Chocolate Nemesis is a cake that seems to have gone down in legend, both famous and infamous. It is certainly a cake that receives a lot of column inches and, when it works, praise.

Originally published in The River Cafe Cook Book there’s several copies the recipe available “the River Cafe’s most popular dessert – famously divine, famously difficult. In tribute to the late Rose Gray, here is the recipe, good luck and enjoy”

But there’s more than a few articles like this one :

“We are in the kitchen of a professional household in London; late 1995 or early 1996. It is dinner-time; guests are ambling in and waiting to be seated at a long scrubbed table. On a sideboard is something circular, brown and sloshy, and definitely not looking its best - a kind of cowpat, really. Sympathetic Guest: “Chocolate Nemesis?” Host/ess: “Yes.” SG: “Didn’t work?” H: “No.” SG: “Never does.” H: “I’ve made a couple of other puddings instead.”

I’ve had more attempts than I would like to recall result in “a kind of cowpat” (albeit the failures are still a really tasty, rich chocolate mousse).

I also don’t have a 12-inch cake tin or a tray large enough to act as a water bath for it.

So my adapted recipe is:

  • 340g dark chocolate. This is the important bit, there’s cryptic comments on the web about “oh well, you need good chocolate” what they mean is you need proper couverture cooking chocolate which has more cocoa butter in it and so sets better. If you don’t fancy buying 1 kilo bars of Valrhona online then Green and Blacks Cooks chocolate seems to be the best easily available equivalent.
  • 5 medium eggs.
  • 300 grams of caster sugar (split into 100g and 200g portions).
  • 225 grams of unsalted butter.
  • 125 ml of water.

You then need something like a 20cm silicone baking mould and something to give enough stiffness you can move it (I use a standard 20cm tart dish with a removable base). This is because I haven’t found a water proof baking dish (metal one without a removable base would work but might be hard to extract it from).

To make:

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C with a large oven tray of water in it.

  • Lightly grease and flour the mould.

  • Beat the eggs and 100g of sugar in a bowl for about 10 minutes.

  • Dissolve the remaining 200g of sugar in 125ml of water to produce a thick syrup then stir in the chocolate and butter (cut/broken into small pieces) and keep stirring until it’s all smooth.

  • Take the chocolate syrup off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two.

  • Pour the chocolate into the eggs and beat briefly until it’s all mixed. (At this point you’ll be looking at the quantity of cake and size of mould and think it will never fit – it always does somehow).

  • Pour into the cake tin/mould/what-have-you and pop in the water bath in the oven. The water should come as high up the sides as you dare.

  • Ignore any suggestions in the book that it will cook in 25 – 30 minutes, it needs a good 55 minutes (I’ve never overcooked it) and will still feel slightly wobbly in the middle at that point. (It will also rise – don’t worry it collapses as it cools).

  • Once cooked take it out of the oven in the water bath (carefully!) and allow it to cool in the water. Once at room temperature, take it out of the water and pop in the fridge for a few hours. Once well and truly cold remove from the mould carefully.

Something about this recipe means that even when it’s going smoothly and actually looking like it might set I usually turn into a forgetful klutz (I’ve forgotten ingredients, dropped the waterbath, and screwed it up in every way you can imagine). But when it works …

Officially the quantity above would serve 5-6 but really if you can eat 1/6th of that in a sitting you’re a better man than me. Enjoy.

P.S. Go to The River Cafe and have the proper one – it’s the best restaurant in the country.