Julian, who turned eight on October 24, asked for a “small party at home,” with lots of creepy decorations. He started naming individual guests and planning every material detail on October 1, and it was my goal to say yes to everything I possibly could. (I am not naturally inclined to the ghoulish and have a natural horror of candy.) That meant lots of gourds and pumpkins (real) plus fake cobwebs, spiders, cockroaches, tiny bats, tiny rats, etc. In the Room of Horror were four mason jars, just big enough for 7- and 8-year-old hands to slip into, in order to explore “brains” (cooked spaghetti with a few grapes), “missing teeth,” (fresh pumpkin guts, seeds and fibers included), “heart,” (a corner-shop tomato, peeled, with holes poked in it, for valves), and “eyeballs,” (cheap tiny mozzarella balls).
For dinner Julian asked for spaghetti and meatballs and flourless chocolate cake. The rotini were from a new New York wheat and pasta operation, Northern Farmhouse Pasta, which I found at Murray’s Cheese. We served vegetables and mozzarella for starters, and Julian’s friends helped me serve — very good manners.
As for dessert, here’s one of my few sweets that’s properly sweet, rather than my typical half-sweet. Michele Pulaski taught me this cake. If you want to make it less sweet, use all 100% chocolate, but leave the sugar syrup alone. The syrup does something I don’t understand with the texture. Despite the butter, we also eat it at Passover — and there’s picture of a younger Julian, in The Real Food Cookbook, taking a wistful look before the meal. Isn’t the Mast Bros. chocolate beautiful and dark? This time I added a sprinkle of cinnamon and a grind of salt to the batter. There were nine children at the party — six guest plus our three — and each had a personal cake. Julian’s final request: drizzle local raw honey on top, for “icing.” I said yes to that, too.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
This chocolate treat became a family tradition on the very first taste. Another gift from Michele Pulaski, it is intense, molten in the middle, and a touch sweeter than my usual fare, but I wouldn’t change anything, partly because the sugar does things to the texture that one doesn’t want to spoil. I like it best in individual ramekins. Taking the cake from the pan without minor scrapes and bumps takes some practice. Serve it with cream whipped with a tablespoon or two of crème fraîche. In raspberry season, garnish with a few ripe ones. Leave any uneaten cake on the counter rather than in the fridge. At cool temperatures, the butter will harden, and it’s tastier when it’s a bit soft.
1 1/3 c organic whole cane sugar
2 bars (200 g or 7 oz) 100% chocolate
1 bar (100 g or 3.5 oz) 70% chocolate
1 c (2 sticks or 8 oz or 16 T) unsalted butter, softened
4 c heavy cream for whipping
4 T crème fraîche for whipping
1. Set the oven to 350°F.
2. Butter ten 4-ounce ramekins or a 9-inch springform cake pan. Choose a larger pan for a warm water bath.
3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add 1/3 cup of the sugar and whisk until the mixture is fluffy, shiny, and almost meringue-thick.
4. In a saucepan, make a simple syrup with the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the water. Bring to boil and boil for exactly 2 minutes. Take off the heat.
5. Break the chocolate into small pieces and add them to the warm syrup. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted.
6. Add the butter to the chocolate. Blend gently. Let it cool slightly.
7. Fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs. Pour the batter into the ramekins or pan. Wrap the spring-form pans in tin foil, otherwise the hot water bath will seep in the small cracks. Set in a bath of warm water and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
8. Let the cake rest for 20 minutes. If it’s in a pan, set it carefully onto a plate.
9. Meanwhile, whip the cream and crème fraîche. Garnish and serve.