Julia Child has many recipes I love, but this recipe for this chocolate spongecake (a.k.a. le marquis) is an absolute favorite! This cake is light and airy, and has a lovely coffee flavored frosting.
Ironically, I find her dessert recipes, like the one for this le marquis, to be her simpler recipes. Baking is usually the more technique-oriented, complicated half of cookbooks, but I don’t find this to be entirely true with Julia’s book.
This le marquis cake, for example, is a basic spongecake made with melted chocolate, then frosted with creme au beurre (buttercream). The recipe is très facile.
Also, the French do this really interesting thing with their buttercream. They add an egg yolk to it. Yeah. I mean, I’m not afraid of raw eggs because, let’s face it, I’ll devour a perfectly whipped French chocolate mousse any day, but it just seems crazy to me to add it into buttercream.
Apparently, the egg yolk makes the frosting incredibly creamy. I have yet to test this theory, especially when comparing it to a technique like just adding in a couple teaspoons of milk to the buttercream. So, if you’ve tried it, please let me know how it goes.
In this scenario, I opted to not use the egg yolk as I like to keep my cake out at room temperature if I can help it. Refrigerated cake always loses a bit of its moisture, which makes me very, very sad.
Instead, I followed Julia’s creme au beurre recipe, adding the necessary instant coffee powder, and swapped the egg yolk for a couple teaspoons of freshly brewed coffee. The result is fantastic.
I don’t have to tell you how well chocolate and coffee go together, you guys know this. Le marquis itself is incredibly light, as spongecakes tend to be.
I made a mini version of Julia’s recipe because, let’s be real, I just can’t have chocolate cake sitting around in my home too long if I’m not expecting guests; it’s not safe. The recipe below will yield a full 8-inch, 1 1/2-inch deep cake, so invite some friends over and enjoy!
for the cake
- 3 1/2 oz of semisweet chocolate
- 2 tbsp freshly brewed coffee
- 3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1/2 c + 1 tbsp granulated white sugar, separated
- pinch of salt
- 2/3 c cake flour, sifted
for the frosting
- 2/3 c powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp instant coffee powder
- 6 oz unsalted butter, 1 1/2 sticks, softened
- 2 tsp egg yolks OR 3-4 freshly brewed coffee
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 inch by 2 1/2 inch deep round cake pan. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
- Begin by creating your cake batter. In a bowl set over a saucepan filled with simmering water, stir the semisweet chocolate with the freshly brewed coffee until they are combined and the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set on the counter. Add the softened butter, a few pieces at a time, and stir until melted and incorporated in the chocolate. Let this chocolate mixture slightly cool.
- While the chocolate's cooling, place your egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually add the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in as you whisk. Continue whisking until the batter is thick and pale yellow. Fold the cooled chocolate into the yolk batter until combined; set aside.
- Place your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add a pinch of salt, and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in the tablespoon of granulated sugar and continue whisking on high speed until stiff peaks form. When removing the whisk, the egg white's peak should stick straight out rather than softly curl.
- Now, in alternating batches, add the egg whites and cake flour to the batter. You can divide this into 3 or 4 batches, gently folding the whites and flour in so as to not deflate the whipped egg whites.
- Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan, smoothing it out into the pan. Bake on the center rack of your oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of your cake will most likely crack. Let the cake cool in its pan for about 5 minutes before running a sharp knife around the edges. Flip the cake out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Use a serrated knife to horizontally cut the cake in the middle to produce 2 cake layers.
- Create the frosting by simply beating the powdered sugar, instant coffee powder, unsalted butter (and egg yolks, if using) together until smooth and creamy. If you are using brewed coffee instead of yolks, add that in last, as needed, to loosen up your frosting and get it to a spreadable consistency.