Boca Negra: An Intensely Fudgy Cake

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 (I mean that too!). 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, though, allowing 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 sensation 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 :)

Boca Negra, by Lora Brody

*A note about 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 if you don't trust my amateur word, trust Gina DePalma, pastry chef at one of Mario Batali's Manhattan restaurants, Babbo, who recommended it in her dessert book for it! Also, I really advice 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!


  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 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 (told you there was barely any!)

Preheat oven to 350 and position a rack in the center. 

Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan (springform, if you have it!). The original recipe actually says to butter it, line the bottom in parchment, and butter the parchment, but I find that generally unnecessary, especially if you have a nonstick pan and, truly especially, if you use a springform. If you do use 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.

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. 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. Immediately pour this over the chocolate and stir until it's completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, ensuring each is melted before adding the next.

Put the eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a 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. Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking all the while until everything is well blended. Gently whisk in the flour.

Alternately, you can make the entire recipe in a food processor. Imitate the same first step with the sugar syrup and chocolate, but use all of the sugar in the syrup and pour it over the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor; then, process until completely blended, about 12 seconds. With the machine running, add the pieces of butter, one at a time, then do the same with the eggs and, finally, add the flour, processing an additional 15 seconds afterward.

Having completed either method, scrape the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top. Set the pan inside a shallow roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to come about 1 inch up the outside of the cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes; the top should have a thin, dry crust. The recipe says to bake for "exactly" 30 minutes, but I realize oven temperatures vary and you may use a different sized pan, which would affect baking time. I used a 6-inch pan, halving the recipe, so my time ended up being longer.

Remove the cake pan from the water bath (very, very carefully because that water is HOT!), wipe dry, and cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap (actually touching the cake). 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. Remove the plastic and your beautiful top should be intact :) If you're in a situation like me, though, using a springform pan and having no intention of "serving" the cake in a way to impress (because it's really just for you), you simply need to remove the sides of the springform and you can serve it while it sits on the pan's removable bottom!

Serve warm or at room temperature. Once cooled, you can store the cake for one day at room temperature or refrigerate/freeze it for longer.

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