The French chocolate cake

How do you tell the difference between a German and a French chocolate cake? According to a German journalist, one is simply good, while the other is delicious. What's the secret of French pastry chefs, professional or amateur? It's quite simple: lots of chocolate and lots of butter! Because chocolate fondant or moelleux is much more than a dessert: it's a true sensory experience!



Little flour, lots of eggs and dark chocolate

There isn't a party in France without a guest saying: I'll make you my chocolate cake. Not ONE chocolate cake, MY chocolate cake, the one for which he revised the recipe in the lift in the hope that someone would ask him, praying that it would be as good as last time and not as overcooked as the time before.

It's important to remember that French chocolate cake is nothing like German chocolate cake. "What?! We make good chocolate cakes too", say the Germans. But no: the cake I'm talking about isn't a kind of cocoa pound cake like you see all over Germany. No, it's a much heavier, denser, moist, fondant, creamy, sticky cake with a much higher chocolate content.

In fact, it's not just a cake, it's a sensual experience: watch how the guests eat it, listen to the silence punctuated only by a few "oh my god" and "oh, la, la!

Its secret? It contains virtually no flour, but lots of sugar, eggs and dark chocolate, giving it an indescribably fondant, mellow, semi-cooked, runny texture.

While the terms "fondant", "moelleux", "mi-cuit" and "coulant" do exist to describe different chocolate cakes, the French use these terms somewhat indiscriminately: Some say that a moelleux cake must have a fondant centre, others that a fondant cake must bake longer, others that a moelleux cake has more flour and is drier than a fondant cake, others that it's really the fondant cake that's moelleux, others that confuse fondant and coulant.

In short, there's a rather astonishing vagueness when you consider the precision with which the French categorise their dishes, their names and their every move in the kitchen. But we wouldn't be Karambolage if we hadn't investigated for you.

The basic recipe

For a delicious fondant, take 200 g of dark chocolate, 200 g of butter, 150 g of sugar, between 3 and 5 eggs, a tablespoon of flour and no yeast. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. When it's done, the fondant actually melts! But be careful! In the mouth, not on the plate! The recipe for chocolate moelleux is similar to that for fondant, with the difference that for 200g of chocolate, you can add up to 125g of flour and baking powder, which will give a cake that is more yeasty, airy and moist, let's not mince words. It is often baked in small individual moulds and served with custard.

Chocolate fondant by Michelin-starred chef Michel Bras

If you stop the cooking in time, you will obtain a soft body that is much appreciated by your guests: the coulant, also known as mi-cuit, as its name suggests, must have a liquid centre. It was invented in the 1980s by a Michelin-starred chef, Michel Bras. His idea is as simple as it is ingenious: you simply insert a piece of frozen ganache into the cake batter. When the cake has finished baking, the chocolate has melted. It's divine!

Of course, after 30 years in France, I too have perfected my chocolate cake: an intense salted butter fondant, a gustatory pleasure that guarantees me at least 15 minutes of fame every time I serve it. Well, the other evening I took it to a party, sure to be another hit. No sooner had I placed my marvel on the table than another guest came into the living room with her chocolate cake: I had a moment of panic, I admit, but I calmed down immediately. I had nothing to fear, she was German.

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