When I first booked my trip to London last fall, the first reservation I made was at The River Cafe, the storied Italian restaurant founded by Ruth (“Ruthie”) Rogers and the late Rose Gray. I needed to try the legendary Chocolate Nemesis Cake (the name itself enthralls, does it not?) for myself, by hell or high water.
To no one’s surprise, the entire meal was electric: From the fire-roasted Scottish langoustines to the chargrilled squid topped with chilis, to all of the incredible pastas, there was not a moment our party of four couldn’t be found nodding and practically cooing over every dish.
And, of course, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, dessert came along. We had heard about it. We had planned it, actually, for months. We had been looking forward to meeting the one, the only:
At Food52, we use a lot of superlative language to describe all the wonderful dishes we get to try, but this cake actually stunned us into silence. The rich, mousse-like cake even stopped our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen in his tracks.
“My favorite childhood dessert was chocolate mousse,” Josh tells me. “This cake had all the righteous deep, creamy chocolate flavor of the best chocolate mousse. But this also has structure, due to the fact that it’s a cake. You can slice it. It isn’t just a plop of mousse in a bowl. The thin crispy surface that forms on the top of the cake is a great textural contrast to the creaminess of the rest of the cake. Overall, it’s just outrageously good—one of the most memorable desserts I’ve made in a long time.”
Well, if that endorsement isn’t convincing enough, I’d urge you to try it for yourself at home. The restaurant celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, complete with a special-edition cookbook, River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant, full of time-honored classics (such as this one), as well as 30 new hits.
How could just four ingredients alchemize into a taste of heaven? How did this cake come to be? I went straight to the source to find out.
…it’s just outrageously good—one of the most memorable desserts I’ve made in a long time.
Josh Cohen, Test Kitchen Director
“Rose and I found a version of this cake in a magazine in 1988,” explains Ruthie. “We loved the name, but we didn’t think the recipe was quite right, so we adapted it to include more chocolate and beaten egg yolks. The high quality chocolate gives an intense flavor. It’s the perfect end to an Italian meal.”
The cake is so popular, the restaurant sells approximately 500 decadent slices per week. When I asked Ruthie if she’s taken any liberties toying around with the recipe over the years, she gave me an honest and enigmatic response: “Yes, we have….”
We’ll just leave it right there. No need to press further when talking about something as luscious as this flourless, silky beauty. Run—don’t walk—and don’t forget to report back.
Are you a flourless chocolate cake fan? Let us know your favorite version below!