At République, the bell tower-topped church of a restaurant on La Brea Avenue that was once Campanile, there are many things you could order for dessert after you’ve polished off chef-owner Walter Manzke’s roast chicken or his massive cassoulet. Pastry chef Margarita Manzke, who was recently nominated for a James Beard award and is married to Walter, makes a pretty spectacular chocolate cake, in addition to the catalog of lovely things that fill the pastry cases. If you have not yet, order the chocolate fondant cake. It’s kind of like a flourless chocolate cake in a ceramic bowl. The dessert will arrive hot from the oven, strewn with hazelnuts and topped with a quenelle of ice cream just beginning to melt, rather like the yolk of a 63-degree egg on top of, well, anything these days. Margarita, an alum of Spago, Patina, Mélisse and the now-closed Bastide (in case you too like to play connect the dots with L.A. chefs), uses Valrhona chocolate for the dish. You probably should too when you make the dessert at home — because there are few things in this world more lovely than warm chocolate, which is why we asked her for the recipe.
République’s chocolate fondant cake
40 minutes. Serves 6
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
8 ounces 80% Valrhona chocolate, chopped or “féves”
1 1/3 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons (270 grams) sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
Toasted hazelnuts, for garnish
Ice cream, for garnish
1. Heat a convection oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (double boiler)¿, melt the butter and chocolate. While the butter and chocolate are melting, in a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch, along with the eggs and egg yolks.
3. Whisk the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Divide the mixture among 6 (10-ounce) ramekins, filling each with a generous 1/2 cup mixture.
4. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet (this can be done in 2 batches), and bake just until the mixture begins to souffle and the top of each has mostly crusted over (there will be a “skin” in the very center that is not quite hard), 10 to 12 minutes depending on the oven.
5. Top each ramekin with a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts and a scoop of ice cream before serving.
Each serving, without garnish
Protein 9 grams
Carbohydrates 73 grams
Fiber 3 grams
Fat 40 grams
Saturated fat 24 grams
Cholesterol 308 mg
Sugar 63 grams
Sodium 59 mg
Note: Adapted from a recipe from chef Margarita Manzke of République restaurant in Los Angeles. This recipe requires the use of a convection oven and 6 (10-ounce) ramekins.