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following directions

Recipe: flourless chocolate espresso truffle cake

Sometimes I’m bad at following instructions and other times I’m great at it. For instance, in the past several months, many wonderful bloggers have tagged me for various blogging awards. The gist of the blogging award is to display it in a post or on your blog, write whatever it is the award/meme wants you to write, pass it along to other recipients, and name the one who bestowed it upon you. I used to try and keep up with these, but after a while I just couldn’t. As they piled up, I was less and less inclined to get around to them. So I hope all of the nice people who passed awards on to me aren’t offended, but I don’t see these making it to post at all. Thanks for thinking of me, really. I just find the whole award business to be one of those “we’re all going to break our arms patting each other on the back” deals.

chopped valrhona semisweet chocolate

processed into fine crumbs

I’ve also completely ignored calls for me to rest. This is the eleventh time in ten months I’ve had to recuperate from surgery, chemo, radiation, or GI infection. I’m pretty familiar with what my body needs and doesn’t need, what it can and cannot do. The whole notion of rest is a nice one, but there are times when you need to use your muscles or else you are going to lose your muscles. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and run a 100-mile overland race, but it does mean I will get up and about and do what I feel I am capable of doing.

That said, I am very good at following the directions of doctors, coaches, (most) professors, instructors, and anyone working at McGuckin Hardware in Boulder. Dr. McHottie (my ER surgeon – that’s not his real name, but Mollie inspired the nickname) has instructed me to use my judgment and increase activity slowly and cautiously. Yessiree.

sugar and espresso powder

pouring espresso syrup into the chocolate

Jeremy’s birthday was a few days ago, but I wasn’t in any shape to bake him a cake. Good thing neither of us gets our panties in a wad over special dates – especially missing them – otherwise this would have been a year rife with stupid spats and temper tantrums. Because both of our birthdays are in September, we just treat the whole month as a lazy celebration of sorts. So today I got back to baking and I tried a flourless chocolate cake recipe as a nice warm up for Jeremy’s birthday cake.

blend until smooth

add butter

The last time I made a flourless chocolate cake (Boca Negra from Baking with Julia) I had issues with the cake setting because of my elevation. That was frustrating considering it was right before a dinner party. This time, I decided to try a version intended for high altitude, thanks to Susan G. Purdy. It’s pretty easy to make (assuming you don’t let the sugar syrup boil over like I did) and she gives directions for both sea-level and several other elevations.

pour batter into cake pan


The flavor will depend on the quality of the chocolate you use. I opted for Valrhona 61% and I think the cake is pleasantly chocolaty, yet not too sweet, and enhanced with that hint of sharpness from the espresso. The texture at room temperature is silky and creamy. If you chill the slice, the mouth feel is more gooey and rich. Quite lovely topped with some fruit and barely sweetened freshly whipped cream.

now there’s a happy slice

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Truffle Cake
[print recipe]
Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tsps instant espresso powder
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into tbsp pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature

Sea level: Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the cake pan at the ready.

8500 feet: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Place a roasting pan in oven and pour boiling water in to a depth of 1/2 inch.

All altitudes: Butter a 9×2-inch round cake pan. Place parchment paper on the base and brush butter over the paper. Put chocolate in the bowl of food processor and process for a minute until reduced to fine powder (I could only process it into fine crumbs). In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar, and espresso powder. Stir over medium heat until sugar and coffee dissolve. Bring syrup to point where you see little bubbles at the edges just before reaching a full boil (watch it carefully, it can boil over in seconds). Remove from heat. With processor running, slowly pour hot sugar syrup through the feed tube into the chocolate. Process for about 10 seconds to melt all the chocolate. Stop the processor, scrape down the bowl, and pulse a few more seconds. With machine running, add soft butter 2 pieces at a time, allowing them to melt completely (about 20 seconds) before adding more. When all the butter is added, pulse several times and scrape down the bowl to make sure the mixture is smooth. Break the eggs into a measuring cup with spout. Beat the eggs lightly then slowly pour them through the feed tube into the chocolate mixture, pulsing every few seconds to blend. Pulse just enough to incorporate without blending in too much air. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Sea level: Boil a kettle of water. Set the cake pan in the roasting pan and place both on the oven shelf. Pour the boiling water carefully inot one corner of the pan to a depth of 1/2 inch. Bake for 30 to 38 minutes or just until the batter no longer sticks to your fingertip when you touch the top of the cake.

