Natalie and Caroline’s Lighter Than Air Chocolate Cake


I have been recovering this week from a clogged milk duct. (Too much information perhaps, but bear with me, it gets better, I promise.) This cake from Gluten-Free Mommy, seemed just the thing to brighten my mood. Natalie says her sister, Caroline, brought her this cake to cheer her up when she was 9 months pregnant, make her feel lighter than air, and it did! Well, this cake worked its miracle on me as well and I felt as if I were floating on a cloud.

This cake, which is much like a souffle, is dark and rich but light and fluffy at the same time. I couldn’t eat much of it at once and that is a compliment. My mother-in-law would love it. Using good quality chocolate just helps accentuate it. The filling helps cut the richness of the cake and adds to the lightness of the texture. I could see adding other liqueurs or flavourings to it for different tastes: Bailey’s, Rum, Kahlua, Kirsch, chocolate liqueur, esspresso, coffee, chocolate extract.

I opted not to put my layers in the freezer because I had no room. I had already taken the time to beat the egg whites in two batches and bake the cake layers two at a time (I only had three tins). I was not about to put one layer at a time in the freezer and wait for them to chill one after the other. Not to mention assemble the cake, then wait two hours to eat it. Perhaps it wouldn’t have taken that long but I did not want to find out. Having enough space when you make this cake definitely helps.

Warning: if you do decide to go this route and not freeze your layers, as I did, be prepared to work s…l…o…w…l…y and expect one or more layers to break. My first layer reached the plate safely, the second broke in half, the third in thirds, and the fourth was in more pieces than I could count. The good news: this cake repairs easily! Due to the soft texture you can press the broken bits together and the filling cements them. Storing it in the fridge firms it up.

This cake is not the easiest to make, especially with three kids running through the kitchen. They were all curious about each step and when the cake came together there was no keeping them away. All four of us put pink m&ms (pink for breast cancer awareness) on the cake in the shape of an M. M for you know what: Mommy, Mum, Mummy, Mom, Mama, Ma, Mother. Too perfect! Thanks Natalie and Caroline for helping brighten my day.


Natalie and Caroline’s Lighter Than Air Chocolate Cake

For Cake Layers:

340g (12 oz) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, at room temperature (I used Green and Black’s Dark 70%)

90 ml (6 tablespoons) water

12 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

300g (1 1/3 cups) caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

15g (2 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder

For Filling:

475 ml (2 cups) cream

45g (6 tablespoons) icing sugar

60 ml (4 tablespoons) Grand Marnier (I used 30g (4 tablespoons) of cocoa and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, as Natalie and Caroline did)

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Grease four 23 cm (9 inch) round cake tins and line bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm.

Beat egg yolks, 150g (2/3 cup) of the caster sugar, and salt in a large bowl until thick and pale, about 5 minutes with a stand mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended.

Beat egg whites with clean beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 150g (2/3 cup) of caster sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. (I beat half the egg whites in my stand mixer with half of the rest of the caster sugar (75g, 1/3 cup), then the other half with the last of the sugar (75g, 1/3 cup)). Tip: Chilling the bowl and beaters before beating the egg whites (and cream for the filling) will help them hold stiffer peaks longer.

Spread batter evenly among four baking tins and bake until puffed and top is dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer tins to cooling racks.

Sift cocoa powder over tops of cakes and place a piece of greaseproof paper (waxed paper) over the top of the tins. Place layers in freezer for about an hour until they are firm enough to be carefully lifted without breaking.

Make filling: Beat cream with icing sugar and Grand Marnier, or other flavouring, with clean beaters until it just holds stiff peaks. (You don’t have to use whipped cream. You could use something different, like coconut cream, custard, applesauce, jam, etc. Something creamy though, really accentuates the light texture of this cake.)

Fill Cake: Bring first layer out of the freezer and arrange on platter, cocoa side down. Spread one-quarter of filling evenly over the cake. Repeat this process until all layers and filling are used.

Keep the cake in the fridge until you are ready to serve it.

Caroline and Natalie suggest dark chocolate grated into curls or writing out something special in chocolate chips.

Casein-Free Option:

The cake itself is casein-free.  You could freeze all four layers, bring out one layer at a time to serve, dusted with cocoa or icing sugar, with berries on the side and forgo the filling altogether.  For the filling, substitute coconut cream, applesauce, your favourite dairy-free pudding, some fresh berries, sliced bananas, or a small amount of melted chocolate for the whipped cream.


    2 Comments to “Natalie and Caroline’s Lighter Than Air Chocolate Cake”

  1. on 26 Sep 2008 at 8:04 pm joel

    just baked a sheet cake and let it cool for several hours but when I flipped it it cracked from the center in about 5 different directions. can it be fixed and how?

  2. on 27 Sep 2008 at 8:29 pm Willa

    There’s nothing patience and icing or filling can’t fix with a broken cake. Make sure you have whatever you will serve it on ready, place the broken pieces as close together as possible, then ice it gently over the broken parts. The icing will hide the breaks and only cutting it will reveal what’s hidden. If you can’t stand serving a broken cake, then you could always use it in a trifle or tiramisu instead of throwing it away. Good luck! Thank you for the comment.

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