I can't share vicariously in the grief that's met the death of Rose Gray – I never met her, ate at the River Café or even owned one of her cookbooks – but of course I knew who she was, and I know enough about British restaurants to understand how profoundly she influenced them.
This chocolate cake is legendary. A signature of sorts at the RC, it famously never worked when people tried it at home, and was the ruin of a million mid-Nineties dinner parties. In the popular imagination it's an archetype for hubristic home cooking, and it is a bit of a fiddle. The flourless cake bakes in a bain marie for "over an hour": mine needed an hour and a half before its top stopped wobbling. Making it, you strike a tricky balance between raw and dry, but I'm pleased how this turned out.
A few non-RC cracks appeared as I cut it, and I can't imagine the River Caff would have used Spanish raspberries in March (don't shoot me: I didn't buy them, just imagine it's late summer and they're from Scotland) but this was truly glorious: richly flavoured, smooth and surprisingly light. It uses just four ingredients, too, which sums up everything I know about the restaurant.
Yesterday, when I went to buy the ingredients, the Fulham Waitrose was out of unrefined caster sugar, and low on dark chocolate. It's probably a coincidence, but maybe I'm not the only River Café local who made this cake in the great cook's memory.
The River Café's chocolate nemesis (serves 10-12)
675g dark chocolate 70%
10 whole eggs
675g caster sugar
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and line a 27cm springform cake tin with foil.
Beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for five minutes until they've quadrupled in volume. Fold the chocolate and butter mixture into the eggs and sugar and stir thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
Place the cake in a large roasting tin in the oven, then pour enough boiling water into the tin to rise 3/4 up the side of the cake. Cook in the preheated oven for over an hour, then turn the oven off and allow to cool completely before removing. Serve with crème fraiche.