8500 feet: Carefully set the cake pan in the middle of the roasting pan of preheated water. Reduce temperature to 350°F. Bake for 25 to 33 minutes or just until the batter no longer sticks to your fingertip when you touch the top of the cake.

All altitudes: Remove both pans from oven (take care not to splash water). Lift the cake out of the roasting pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes until the pan bottom feels just comfortably warm to the touch. When cake is cooled, run a knife along the cake side to loosen it from the pan. Cover the top of the cake with plastic wrap and top the plastic wrap with a cake circle. Invert the cake pan and let the cake slide out with a gentle downward shake. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment. Center a second plate over the cake and invert again. Remove the top plate and plastic. Decorate and serve or refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

51 nibbles at “following directions”

  1. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    This sounds almost like a baked mousse. Looks utterly decadent…but not too horribly rich. Dr McHottie – hee! Beautiful photos :)

  2. Diana Banana says:

    *aaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh* (I’m making the Homer Simpson pleasure-gurgle sound) This looks awesome and super easy! I love your recipes because they’re not fussy yet totally delicious. I’m making batch #2 of your banana bread as I type…it’s addicting, plus it doesn’t drain me after a long Tuesday workday.

    I’m glad you’re feeling up to being active! You seem to know what your limits are so you don’t over-do it, yet you never keep yourself far from that line. Kudos to you for not torturing yourself with something like petit fours this time!

  3. Caitlin says:

    I’m always floored by how differently you have to bake at high altitudes – makes me glad I don’t have to worry about it though! Happy birthday to you and Jeremy.

  4. Anita says:

    Now that’s a flourless chocolate cake! I love how you capture the texture so beautifully in the last shot!

  5. Mollie says:

    sigh… dr. mchottie…

    happy slice indeed! i’ve been thinking about flourless chocolate cake for a while now… the one I used to make was really dense and almost like a really crumbly cheesecake. I’ll have to dig up the recipe for a comparison… looks heavenly! And happy happy to the butter household!

  6. Mrs Ergül says:

    How lovely of you to bake your husband a birthday cake! Happy (belated) birthday to the Darlings!

    Take care and rest whenever you need to. Gonna miss your daily posts though xxoo

  7. Sarah says:

    My mom & dad share the birthday month of September too. :) I’m too far away to bake a cake for them, but I’ll have to try this for a non-bday occasion! Looks delicious…I especially love the “processed into fine crumbs” picture…yum. Happy bday to you both!

  8. Manggy says:

    I dint know! Happy birthday to you both! :) I think the key to following you doctors’ instructions is simply to find the opinion that most lets you do what you want, heh heh ;) I’m just teasing you. After all, this cake was made in the food processor– a great way to conserve energy. Looking at how rich and decadent this cake is, I’m kind of amazed that it’s merely a prelude to Jeremy’s true birthday cake?! I’ve long been afraid to try truffle cake, not because of technique or fear of failure– but fear that it’s too strong a cake and would take forever to finish. Thankfully I’ve got a trusty 6″ ring and 6″ pan now, yay!
    I also didn’t know that altitude has a bearing on the setting of truffle cakes, that’s quite interesting. I’m skeptical that chocolate under normal circumstances (yes, even at Colorado temps, hehe :) can be ground to a fine powder. The cocoa butter would instantly melt from the heat of the blade, forming the tiny beads instead (tsk tsk Ms. Purdy). I’m glad flipping the cake worked out! I was amazed to see that it didn’t require a springform!

  9. Ginny says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is absolutely delicious!!!! Wow!!! Yummy!!!

  10. Holly says:

    I loved going through all those steps photos – prelude to that beautiful slice. Dr. McHottie sounds like a smart guy. Happy Birthday month to you both!

  11. bee says:

    is your birthday over? if not, happy birthday in advance. if it is, belated wishes to you.

  12. Nate says:

    That’s all there is to making a flourless chocolate cake? wow so simple. Even I could do it *snicker*

    Happy birth-month to you both.

  13. Rosa says:

    OMG, that truffle cake looks mighty delicious! A wonderful treat to savor peacefully and without haste…

    I understand what you mean about those awards. It does feel a little in that way ;-P!



  14. Kitt says:

    Oh, NOM! What a delicious labor of love.

    I hear you on the awards. I just can’t bring myself to post them, flattering as they are. Probably one of these days when my blogging well runs dry.

    Happy birthday to you both!

  15. marion says:

    looks absolutely gorgeous and creamy :) I already love it !

