Bête Noire: The Beauty of ‘the Beast’

bete_noire-fait-accompliThe French have a great name for the flourless chocolate torte: bête noire. If your seventh-grade French vocab left your brain (probably to make room for Billy Joel lyrics), bête noire means Black Beast, a formidable name if there ever was one.

The flourless chocolate torte has been my go-to dessert choice whenever we’ve gone out for a fancy meal, because it is so dense and so over-the-top perfect in its nothing-but-chocolate richness. But for that reason, I had assumed that it was a recipe that should only be attempted by serious dessert-makers.

Although it might seem like an intimidating recipe to make at home, it’s surprisingly not too hard at all! Follow the simple steps (with photos) in this Flourless Chocolate Torte recipe.

The better (and more bitter-sweet) the chocolate, the richer the taste of your bête noire.
The better (and more bitter-sweet) the chocolate, the richer the taste of your bête noire.


1/4 Cup Dutch process cocoa powder

12 Tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

pinch Kosher salt


First, you’re going to need to prepare a 9″ springform pan. (You really do need this special kind of pan, to get the torte out in one big beautiful piece at the end. If you don’t have one, it’s worth the splurge to get one).  Take the 1/2 stick of butter that is left over from the stick and a half that you’ll use for the cake, and use it to liberally butter up the bottom and insides of the springform pan. Then shake a couple Tbsp of cocoa powder around to lightly coat the buttered surfaces. Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet and put aside for now. Preheat oven to 350F.

Chopped-up chocolate.

If your bittersweet chocolate didn’t come in a tidy 12 oz chunk, measure it out , and chop it coarsely like in the photo, right. Transfer to a small, heavy saucepan (like Le Creuset) over low heat, or into a heatproof bowl sitting over a water-filled saucepan that is just simmering.

Add the butter chunks to the chocolate, and stir intermittently until ingredients are melted and combined. Remove saucepan from stove (and/or heatproof bowl from the top of simmering water pan), and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs (you won’t need the whites for this recipe). Combine the six yolks, sugar, kosher salt and vanilla in a mixing bowl, and use an electric mixer to whisk on medium-high speed for a whopping 6 – 8 minutes (yes, really do it for that long).

Mixture will be creamy, frothy, and thick:

Carefully fold about half of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg/sugar bowl. Use the spatula judiciously — you want the ingredients barely combined, without deflating the fluffy egg batter. Now fold in the remainder of the chocolate.

Transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan, and place the cake (on a baking sheet) in the 350F oven. Bake for approx 45 – 55 minutes. Cake is done when the shiny surface of the batter turns dull (and delicious) and is solid enough to not “jiggle” when you gently shake it. Test with a thin toothpick inserted in the middle: if it comes out clean, the beast is done.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least two hours (until completely cool to the touch). If you are serving this later, you can cover top of pan with foil or cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Allow time for torte to sit out for an hour before serving, if you chill it overnight).

To serve: carefully run a butter knife or non-scratching Bakeware Buddy around the edge of the springform pan, before carefully unbuckling and removing the pan’s sides. Use the remaining cocoa powder to dust the surface of the cooled, unmolded torte. (Bonus points for finding your kids’ leftover Valentine paper doilies, and using one for a torte-topping cocoa stencil).

This flourless torte is luxurious enough all by itself on the dessert plate, but if you want to go wild, serve with a sprinkling of Cocoa Nibs, a dollop of Coffee-infused Whipped Cream, or a scoop of homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.