Chocolate Cake and Snow


Every once in a while I pull my copy of French Women Don’t Get Fat off the shelf and read it cover to cover in a few sittings.  Although it is manual about how to lose weight, to me it’s more about learning to enjoy food deeply.  Every time I read it I am consumed with longing to go back to France, to live there in a tiny village and never come back.  And when reality sinks in and I realize that that’s probably not going to happen, I decide to assuage this fierce longing by making a chocolate mousse or some kind of rich chocolate cake, like I did last spring.

So yesterday I read through most of French Women Don’t Get Fat, and I am going to make the same cake again today, even though my tonsils are swollen and I feel terrible.  Plus, I think my baby really wants some chocolate cake.  Plus, it’s snowing and gorgeous and I think overall this cake will be healthier for me than hot chocolate.

(Speaking of being sick, John has been waiting on me hand and foot– making me tea, running to the store for Kleenex and food, washing dishes, doing laundry, picking up tissues from every surface that they seem to cover…. Amazing man.)

So the cake.  Like I did last time, I substituted buckwheat flour for the spelt, olive oil for the butter, and agave nectar for the sugar.  If you’re not sure where you stand with buckwheat flour, perhaps try this with half regular white flour or spelt, and half buckwheat.  Or all spelt or all regular flour.  Please don’t use whole wheat flour, though. (Read here for some health benefits of buckwheat flour, if you’re curious.)


Favorite Chocolate Cake, Which Reminds Me of France (based on this one by Heidi Swanson, which she adapted from Nigella Lawson)

1 1/4 c. buckwheat, spelt, or white flour (or a combination of those)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. fine sea salt

1 c. extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, melted (or 1 c. butter, softened)
1 1/3 c. agave nectar or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 oz  bittersweet chocolate, barely melted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water


1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan (or in my case, a 7×11 inch brownie pan and two smaller round dishes, as in photo above, or whatever combination of baking dishes you’d like) and line with parchment paper. This step is really important because the cake will be difficult to remove from the pan– if you don’t have parchment paper, you can butter the pan and then dust with flour and hope for the best.

2. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Mix oil and agave nectar (if using butter, use a blender to beat it until soft, and then add the agave nectar or brown sugar). Then add the eggs and mix everything well. Add the vanilla, then the melted (and now slightly cooled) chocolate, stirring until just barely combined.

4. To the chocolate/egg/oil/sugar batter stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 of the water, alternating until all the flour and water have been incorporated.  The batter will be extremely thin.  Pour into the prepared pan(s), place on a rimmed baking sheet (in case the pan overflows) and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325F  and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. (These cooking times are for if you’re making this in a loaf pan– if you are making a shallower cake, like the ones I made, bake initially for about 13 minutes, turn the heat down and cook for another 7.  This cake tastes terrible if overcooked, so be careful!  It should look a little under-done and slightly wobbly when you pull it out & be warned that the inserting a knife trick doesn’t help when testing for done-ness with this cake.)

Place the loaf pan on a rack, and let cool completely before eating.  It tastes even better the next day.


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