  16. Debbie Green says:

    Your flourless cake looks absolutely delicious! I have never made one before but would like to try sometime since I love chocolate. Happy birthday to both you and your husband. Glad you are feeling better.

  17. Aran says:

    those photos jen… so sharp and tempting…

  18. Lan says:

    beautiful cake, as always. i blame you for the weight i’ve gained this summer… all from attempting to recreate what you do so effortlessly! :)

  19. jain says:

    beautiful pics, i wish you a very happy and healthy future. oh and happy birthday too~

  20. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    I want to try this for my hubby. The combination of chocolate and coffee will make him very happy. glad to hear you are on the mend.

  21. Margie says:

    Sinful. Decadent. Looks too yummy not to try. Good to see you posting and even better to see you kicking butt. ;)

    Happy birthdays to you and to Jeremy!

  22. Fiona says:

    Lovely cake. I won’t give you advice about your health- what the hell do I know? But I will say this: your activity level this whole year is an inspiration to me.

    Happy birthday to you both. Given that this was a first-run, does that mean more cake coming soon? Oh, darn.


  23. Pomme says:

    Hey Jen, great to see you’re on your feet!
    Very happy birthday to the both of you, this cake looks absolutely decadent, I might be unfaithful to my gran’s recipe and try this one (it’ll have to be for a special occaison, I’ve been eating far too much chocolate thses days!)

  24. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Here in Brazil, we use to say that someone energetic like you has “aunts in their seat” :)
    I love to see you back in action again, Jen. And that cake looks like the perfect way to celebrate – both you back in baking and birthdays. :)

  25. Lori says:

    Happy Birthday to you both. What a way to celebrate. That looks like a slice of chocolate love to me. I love how it glistens in the photo.

  26. Lisa says:

    Gorgeous cake.
    I admire your spunk.
    Happy Birthday x2.

  27. Apron Straitjacket says:

    Looks very tempting! Happy birthmonth to you both from another September babe.

  28. sara angel says:

    holy crap…that literally just made my mouth water.

  29. Sara says:

    Your cake is beautiful, I love everything chocolate

  30. peabody says:

    You are not alone. I am the absolute WORST about doing the award thing. I fully appreciate it, I am just really bad about the follow up. I suck.
    Looks like a winner of a chocolate birthday month cake.

  31. aerawrite says:

    came by your blog through someone on xanga. great photos, great writing, and now i’m hungry. the cake should help the recuperation :)

  32. Fearless Kitchen says:

    This cake looks absolutely fantastic. It’s nice to know it was actually intended for higher elevations. You can always jiggle things around with recipes that weren’t, but it’s kind of difficult sometimes.

    And good for you on trying to do as much as you can. I’ve got a friend who’s going through something similar, and being active (as much as he can) is definitely better for him than sitting it out. Since it’s better for him mentally, it’s definitely better for him physically because it keeps him more positive about things.

  33. Sonya says:

    Simple and perfect…bravo!!

  34. jenyu says:

    Laura – much heavier than a mousse, but it “feels” light in the mouth because there is so much butter – hee hee.

    Diana B – that banana bread has a lot of fans :) thanks!

    Caitlin – me too! I would much rather bake at sea-level, except I like being close to the snow ;)

    Anita – thanks love!

    Mollie – every woman deserves a Dr. McHottie at least once in her life… yeah, I’m not sure if I prefer the “cheesecake”-esque style or the truffle style. I could go either way, although the truffle style is more seductive, ya know?

    Mrs. E – thank you sweetie! It’s not Jeremy’s bday cake though ;) See next post!! xxoo

    Sarah – let’s hear it for Sept bdays! Woohoo! I have read that this cake ships well. I mean, you have to wrap it in plastic and then put it in a ziploc and then pad it like nobody’s business, but it supposedly ships, so perhaps…

    Mark – thanks! Yes, that is the key. I also do the same with snow reports – I find the site that gives me the greatest chance for snow and stick with it ;) Don’t you have friends to foist your baking creations on? If I had to eat the bulk of the desserts I made, I would stop baking :( Or you can take a page from Peabody’s book and make small versions. I think I will start doing that myself because I don’t want to give all of my friends and neighbors coronary disease. As for the chocolate… I too thought that grinding it to a fine powder was daft – the blade did indeed melt some of the cocoa butter.

    Ginny – thanks :)

    Holly – smart enough, I s’pose ;) thank you!

