Must Have Moustache Chocolate Cake (Grand Maman's Cake)

My personal cake making timeline is a filled with all sorts of peaks and bumps and long stretches of dry desert ultimately (usually, hopefully) followed by rolling green hills and lush valleys.

Boxes of cake mix (and yes, even canned “frosting”) dominated my high school years. Mom and I became unusually adept at doctoring the cake mix before we were even aware of the official Cake Mix Doctor. Our inspired décor was definitely more Jackson Pollock (frosting strewn with mad dashes of color and mix-ins) and less Wayne Thiebaud, though this was not intentional. It just so happens that neither of us (mom/myself) were very good at stern, composed, even decoration.



Real moments of inspiration hit whenever we were visiting grandma or grandma was visiting us. Grandma actually made “from scratch” cakes (and, I should note, I never saw her use a recipe.) This foreign concept delighted me, but annoyed mom. It was too many pans, too many hours, and too many ingredients for her. But I was drawn to the craft and looked forward to the student/teacher interactions with grandma (even though I mainly washed dishes while grandma moved silently from bowl to bowl).

The college years were abysmal cake years. I was busy doing college stuff and baking was fairly low on the list (keeping the keg filled seemed like a life and death situation however. Go figure.). I remember utilizing my dorm room microwave to make many awful microwave birthday cakes (all from box mixes). The cakes were “nuked” in these little white cardboard squares. I don’t recall the exact taste other than that the chocolate cake didn’t taste like chocolate. And the texture was evocative of “cheap sponge”.


Post-college and one year in to living in New York City, my cake baking was looking up. I was baking out of any book I could find. I was reworking grandma’s recipes (I had to, the directions were very…laissez-faire). And I was devouring a lot of cakes for “research”. It was during this period, that I stumbled upon this amazing cake.



Nick Malgieri’s Grand Maman Cake (from his now iconic book, Chocolate) was a revolution to me. It was simple, pure, unadorned, and single layer. It was a cake that was all about the main ingredient (use a poor quality chocolate in this cake and it will doom you). This cake became my Must Have Chocolate Cake (that’s what I called it, that’s what my friends referred to it as). I made it for dinners, occasions, and for the hell of it. I made it so often, I memorized the recipe and started to adapt if for my particular taste buds. It was always eaten in its entirety without a crumb to spare.



Oddly, the first time I mentioned this cake to my mom, she thought I said “moustache” instead of “must have” as in “what’s in a moustache cake? (tone of semi-disgust). In a nod to mom, I added a stenciled moustache. Though she isn’t around to experience this extra flourish, I am sure she would have loved it.


Nick Malgieri’s Grand Maman’s Chocolate Cake (aka Must-Have aka Moustache Chocolate Cake) from his book Chocolate

3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft, chunked
4.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup all-purpose flour
confectioners’ sugar for dusting


Butter an 8 inch cake round, line the bottom with parchment, and butter the parchment.

Set rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes (super important, do not under whip). The mixture will look light and should increase in volume. Add butter, then chocolate, beating until smooth after each addition.

Remove from mixer, and fold in the flour by hand. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30 minutes until cake is risen but very moist in center (I always pull the cake out a tiny bit early…but that is a personal preference…I just like a gooier finish). Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely. Peel off parchment, slide onto platter, and dust with confectioners sugar. Serve plain or with fresh whipped cream. Eat within 2 days and store at room temp, tightly wrapped.