Boca Negra: An Intensely Fudgey Cake

Silky, rich, and dense, this wonderfully comforting dessert, when eaten warm out of the oven, feels like the perfect marriage between the meltingly delicious inside of a molten lava cake and its cakey outer layer. Once refrigerated, it transforms into a thick, smooth block of Mackinac Island fudge. Chocolate lovers, look no further for the ultimate in fudge cake.


THE RECIPE


Boca Negra, by Lora Brody

Don’t forget to check out my Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions at the bottom of the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao or higher), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 10 pieces
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour

Directions

Don’t feel daunted because you see a lot of steps here. Read through them and you’ll see just how simple this really is.

Preparation…

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center.
  2. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan.
    • Optionally, butter the pan, line the bottom in parchment, and butter the parchment.
  3. If using a springform, wrap the sides and bottom in two layers of heavy duty foil because you’ll be setting it in a bath of hot water and don’t want that to seep in.

Mixing the batter…

  1. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, mix 1 cup of the sugar with the bourbon and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a full boil.
  3. Immediately pour this over the chocolate and stir until it’s completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, ensuring each is melted before adding the next.
  5. Put the eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a separate medium bowl and whisk until the eggs thicken slightly
    • You can simply do this by hand because you won’t be whisking for long and a mixer could take it too far.
  6. Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking all the while until everything is well blended.
  7. Gently whisk in the flour.
  8. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Baking…

  1. Set the pan inside a shallow roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the outside of the cake pan.
  2. Bake for about 30 minutes; the top should have a thin, dry crust.

Once it’s out of the oven…

  1. Remove the cake pan from the water bath (very, very carefully because that water is HOT!) and wipe dry.
  2. If using a springform pan, remove the foil and the sides of the springform.
  3. Cover the top of the cake with a sheet of plastic wrap (actually touching the cake).
  4. Invert the cake onto a flat plate, peel off the parchment (if used) and quickly but gently invert it, once more, onto your serving platter.
  5. Remove the plastic and your beautiful top should be intact 🙂
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. Once cooled, you can store the cake for one day at room temperature or refrigerate/freeze it for longer.

Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions

Bittersweet Chocolate: It’s incredibly, incredibly important that you use the best quality chocolate possible for this recipe because of how greatly the flavor comes through. I recommend E. Guittard, which can be found at Sur la Table and other retailers. Ghirardelli is another fine brand. As stated in the recipe, make sure it’s at least 60% cacao.

I also really advise against using anything other than bittersweet because, with that amount of chocolate flavor, anything sweeter could just make it too difficult to get through. Though, perhaps that would work in your favor!

Flour: If you’re gluten free, try any all-purpose gluten free flour in this recipe. As there is very little flour used, the outcome should be very similar to the original recipe.

Water Bath: The water bath keeps the inside of the oven moist, which means the cake is less likely to split apart on top. This isn’t something done with more traditional cakes because they aren’t nearly comprised of this much liquid. You will find, however, that this is a great practice for baking cheesecake.


THE STORY


Late one evening I found myself craving dessert, which actually doesn’t happen that often. Usually I’m happy with just a bite of candy or a cookie, but this was the kind of craving where I had to make something or I was going to die. Most weeknights, I’m too tired to cook anything past dinner and I prefer to allow myself an evening of as much laziness as possible, simply so I can feel I’ve relaxed at least somewhat. So, making dessert wasn’t something I wanted to put any time or effort into. It’s pretty difficult to find a fast and easy recipe, though! I suppose it’s a good thing I have ten or more dessert cookbooks because there would have to be something in at least one of them, right? I’m lucky because I happened to find the perfect recipe, a Boca Negra, in the first book I grabbed, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. (Julie who? Julia CHILD, of course, haha).

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I suppose I’d feel the same way about any Julia Child based cookbook, but this one contains so many recipes that you never see, which really sets it apart. I’ve found that many, many baking cookbooks showcase all the same sweets: the same cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, icebox desserts…same flavors, same ingredients. They’re all very similar! But this book has things like “Sweet Berry Fougasse,” “Fruit Foccaccia,” “Sage Upside-Down Baby Cake,” “Poppy Seed Torte,” even a wedding cake with marzipan fruits, and, of course, the “Boca Negra.” Now, Julia can’t be credited with all of these desserts; it’s based on her PBS series and, so, the recipes come from many contributing bakers. Perhaps that’s why the range of baked goods is so vast and interesting!

I’ve only tried out a few recipes, but I can already tell the Boca Negra is one of the best. The author describes it as “moist, dense, and dark,” but it’s so much more than that. First, while it’s best classified as a “cake,” the texture is so far from what anyone would consider as such. There’s almost no flour, so it’s more aligned with a flourless chocolate cake, but the texture and flavor is so intensely better. The best way I can think to describe it is to say that it’s like eating the inside of a molten lava cake, but denser. It’s smooth, rich, and– served warm–incredibly comforting. Normally, I can’t eat too much of a rich dessert, especially something too chocolatey; I literally get one or two bites and I’m done. I think something about the texture and warmth played against the richness allows the true addictive quality to come through.

I should add, as the author has, that this “cake” becomes something completely different once chilled; suddenly, when you take a piece out of the fridge and bite into it, you have a mouth full of fudge! What’s nice is you then have a choice of what you’d like to get out of this dessert. You can eat it cold and feel as if you’re biting into a piece of Mackinac Island fudge or you can heat it back up to revisit the almost gooey, hot chocolate-like flavor that it exuded coming straight out of the oven; you can even allow it simply to come to room temperature and find yourself eating the perfect in-between. I love when the choice is yours 🙂

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