    Bee – my bday is Tuesday. I am drawing a blank as to what I want to do or eat. I guess I’m just glad my last year is going to be over. 36 suuuuuucked. xxoo

    Nate – yes you can! :) thanks!

    Rosa – hee hee.

    Kitt – I think you hit the nail on the head. My blogging well never runs dry because I can run my mouth forever. Ha ha ha! thanks for the bday wishes!

    Marion – you’ll love it even more when you get a bite!

    Debbie – thanks so much :)

    Aran – oh you flatter me! I think you’re photos are positively dreamy.

    Lan – ooops! Sorry ;) Now you can lose weight this winter with my telemark instructional series ;)

    Jain – thank you, you’re so sweet.

    Joanne – this cake is guaranteed to make people VERY happy. I hope he likes it. Thanks!

    Margie – thanks!

    Fiona – oh, it’s not meant to be inspirational, it’s just that I’m hyper! Thanks for the bday wishes and yes! More cake!

    Pomme – thank you! Oh, but I hear that dark chocolate is good for you ;)

    Patricia – ha ha, I love that. thanks!

    Lori – it’s a creamy smooth kinda cake. I probably could have let it sit in the bath for a few more minutes.

    Lisa – thanks!!

    Apron SJ – Woohoo! Go girl!! Let’s hear it for September chicks (who kick ASS!)

    Sara Angel – mission accomplished!

    Sara – you should try the cake. It’s fairly straightforward and really dreamy.

    Peabody – yeah, I’ve tagged you in the past and realized it wasn’t happening ;) But there’s just too much of that stuff going around, it’s ridiculous. I tried to keep up, I cannot… :)

    Aerawrite – thanks!

    Fearless Kitchen – yeah, that elevation thing put a damper on my baking when we first moved here. Now I’m getting a little confidence ;) I know that some folks just sit at home during chemo or recovery, but… I would go *insane* doing nothing. I got that from my Dad.

    Sonya – thank you :)

  35. Chocolatey Links says:

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  36. Maja says:

    Happy birthday to both of you! Otherwise i just wanted to tell you that i made this cake yesterday with 70 % chocolate, and it’s superb!!! I can’t decide whether i like it still a bit warm after 30 minutes out of the oven and quite fluffy or dense and rich as it is now after a day in the fridge. I know you said we need to wait for half an hour before eating after refrigeration, but it’s soooo damn good, the dark chocolate and coffee make it kind of bitter, which i absolutely love (no, i didn’t add any more sugar, even though i added darker chocolate), rich, complex desert, and if we don’t finish it before, i’m sure it will be amazing also in half an hour ;)!!!! Thank you for this wonderful recipe. :) xoxo

  37. jenyu says:

    Maja – thank you :) I’m so glad you like the cake! It’s a toss up as to which is better: cold or room temp. Both are fabulous in their own way!

  38. Elizabeth Morinaka says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    I am looking forward to making good espresso, coffee..and enjoyed reading about Jeremy making his professional mochichinno for you.

    What machine do you recommend?

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful autumn photos…and desserts.

  39. jenyu says:

    Elizabeth – oh, you may have misread the posts… I don’t drink coffee. Jeremy’s brother was making mochaccinos for everyone else :) I don’t know the first thing about espresso machines, but the one in the photo is my mother-in-law’s. She got it at Williams-Sonoma.

  40. Phyllis Lynn says:

    Why would a flourless chocolate cake produce crumbs. Have I done something wrong?

  41. jenyu says:

    Phyllis – Hmmm, I think perhaps if you overbaked the cake, it would become dry and crumbly because the moisture was baked out? Did you use a water bath? That really makes a huge difference in texture.

  42. Kathy says:

    Is it possible to make this cake with splenda instead of sugar?

  43. jenyu says:

    Kathy – I have no idea, sorry.

  44. Bridget says:

    This cake was very good. It was very mousse-like, especially when eaten warm. It had a more cake-like texture after being refrigerated. My sister raved about it.

  45. jenyu says:

    Bridget – awesome. I like it at room temp, it’s almost like a truffle texture, but it’s kinda neat how it has so many characteristics depending on its temperature. it’s really simple too, isn’t it?

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  48. Poor Taste says:

    These photos are incredible. I can’t wait to try this, it looks really silky and decadent.

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  50. Aisha says:

    I know this is a super old post, but I just came across this recipe on foodgawker, and WOW. It was so easy to make and tasted like eating a big slice of truffle. Definitely going to be a go-to recipe. Thanks!

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