Of Cake and Couchsurfing

Although it might sound like something only curlers would do, Couchsurfing is for anyone and everyone.  It’s an international community of folks who offer their “couch” (or in our case, a spare bedroom) to travelers all over the world.  It’s a great way to meet people and learn more than just what the guidebooks tell you about a local community.  It’s genius.

Sparklepants signed up last year, and since then, we’ve hosted people from as close to us as a 5 hour drive within state, to as far away as Thailand.  One of our recent couchsurfers, Sonia, visiting from the land of liberté, egalité and fraternité, stayed with us for several days while on her way to Burning Man.  On her first night with us, she made a chocolate cake, which she claims every French school child knows how to make because it’s so simple.

Compared to the U.S., France is the Shangri-la of curling.  They have basically legislated curling, with a federally mandated 35-hour workweek, limits on the amount of overtime (even with the addition of the maximum amount of overtime allowed,  it still totals than 40 hours per week), and an average of 8 weeks of vacation per year (some more, some less, but 5 weeks are the legal minimum not including holidays).  “Freedom” as a euphemism for “French?”  I’m sure the people who started that one had no idea how true that really is.  Well, at least as labor laws go.  Apparently freedom doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re Muslim or  an immigrant.  (Wait!  Am I talking about France or the U.S. here?)  But we digress.

You don’t have to be French, a Francophile, or a curler to appreciate the elegant simplicity of this cake.  It’s actually perfect for non-curling Americans too because it tastes much more sophisticated than its quick and easy preparation belies.  It’s light yet rich and luscious.  Ah, the sweet taste of freedom.

Écoliers de gâteau au chocolat

Because it’s French, measurements are in metric (like the rest of the world).  American approximations are in parenthesis.

200 grams dark chocolate (~7 oz)
125 grams butter (~4.4 oz. or ~1 stick)
125 grams sugar (~2/3 cup)
4 eggs, separated
1 banana, mashed (optional)

1.  Either line bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan (or a cake pan with 4-inch tall sides) with a square of parchment or butter pan and dust with cocoa.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Melt together chocolate and butter.  Stir until smooth.

3.  Whisk egg yolks with the sugar.  Add to chocolate.  Mix.

4.  Add banana, if including.  Whip egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold into chocolate mixture.

5.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until knife inserted into center removes cleanly.

6.  Cool completely in the pan before unmolding and serving.

Recipe Notes:  Because there are so few ingredients, the the flavor of the chocolate dominates.  Any dark chocolate is fine, but use one that is delicious enough to eat straight out of the wrapper, because that is what the cake will taste like.  Sonia usually adds a couple of tablespoons of flour (after the banana), but because of the whipped egg whites, the texture is really light, even without the flour (and gluten-free).  The cake actually gets even better after sitting for a day; just keep it in the pan and cover with a clean towel.  It’s super great with some freshly whipped cream (but honestly, is there anything that isn’t?).

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