It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the boy and I (an engineer and a ph.d. candidate, respectively), are not terribly social people.  We love going out to a nice meal, but having that nice meal on Valentine’s Day, with everyone else in the world, all trying desperately to have the most romantic night possible – whew…well, it stresses us out.  Plus, the food is much more likely to be mediocre or even bad if you go out to eat on a busy holiday weekend like that (the chefs are just trying to keep up and avoid disaster, they don’t have time to focus on making really good food).

So this year, the boy and I continued our tradition of eating at home on Valentine’s day.  What we eat depends on the year, and our mood.  Lots of years we just bake fresh baguette, and pile plates with cheese, sausage or prosciutto, and fruit.  There’s not much that’s more romantic (or just yummy, if you’re eating alone or with friends rather than a partner) than a warm loaf of french bread, a tasty gruyer, and piles of grapes.  Oh, and of course wine.

This year we planned to cook a meal together.  After a lot of debate, we decided on steak with a pomegranate red wine sauce, mashed redskin potatoes, and asparagus.  For dessert, we choose a flourless chocolate cake from the Gluten-Free Goddess.  Sadly, the dinner was a huge disappointment.  The steaks we selected were not very good, despite flawless searing technique on the part of the boy.  The sauce was just not quite right…it seemed overpowering in the pan, but then when served with the steaks, the flavor completely disappeared.  Sad.  The potatoes were good…but they were mashed potatoes, not much mystery there.  The asparagus was also good, but, again, the veg was not the exciting part of this meal.

Luckily for us, the Goddess did not let us down.  This cake is so luscious, so rich and wonderful, it’s unbelievable.  At every stage the batter was silky, rich (and delicious, oh yes, we tasted it…a lot).  It’s also ridiculously easy to make, which is worrying me a little bit, because it would probably be better if there were something to discourage me from making this cake.  The taste and texture is some magical mix of cake, frosting, and fudge, all at the same time.  The Goddess recommends serving it with chocolate sauce or a dusting of powdered sugar.  She must be even more chocolate-mad than I am, because this cake is so rich that I don’t think I could eat it with more chocolate.  I served it with a raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries, which was beautiful (dark chocolate and a vibrant red, plus the freshness of fresh berries), and the tartness of the sauce perfectly balances the richness of the cake.  And, of course, the cake is gluten-free.  And trust me, no one will know, or care.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce
from The Gluten-Free Goddess

16 oz dark chocolate (the best you’re willing to pay for…I used Nestle’s new fancy label)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup very hot strong coffee (or espresso powder in very hot water)
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 batch Raspberry Sauce (recipe below)
fresh raspberries, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 10-inch Springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment (I didn’t have parchment, so I just buttered the bottom.  It worked fine.)

Break up the dark chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl of a large food processor.  Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits (it will make a godawful noise…).  Add the sugar.  Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into an even, sandy grain.

Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again.  Pulse until the chocolate is melted.  Magic!

Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine.  (if you taste it at this stage, the batter is positively truffle-like.  Taste it.)  Add the eggs and vanilla, and process until smooth.  The batter will be liquid and creamy.

Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan.  Wrap the outside of the pan with foil (the cake will rise above the top of the pan, so it needs a guide to prevent it flopping onto the bottom of your oven).  Bake at 350 degrees in the center of the oven, til puffed and cracked and lovely – about 55 to 65 minutes (mine took almost exactly 60).  Use a wooden toothpick to check the center of the cake; pick should emerge clean, with maybe a crumb.

Place the cake pan on a wire rack to cool.  The cake will deflate.  Don’t worry!  When cooled a bit, press down on it gently with a spatula to make it even, if you wish.  I skipped this step, because I thought it looked unique and beautiful all cracked and uneven.

When the cake is completely cooled, cover, and chill it for three hours (up to eight hours) until serving.  Release the cake from the pan.  Slice and serve, drizzled with raspberry sauce and sprinkled with fresh raspberries.

Note: I don’t like my cakes cold, so I took this out of the fridge an hour or so before I planned to serve it.  It was perfect!

Raspberry Sauce

10 oz frozen raspberries, thawed
2-4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons Amaretto or raspberry liqueur (optional)

Combine berries and 2 Tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring to break up the berries and mix in the sugar.  (Berries should break apart themselves, but if you want to make this step a little faster, you can puree them in a blender or food processor first).   Add the liqueur.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Taste (be careful, hot sugar burns!), and adjust sugar and liqueur to taste.  Depending on the raspberries you may need more sugar.  Cool completely before serving.

If the seeds trouble you, you can strain the sauce before serving.  I like them – you can tell the sauce is made from real fruit this way!

Drizzle over cake.  Enjoy!

Note: I use this same sauce to fill layer cakes, I just add a bit of cornstarch to stiffen it up.  It’s unbelievable between layers of red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting!

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