Coming out of quarantine by way of flourless chocolate cake

The month of January. No offense to the countless friends I seem to have with birthdays during the month — but in my world the first month of the year can bite me.

It’s not the snow, not the perpetually-freezing temps. It’s not the gray sky or lack of green veggies at the farmer’s market. It’s the sickness — for multiple years going, January has proven to be our sickest month of the year. My children are never sick at one time — instead they tend to individually succumb, then at the end of their personal battle pass the microbes on to a sibling, who then holds onto it for about 5 days until the circle of love continues. Repeat.

From just before Christmas, until this weekend — minus a couple breaks of a few days — I had at least one sick child. I know that it’s uncool to complain about anything at all when you’re a mother, since we’re supposed to just be thankful at all moments of every day that we are blessed with children — but seriously, the weeks nearly landed me in a padded room. I am an introvert to my very core — if I don’t occasionally get something that at least resembles “alone time” on a weekly basis then my inner barometer starts to spin out of control. I can’t think straight, I get depressed, I become a shining example to my children of how not to mother (lots of apologies were in order).

And I don’t want to cook. Nothing but the bare minimum, and lots of chicken soup.

But the sun rose on Friday morning, and my two oldest children went to school. Both of them. At the same time. I saw a glimpse of sanity on my horizon; and like a single drop of water to a parched soul, that glimpse only left me wanting more. I was all jittery, seized by the prospect of an afternoon alone — and since Tim would be at a workshop all day Saturday, he’d offered to give me something like that on Friday. But I misunderstood what he meant — and when I brought my 4-year old home from school, my dream of an afternoon spent wandering the halls of the Indianapolis Museum of Art was extinguished like a gas burner underneath an over-boiled pot. My icy, silent tantrum would last the rest of the day.

But with the next morning came resolve. I was internally reminded: my children are adorable, lovely creatures — and really, quite easy to be around (most of the time). On Saturday, I satisfied their need for a fun activity by hitting up our rarely visited Chick-fil-A for lunch. They played some games together, and by mid-afternoon I let them watch a movie while I sat in my kitchen, alone. I was looking up recipes for lamb stew when I saw a tweet about flourless chocolate cake.

I had not made one in years, though it used to be one of my favorite go-to desserts. And before I knew it, I was foregoing my search for stew and flipping through old magazines, looking for the dog-eared, egg-splattered page. Cracking open eggs, melting chocolate in a double-boiler. And it was sometime in those moments that I felt normal again — or maybe more appropriately, sane. My kids came downstairs when the movie was over, just in time to watch me fold in egg whites and have the tiniest taste of the batter. They were fascinated by how the cake rose so high in the oven, only to collapse beautifully as it cooled. They asked, is it someone’s birthday? Is someone coming for dinner? And as I answered that no, I just wanted to bake a cake, I realized how much of me I had been withholding as I tended to all those sick-house duties.

This cake is simple, and worthy of that moment. It has a lovely dark-chocolate flavor (I prefer bittersweet chocolate, which renders it not too rich or sweet) and a light, soft texture. Dusted with powdered sugar, it is a rustic beauty atop a round white cake stand — and in my experience it’s a dessert that impresses without fail.

Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake

: adapted closely from this recipe at Everyday Food

If you’ve never folded egg whites, you need a large bowl and a rubber spatula, and should watch this video — it’s easy once you see how it’s done.


  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for pan (could sub coconut oil for dairy-free)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • whipped cream, for topping (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 275°, and have rack in center of oven. Butter or oil a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Combine butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Let cool slightly, then whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar & pinch salt, and beat until stiff and glossy.
  4. Whisk about 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate. Then gently fold the chocolate back into the rest of the whites.
  5. Pour into greased pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is just set in the center, about 45-50 minutes (cake will puff up, but will collapse flat as it cools). Serve dusted w/ powdered sugar, topped with fresh whipped cream.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.


As if a flourless chocolate cake wasn’t enough to punctuate our household’s return to health, I was utterly delighted on Sunday morning when I awoke to an email from Loralee Choate of Where Women Cook — a quarterly print magazine “all about the women … some famous, some not; some entrepreneurs, some not; some vegetarian, some not; some in beautiful kitchens, some not; and some who create their own recipes, and some who do not … but all who are passionate about all things food.”

Loralee had selected my blog to feature in the Sunday Brunch portion of Amuse-Bouch, the online presence of the magazine. If you follow me on twitter, you might have seen a few tweets that included words like “panic attack” — I of course meant that in the best sense of the word. I was beaming all day at having been featured, and am allowing the fun of it all to carry me (and my chocolate cake leftovers) straight through this week.

