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Countess Toulouse-Lautrec's
French Chocolate Cake



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good. Then he separated the light from the dark, and it was better.”

~ Unknown

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Countess Toulouse-Lautrec’s
French Chocolate Cake

Maida Heatter's Book of
Great Chocolate Desserts

by Maida Heatter, 1995, Random House

10 portions

“Mapie, the Countess de Toulouse-Lautrec, wrote French cookbooks, food
columns, magazine articles about food, and she was the directress of a cooking school for young ladies at Maxim’s restaurant in Paris. She was married to an admiral in the French navy who belonged to the same family as the artist (the
artist was her father-in-law’s cousin). Incidentally, like most great artists,
Toulouse-Lautrec was also a gourmet and a fine cook himself. The Countess introduced this recipe to America in an article for McCall’s Magazine in 1959. Since then it has continued to grow in popularity under a variety of names and adaptations. (The ‘one tablespoon’ measures of flour and sugar are correct.)
This cake is not a cake by American standards. It is rather like a rich, moist,
dense cheesecake – like unadulterated and undiluted chocolate. It is best to
make it a day before serving or at least 6 to 8 hours before, or make it way
ahead of time and freeze it. (Thaw before serving.)”

1 pound semisweet chocolate (see Note)
5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) sweet [unsalted] butter,
at room temperature
4 eggs (graded large or extra-large), separated
1 tablespoon unsifted all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Adjust rack one-third up from bottom of the oven and preheat oven to
425 degrees [F.] Separate the bottom and the sides of an 8-inch spring-
form pan. (The cake will be only 1 1/2 inches high on the sides, so the pan may be shallow or deep – either is all right. Or you could use an 8-inch
layer-cake pan that has a loose bottom.) Cut a round of baking-pan liner
paper or wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan, and butter it on one side.
Butter the sides (not the bottom) of the pan. Put the bottom of the pan in
place, close the clamp on the side, and place the buttered paper in the
pan, buttered side up. Set aside.
Break up or coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in the top of a
large double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Cover until partially
melted, then uncover and stir with a rubber spatula until completely
melted. Remove the top of the double boiler from the hot water.
Add about one-third of the butter at a time and stir it into the chocolate
with the rubber spatula. Each addition of butter should be completely
melted and incorporated before the next is added. Set aside to cool
In the small bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg yolks at high speed
for 5 to 7 minutes until they are pale-colored and thick. Add the table-
spoon of flour and beat on low speed for only a moment to incorporate
the flour. Add the beaten yolks to the chocolate (which may still be
slightly warm but should not be hot) and fold and stir gently to mix.
In a clean, small bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites and the
salt until the whites hold a soft shape. Add the granulated sugar and
continue to beat only until the whites hold a definite shape but not until
they are stiff or dry. Fold about one-half of the beaten whites into the chocolate – do not be too thorough. Then fold the chocolate into the remaining whites, handling gently and folding only until both mixtures
are blended.
Turn into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit, first in one direction,
then the other, to level the batter.
Bake for 15 minutes. The cake will be soft and you will think it is not
done. But remove it from the oven. Do not throw the cake away now.
You may think it is the only thing to do, but it is O.K. (However, it might
be wise not to let anyone else see it now.) It will be only about an inch
high in the middle, the rim will be higher than the middle, and the top will
be cracked. Don’t worry – it’s O.K. Baking this cake longer will not
prevent it from sinking.
With a small, sharp knife, carefully cut around the side of the hot cake,
but do not remove the sides of the pan. Let the cake stand in the pan until
it cools to room temperature. Then refrigerate it for at least several hours
or overnight. The cake must be firm when it is removed from the pan.
To remove the cake, cut around the sides again with a small, sharp knife. Remove the sides of the pan. Cover the cake with a small cookie sheet or
the bottom of a quiche pan or anything flat, and invert. Then carefully
insert a narrow spatula or a table knife between the bottom of the pan
and the paper lining; move it just enough to release the bottom of the pan. Remove the bottom and peel off the paper lining. Invert a serving plate over the cake and invert the plate and the cake, leaving the cake right side up.
The Countess serves the cake just as it is. But you have several alternatives. The most obvious is to cover the top generously (excluding the rim) with whipped cream. But if you do not plan to serve it all at once and you might want to freeze the leftovers, that is not the best plan. You can cover the top generously with large, loose, free-form chocolate shavings made with a vegetable peeler and a thick piece of milk chocolate, If you do that, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top of the shavings. Or cover the top of the cake with a generous amount of fresh raspberries or strawberries or Chocolate-Covered Strawberries [recipe is included in the cookbook], and,
if you wish, pass soft whipped cream as a sauce. Or cover the top with peeled and sliced kiwi fruit and strawberries. Or cover the cake with
whipped cream, cover the cream generously with chocolate shavings,
and pass brandied cherries separately to be spooned alongside each portion. Or mound about two-thirds of the cream on top of the cake. Cover the
cream generously with chocolate shavings, or dot it with candied violets
or rose petals. Fit a pastry bag with a star-shaped tube and use the
remaining cream to form a border of rosettes around the rim of the cake.
One final option: Cut the top of the firm, chilled cake, removing the raised rim and making the top smooth. Then serve the cake upside down, either
just as it is or with confectioners’ sugar on top.

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or
2 tablespoons framboise or kirsch

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters whip the above ingredients until they reach the stiffness you want, depending on how you will use the cream.

Serve the cake cold, in small portions – this is rich!

Note: Many recipes for this cake specify Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.
Jean Hewitt made a version of it for The New York Times and she used
Maillard’s Eagle Sweet Chocolate. Sue Britt, the home economist for the
Nestlé Company, used semisweet morsels. I have used them all and they
were all
too good.

Featured Maida Heatter Recipes:
Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
Chocolate Regal
Chocolate Serendipity
Espresso Brownies
New Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake
Chocolate-Chip Cookies

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