Chocolate Idiot Cake

April 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

J:  This is the second time I’ve made this cake.  The first time was back in the days before Nombudsman existed, and while I think there were some things that worked better the first time and some that worked better the second time, both times the cake was pretty indisputably delicious.  It is called the “chocolate idiot cake” because, according to its creator David Lebovitz, it is so easy to make that only an idiot could mess it up.  And seriously it’s true; as long as you follow the directions and bake it for some amount of time it will be ridiculously tasty.

The first time I made this cake, it set completely.  This time around I was making it for a Seder (yay for flourless cakes!) and was in a rush to get there on time, so it did not set entirely — I literally pulled it out of the oven as soon as the top was set (which took way longer than Mr. Lebovitz said it would!), wrapped it in dish towels, and bolted out the door. But according to the people who ate it, it was still “disgusting” (in a good way) and “one of the best things I’ve ever tasted” and “the uncooked part was the best!”  So, yeah, I didn’t get many complaints.

so. much. chocolate.

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Idiot Cake
(original recipe found here)
10 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped roughly
7 oz (14 tbsp) butter, cut into pieces
5 eggs
1 c sugar
Cinnamon or cocoa powder, for sprinkling (see below)

Preheat your oven to 350.

Put the chocolate and butter, both cut/chopped into pieces, in a bowl and either melt in a double boiler or use the microwave (I did the latter, not having a double boiler handy… Santa, hear that?).


If you’re using a microwave, melt it in 30-second increments and stir between each one until the mixture is smooth.

post-melting. try not to devour this straight.

Set aside, but stir it every now and then just to keep it smooth.

While you are melting the chocolate and butter, take a 9-inch springform pan (makes getting the cake out so much easier!), and butter it lightly.  The original recipe directs you to dust it with cocoa powder, but I am currently out of cocoa powder — I know, and I call myself a foodie?! — so my ingenious, if I do say so myself, substitution was cinnamon.  Seriously, use cinnamon instead of cocoa powder.  It was an amazing swap, and gave each bite of the cake a little hint of cinnamon deliciousness to complement the rich, deep chocolateyness.

this was a fantastic move on my part

Tap out any excess cinnamon, and wrap the outside of your pan in aluminum foil, making sure that it comes more than halfway up the sides of the pan.  You want this to be pretty watertight.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth.  Then slowly add in the chocolate/butter mixture, whisking as you go to make sure it combines nicely.  Pour this mixture into the prepared springform pan, and don’t forget to lick the bowl!

ready to go in

Place the springform pan in a large glass baking or casserole dish.  Fill this dish with hot water until it comes up to about the halfway mark on the springform pan.  Cover the springform pan with a sheet of foil, and place the whole complicated thing — carefully, since it will be very heavy — into the oven.  Bake for 75 minutes.

Here’s the thing.  I did all of this “giftwrapping” of the cake before it went into the oven, and it took forever to bake.  Mr. Lebovitz’s cooking time is an hour and 15 minutes, but mine was nowhere near done at that point; even the top wasn’t set yet.  I removed the foil from the top of the cake when it reached the 75-minute point and was still gooey, and it set pretty quickly after that, but as I mentioned above, the rest of the cake was not cooked all the way through.  I might recommend either forgoing the foil cover entirely, removing it about halfway through the baking process, or maybe cutting slits in it to help the cake along while not letting it lose all its moisture.

After the Seder, I put the leftovers (of which there were only about two slices) into the freezer, and that helped it set some, so if yours doesn’t set entirely either, you can do that too.

And again, regardless of whether it sets fully… it will be amazing.

this cake will make you cry tears of chocolatey bliss


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§ 3 Responses to Chocolate Idiot Cake

  • nina says:

    how hot of water did you use for the bain marie? i mixed some boiling water with hot tap water, and the water was hot enough that i had to use oven mitts to move the metal roasting pan i was using as the outer pan [wish i had thought to take its temp] into the oven. i have made a similar cake, ‘le bete noir’ before, and it cooked in the suggested time. if your bain marie water was tepid, and there was a lot of it, that might slow things down a lot.
    i will be checking it for done-ness more than i would have before reading your review [my husband would insist on throwing out anything with undercooked eggs!]
    it did seem set all the way across at 75 min. although a finger touch did not come away entirely clean near the center, it didnt seem the least bit quivery, so i took it out.
    it was done all the way across and delicious.
    it is not idiot-proof at all. the springform pan/water bath combo seems to lead to many ruined cakes. i used a regular aluminum cake pan lined entirely with parchment [took three tries to get the parchment creased just right to sit in the pan]. every time i think of buying a springform, i read the reviews on amazon and decide against it.

    • nombudsman says:

      Thanks for your thoughts! I know the water was hot but I don’t think it was quite as hot as yours – I’m pretty sure I was able to move the pan without oven mitts. Do you remember if you used a foil cover for it as this recipe suggested? I think that probably slowed down the process quite a lot, because once I took the cover off it set quite quickly, and if I hadn’t had somewhere to be, it definitely wouldn’t have taken much longer to finish baking.
      As far as springform pans, I actually love mine. I got it at crate&barrel and it has worked really well so far. I think as long as you make sure you have sealed the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil or something, to ensure that no water will get in, you’ll be just fine (I certainly wouldn’t rely on the pan alone to keep water out – it is definitely not waterproof). And it’s super useful for cheesecakes etc.! Give it a try if you haven’t already (maybe borrow a friend’s if you don’t want to commit to buying one yourself right away) and see what you think.

  • nina says:

    i made it for thanksgiving, just a few days ago. i did cover tightly with foil, as i was worried i might splash water into the cake pan when filling the roasting pan around it otherwise. i left it on the entire 75 minutes.
    do you have a freestanding oven thermometer? my oven is very old [no light, no convection, only 24″ wide, no pilot nor electronic ignition], so i always use a freestanding oven thermometer. actually my oven runs hot, and for pizza, it can get near 600 degrees, something i will miss when i get its replacement.

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