Here’s the second installment in the Baking Broadway series! Since Broadway is currently closed until early June, I’m partnering with Broadway Roulette to bring you Baking Broadway, a mini baking series to bring Broadway to your kitchen while we’re all social distancing.
Hadestown is a modern take on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in a New Orleans-esque company town. You know, the tale where Eurydice ends up in hell and Orpheus has a chance to lead her out (under the condition from Hades that he can’t turn around to see if she’s following) and they almost make it but then he turns around at the last second, condemning her to stay in hell forever? That story.
In an ode to the “Way Down Hadestown” and in the face of current flour shortages, here is a “way down underground chocolate cake with an earth-bound meringue.”
Aka a flourless chocolate cake with an aquafaba chocolate meringue! I was heavily inspired by Buttermilk by Sam’s chocolate meringue cake, but wanted to try this out with several changes:
- Aquafaba meringue: After several failed attempts baking the meringue (which turned it into a sad puddle), I went back to my broiled version that I used on this lemon meringue pie. This works beautifully to preserve the marshmallow fluff-esque texture but also dry out/toast the top of the meringue slightly.
- 3-ingredient flourless chocolate cake: to streamline the process, the base is a scaled down version of Gimme Some Oven’s very simple recipe!
- Small batch: I scaled down the whole recipe to fit in a standard loaf pan. This recipe is quite rich!
More notes on baking with aquafaba below!
What is aquafaba?
Aquafaba is the brine from a can of beans. You can also use the liquid from cooking a pot of beans from scratch, though I’ve never tried this. If you are just starting out, I recommend using canned aquafaba (look for BPA-free lining) for better consistency.
Chickpea brine is the most popular aquafaba that I’ve seen used, but you can use the liquid from pretty much any white bean (I’ve also used butter bean aquafaba) or even kidney beans or black beans. If you are making a meringue, I would recommend using aquafaba from a can of white beans. I would only use black bean or kidney bean aquafaba if I was using it in a chocolate-based recipe like brownies.
Something about the starchiness/protein present in aquafaba allows it to act as an egg replacer in many vegan recipes, and it works miraculously well as a vegan meringue!
I’ve also used plain aquafaba as an egg replacer in cookie recipes and sometimes as a half/half replacement in quickbread recipes (I avoid using it 100% in bread recipes because it doesn’t always provide as much rise and structure as eggs. Though I’ve never tried whipping it into a meringue and adding it as a foam to a bread recipe, which may work better.
How to make aquafaba meringue
You’ll only need three ingredients:
- Aquafaba: ideally from a can of low-sodium chickpeas or white beans. Regular sodium will work, but if you’re sensitive to salt, I would go with low-sodium.
- Cream of tartar: I’ve tried making aquafaba meringue without cream of tartar and it’s been very hit or miss. It’s worth sourcing to ensure your meringue will work–check out this ATK article for an awesome illustration of the stabilizing properties of cream of tartar.
- Granulated sugar: for body and sweetness.
- Vanilla extract: optional, but delicious! You can use any flavoring here that you like.
For aquafaba that will reliably whip into beautiful peaks:
- Reduce the aquafaba beforehand: Reducing aquafaba by approximately half and then chilling fully before using has always yielded the best and most reliable results for me.
- Use fully chilled aquafaba: I’ve tried using chilled and room temperature aquafaba and chilled always whips faster and yields the most reliable results whereas room temperature can be hit or miss.
What does aquafaba meringue taste like?
Although aquafaba out of the can may have a bean-y scent, this final taste is nearly undetectable.
The texture of this meringue is quite soft and fluffy, almost like marshmallow fluff. If you use full-sodium aquafaba, the meringue will be fairly salty, with a subtle briny undertone that I think pairs well with a hint of vanilla and bittersweet chocolate.
While it’s possible to bake aquafaba meringues into a hard and crispy texture, in this recipe I went with broiling the meringue to dry out/crisp the top a bit.
What’s the best brand of chickpeas (or beans) to use?
I typically use Simple Truth Organic (STO) chickpeas, which consistently yield about 3/4 cup of aquafaba. I recently tried using aquafaba from a can of STO butter beans, which also worked well. I also tried a can of off-brand chickpeas, which yielded a thicker aquafaba and much less volume than STO. I used the same reducing/chilling techniques and they all worked fine!
In general, I recommend sticking to chickpeas that are low-sodium, organic and with BPA-free can linings.
Aquafaba meringue flourless chocolate cake
Chocolate aquafaba meringue
- 3 oz aquafaba (about 6 tablespoons)
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
Flourless chocolate cake
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, sliced into pieces
- 4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
- 2 large eggs
- Ideally the night before: place the aquafaba in a small pan over high heat and let it boil, uncovered, until reduced by about half (to 1.5 oz or about 3 tablespoons). Set aside and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
- To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt together the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe container for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until the mixture is smooth and set aside to cool. Use this time to prep your loaf pan: line it with parchment paper and grease well.
- Meanwhile, whip the eggs on high speed until doubled in size, about 5 minutes. Once chocolate mixture has cooled a bit, fold in a third of the whipped eggs. Fold the rest of the eggs in a third at a time until mixture is homogenous and light.
- Pour mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until top is matte and cake is set, but still soft.
- Remove the cake from the pan and let cool in the parchment on a rack until room temperature (at least 30 minutes), then refrigerate if time permits.
- While cake is cooling, add the chilled aquafaba, cream of tartar, and vanilla to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on high until very foamy and approaching soft peaks. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time until aquafaba turns glossy, voluminous and soft peaks. Fold in the cocoa powder with a spatula until you reach desired marbled effect.
- Preheat the broiler to 475 degrees F. Make sure the cake is no longer hot (to prevent melting the aquafaba). Dollop the meringue over the top. Broil for 1-2 minutes, until it starts to turn golden on top. Meringue will feel slightly dry to the touch where torched by the broiler.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in the fridge. Meringue may deflate slightly in the fridge, but still hold up for at least a few days!