This week that has graciously started with healthy children.

21 thoughts on “Coming out of quarantine by way of flourless chocolate cake

  1. Mmmm… I haven’t had a good flourless chocolate cake in a really long time. And this is something I can actually enjoy now that I’m avoiding gluten! Why haven’t I thought of this sooner! Thanks for sharing this!

    And also, congrats again on the Sunday Brunch feature!

  2. GORGEOUS Photos – love the idea of baking a cake “just because.” What is it about January with the sickest month of the year – I swear, everyone I know is sick.

    I’m so glad that you were featured on Where Women Cook – it’s how I came across your lovely blog (and will be a frequent visitor!)

    1. Lys, I feel like I should do something next year to prepare for it. Like, keep everyone inside the house for the whole month. Except that would land me in the same place, stir-crazed.

      So glad you found me through WWC, and that you plan to visit again!

  3. This cake looks delicious! I will have to try it next Sunday on my “cheat” day.

    I read the Where Women Cook post that featured you. I thought it was amazingly written and I immediately went to your blog and added you to my reader without hesitation. It was only later, while reading a 5 favorite blogs post, that I realized you were from Indy, like me. You also love local, real ingredients and doing things the old-fashioned way — yourself. I bake my own bread for the boyfriend to take to work, make everything I can from scratch, and am trying to learn to make my own wheat and bran cereals so I don’t have to consume the preservatives found in the store-bought stuff.

    Needless to say, I’ll be reading your blog on a very regular basis now.

    1. Katie, that’s great! Indy has a wonderful blogging community — I have loved getting to know new local women just through blogging.

      So good, that you are already baking your own bread (I hope your boyfriend appreciates this!) — one of the great shortcomings of Indy, I think, is the lack of a true artisan bread bakery. I hate to say it, but I think the best hearth bread available in this town is at Trader Joe’s. Kind of a shame, for a city this size.

  4. Leave it to a week that starts with healthy children to turn around and smack you with an ice storm. And speaking of ice, I’ve had a few of those icy, silent tantrums myself this month. I have a January birthday and still, this month can bite me.

    I love the part where the children are asking what the occasion is and you answer that you just wanted to bake a cake. So sweet, and it reminds me that it doesn’t take much to make everything feel right again.

    Here’s to spring, and here’s hoping you get those few hours at the IMA very soon.

    1. As a defensive pessimist, the irony of the ice storm’s timing did not catch me off-guard.

      I raise my virtual glass to spring, as well!

  5. I was utterly delighted by your blog and thrilled to put it on Amuse Bouche! So glad Emily passed you along to me. And between you, me & the tree (and, well, the entire Internet, I suppose) the Sunday Brunch portion of our blog is my favorite to compile! 🙂

    1. I can see how that would be a fun job to do — I often long to have a legitimate excuse to read my entire reader list of food blogs. I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s feature!

  6. That cake looks good — you think I’d like it? I don’t care for bitter chocolate, would semi-sweet work? I have a couple of parties coming up where I am supposed to bring something.

    When they started predicting the ice for Indy, did the Southerner in you stir and feel the irresistable pull to the grocery store to buy bread and milk? Or did you just do your normal shopping on an unscheduled day?

    1. Yes, you can use semi-sweet (the recipe makes it optional to use either).

      That’s actually when I realized we were in for trouble — I went to the grocery yesterday morning, just b/c that’s when I usually go, and it was PACKED. Since I’ve never seen folks here freak out and clean out grocery shelves, I knew this must be a storm to take seriously. It’s the ice/wind factor — so the likelihood of power outages is high.

  7. Lovely post, Katy! Continuing on my travel-related comment stream, there’s a Oaxacan saying “Por todo mal, mezcal. Por todo bien tambien.” Probably obvious, but “For everything bad, mezcal. For everything good too.” (Mezcal is the delicious-when-made-properly local spirit). That’s how I feel about baking. I always bake when I’m depressed and for some reason it always makes me feel better. And it works for celebrating too, of course! Hope everyone stays healthy and that you get your alone time soon!

    1. Yes, I’m a true intro, a sometimes INFP, other times INTJ. But I’m not shy — which is why it often surprises people that I’m so introverted.

      It also means that I still really enjoy people, but get worn out. This, and the alone-time need, which is very strong. Kind of inconvenient, in a family-of-five.

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