methods & madness…
class 18: desserts… a bittersweet ending

 gâteau au chocolat

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

The best was saved for last, with desserts being our final lesson of Pro Chef School. We overindulged with chocolate cake, lemon tart, chocolate pudding, tiramisu, crème brulee and caramel ice cream… I think everyone gained ten pounds! The subject of desserts is so vast, and our allotted time so short, that we were only able to cover basic sauces and a few foundations for other desserts. 

Basic Sauces & Dessert Bases

Crème Anglaise is a light custard sauce made of sugar, egg yolks, hot milk, and vanilla, all which are cooked on the stovetop. It can be served with pies or fruit, and is ideal as a base for desserts, such as today’s chocolate cake recipe.

Coulis is cooked fruit and sugar that has been pureed and strained. Freeze it to make a sorbet. Fold in egg whites or cream to make a mousse. TIP: Use a little lemon juice to avoid browning of stone fruit and to brighten the red pigments in the berries.

Ganache is a chocolate sauce made of bittersweet chocolate and cream. It can be whipped for filling or icing, poured over cake and sundaes, or chilled and made into truffles.

Caramel Sauce is sugar that has been caramelized with cream added. It is a great dip for apples, and as a topping for ice cream and cake. When making caramel sauce, do not stir the sugar once it is dissolved. If you do, crystals will form up the side of the pan.

TIP: You can brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water if crystals start to form.   
Fruit Curd is a dessert spread usually made with lemon, lime, orange or raspberry. The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice and zest, which are gently cooked together until thick, then allowed to cool. Great served with scones or used as a filling for tarts. Add whip cream to make a mousse.

Pastry Cream is rich, thick and creamy custard made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch. It is used as a filling for cakes, tarts, cream puffs, and Napoleons.

Custard is based on a cooked mixture of milk/cream and egg yolk.Depending on how much egg is used, custard may vary in consistency from a thin pouring sauce (crème anglaise), to a thick pastry cream used to fill éclairs. The most common custards are Flan, Boston Cream Pie, Crème Brulee, Crème Caramel, English Triffle.

Sponge Cake is a cake made with flour, sugar, and eggs. It has a firm, yet airy texture, similar to a sea sponge, which makes it flexible before the cake has cooled after cooking. This allows the creation of rolled cakes such as the Bûche de Noël. This basic recipe is also used for Madeleines, ladyfingers and trifles.

Sweet Pastry Crust is a rich pastry with a crisp cookie-like texture. This crust is usually prebaked and perfect for tarts. The difference between this crust and a basic piecrust is more sugar and an added egg.

Class Assignment:


Rona and I were assigned Lemon Tart. Click here for recipe.

Lemon Curd Tart

I am posting the recipe for a dense, dark French chocolate cake called Gâteau au Chocolat. This cake can be made in advance and frozen. My suggestion is to make two – eat one, freeze the other.

This ends our final lesson. What’s on the menu for the next two weeks? Testing our knowledge to see what stuck, what rose, and what landed in the garbage pail. I look forward to putting my newfound knowledge into future recipes and classes. Stay tuned for more…


5.0 from 2 reviews
Gâteau au Chocolat (French Chocolate Cake)
Excellent served with crème anglaise or a fruit coulis.
  • 12 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 5⅓ ounces unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom of the pan and butter it as well.
  2. Combine the chocolate, butter and sugar in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Melt over medium heat, stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Set the mixture aside.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate. Whisk in the flour.
  4. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl just until they form firm peaks; do not overbeat.
  5. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before unmolding. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.
  6. Add ⅓ of the egg whites to the chocolate batter and mix vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Do this slowly and patiently. Do not over mix, but be sure that the mixture is well blended and that no streaks of white remain.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is firm and springy, 35 to 40 minutes.
Cook Time: 35 mins - Serves: 8


Presentation will always leave a lasting impression on your guests. They will taste with their eyes before a bite even comes close to their mouth. This cake was dressed with crème anglaise and a raspberry coulis.

Here are some other options when creating artwork on the dessert plate:

-Powdered sugar
-Cocoa powder or shaved chocolate
-Finely ground coffee
-Carved fresh fruits
-Small berries
-Drizzled chocolate

Quote of the Day

“There’s nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate”. – Linda Grayson

I say there is nothing better than a friend who knows how to make a good chocolate cake, and shares.
…and then she paused for thought.

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.




9 thoughts on “methods & madness…
class 18: desserts… a bittersweet ending

  1. Pingback: Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice-Plated Desserts Chef School Week 18 – Rona Lewis

  2. Leslie Macchiarella

    Wow! What a line up of desserts! Every single summary is so packed with great info, I had to bookmark it! Thank you for sharing all this incredible information that is summarized so nicely! The photo of your lemon tart is LUSH-cious but I’m enthralled with that little photo of the incredible dessert sauce designed so nicely. I think the toothpick is pointing right where my next Gâteau au Chocolat is going to be resting! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Olympic Inspired Recipes | She Paused for Thought

  4. Michele AKA Frenchie

    Just prepared the gateau au chocolat. It appears, in batter form, to be exactly like the recipe from a deceased Countess in Provence. I have high hopes! For the sake of sharing, here are some options I’ve used in the past (before I lost my original recipe):

    Warm a small bottle (more than a dinky airline bottle) of your favorite liqueur or cognac. Pour over gateau and ignite right before walking through the doorway for presentation. Be prepared for sincere oooooohs and ahhhhhhhhs!

    Option 2: Top with a lavish amount of creme chantilly or whip heavy cream with a small amount of sugar and your choice of clear vanilla from Mexico, natural almond extract or some other preferred, natural flavoring. Heap on gateau or serve in separate chilled bowl.

    Option 3: After flambe and abundant whipped cream topping, heap and entire pint of fresh raspberries on top. Hint: Slice gateau before topping with whipped cream and berries for ease of service.

    I have people begging me to make this for them and am hoping today’s results are worthy. In fact, I’m in the midst of a bidding war in Lexington, Kentucky. Right now, sight unseen, one hopeful has bid $30 without the flambe since he wants to share with his wife and children.

    Many thanks for offering a recipe that I believe to be “spot on” and reliable. How can I tell? Because of the slightly, very slightly generous amount of flour. I know the results will be stable.

    Merci beaucoup,

    Michele with one “L”
    The French way
    But of course!


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