roasting pan and add about 2 inches of very hot tap water.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 20-30 minutes.  Time will vary slightly depending on size of the pan you are using.  The cake is ready when it feels slightly firm to the touch and begins to pull away from the sides. 

Let cake cool for about an hour to room temperature.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerator for about 4 hours until chilled and firm.  Unmold the ring from the springform pan.  Rewrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator or slice as directed below for warming and serving.

Serving:  Before serving the cake, slice into pieces and bring to room temperature.  Then place into a warm 150 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it since you want the cake to be just warm and not so hot that it melts into a puddle of chocolate.  Serve cake with vanilla ice cream.


  1. Love this cake and just tried to bake it :-) Can't wit to taste it

  2. Thank you for this recipe! Just made one today and it tasted just like Gotham's cake!

    1. Very happy to hear that! Hope you enjoy every bite.

  3. Love your post. Beautifully written and photographed. Thanks for sharing. I linked to your post from my blog so others can see it. And this cake....DELICIOUS!



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