Celia Barbour's Finnish Meatballs
Michel Richard's Collard Greens and Lentils

Azo Family Chocolate Cake

Tomorrow I'll be back on an airplane heading for Berlin and a week of roast goose and red cabbage, real candles on Christmas trees, afternoon tea with Basler Leckerli galore, and all the mothering a girl could ask for. I can't wait.

Before I leave you, though, one thing. This cake? A marvel. Yes, I know most of you have trusted recipes for simple chocolate cakes. Who am I to convince you that this one is better? But in the off chance that you're still searching for that one great recipe, the one that will always impress people, taste great, and come together with a flick of the wrist, then this is the post (and the cake) for you.

It comes from a brief piece in the New York Times last winter about a mistake in the kitchen that led to this fudgy, yet cakey confection. That mistake actually lends itself quite well to the harried cooks of today. Bake this up when you've got a free hour or so, all the rest is in the chilling and unchilling, as it were. The French family from whom the recipe originated (of course) baked the cake in a loaf pan, which I plan to do next time (just think, a pale plate with a pool of raspberry sauce, perhaps, and a slice of this delectable chocolate loaf lying on top - gorgeous, no?).

It's not an entirely flourless cake, so it has a nice crumb, for those of us who love old-fashioned chocolate cakes. But the structure of the cake also allows for a dangerously creamy center that flirts with decadence. Topped with a vanilla-scented dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream, it's a show-stopper, it really is. Not too intense, and not too light: just right.

And now for one bit of sentimentality, dear readers. You've made this year a glorious one for me and I can't thank you enough. For reading every day, for cheering me on when I needed it most, for being so enthusiastic, and for showing me that the world inside my computer screen is a rich and wonderful one, indeed. I hope you all have peaceful holidays, wherever you may celebrate them. See you in the New Year!

Azo Family Chocolate Cake

Yields 10 servings

8½ ounces (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (50 percent or higher cocoa), chopped
5 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream for serving

1. Place rack in top third of oven and heat to 400 degrees. (For best results, use a separate oven thermometer.) Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. In a double boiler or microwave oven, melt together 8½ ounces butter and the chocolate. Stir to blend.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together egg yolks and sugar. Stir in flour. Add chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into chocolate mixture just until blended. Pour into cake pan.

3. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Wrap with foil and refrigerate until cake is firm and cold, at least 2 hours. Two hours before serving, remove cake from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Slice (center of cake will be fudgy) and serve, if desired, with whipped cream.