If we can cook it, you can cook it!

Dorie Greenspan’s Lisbon Chocolate Cake

Dorie Greenspan’s Lisbon Chocolate Cake
Spread the love

A Visit to Portugal leads to a craving for Lisbon Chocolate Cake

This cake is all about chocolate. The cake is brownie-like. There’s a layer of chocolate cream. And finally, a shower of cocoa adds even more chocolate flavor.

But first, a tale of how we discovered Lisbon Chocolate Cake deep in the Portuguese countryside.

When Andrew and I went to Portugal last summer, we went deep into the country near the Spanish border.   We were on our Douro River Cruise aboard Viking Helgrim and on offer was a picnic in an olive orchard outside the town of Marialva.  It was hosted by Paulo and Carmen Romao.   The couple has created an extraordinary resort called “Casas do Coro”. It’s just below the ancient fortress of Marialva, which dates from the 13th century.  The Romao’s have restored and rebuilt a collection of granite houses that make up the “Casas”. There’s a beautiful pool, an elaborate spa, and a first-class restaurant.

A Prize-Winning Recipe from a Very Young Chef.

Our picnic was superb, served with the Ramao’s house wines.  When it came time for dessert, we were particularly taken with the Bolo do Chocolate. It was the most chocolate of chocolate cakes.  A pure chocolate lover’s delight. When we complimented our hostess on this rich, robust chocolate confection, we were told it was a prize winner. The couple’s young daughter, Ana Rita, had baked the cake when she was a contestant on Portugal’s version of Master Chef Junior.  When we got home, I tried, without success, to find any Portuguese Chocolate Cake recipe – never mind Ana Rita’s. So you can imagine how pleased we were when one of Andrew’s favorite baking heroines, Dorie Greenspan, published her take on Portuguese chocolate cake. In a recent New York Times Magazine article, she first described a disaster on her trip to Portugal.

Lisbon yields a piece of travel advice for one and all.

Lisbon, the country’s capital, is now a major tourist destination. It’s hard not to be taken in by this beautiful city.  Colorful buildings, very often featuring facades of ceramic tile, tumble down the eight hills the city occupies next to the River Tagus (Rio Tejo).  One of the best ways to see Lisbon is by tram.  The old city is crisscrossed with tram lines.  The tram that is said to cover the most ground is the #28.   Unfortunately, as Ms. Greenspan discovered, it’s also the favorite hunting ground for pickpockets. We were warned off it as was Ms. Greenspan. We took the advice. She took the tram.  And if I may say so, she unwisely put her wallet in her backpack and her wallet and credit cards disappeared along with her driver’s license and a copy of her passport. (Note: We long ago stopped carrying a wallet when we set out in any tourist destination. We take cash, a single credit card, and a Xerox copy of our IDs wrapped up in a rubber band. Not chic but practical). She was devastated and only her husband’s cajoling kept them in Lisbon.  She wanted to leave and never come back.

Landeau Chocolate in Lisbon sells only one thing at its Cafe: Lisbon Chocolate Cake.

Dorie Greenspan’s mood of utter depression didn’t lift until she was famished. She made her way to the LX Factory. Lisbon has turned a cluster of buildings into spaces for artists, craftspeople, cooks, and a chocolatier, Landeau Chocolate. Their café in the middle of the space features only one item: Chocolate Cake. To look at it, it could be mistaken for just another (beautiful) chocolate cake.  One or two bites in and you discover this cake is completely about chocolate.  There’s the cake part which is almost brownie-like and then a layer of chocolate cream that’s somewhere between a mousse and a ganache.  And finally, there’s a shower of cocoa that adds even more chocolate flavor.  Greenspan writes: “Each forkful is a complete composition: The textures go from firm to feathery, the flavors building in intensity.”

The Original Lisbon Chocolate Cake at Landeau

Here’s the recipe for a chocolate lover’s idea of perfection in a cake.

Dorie Greenspan bought a slice for the plane ride home. And, of course, she immediately got to work creating this recipe. She describes it as” a flourless chocolate cake with body, a whipped ganache with a texture like velour…beautiful in its simplicity. Best of all, it achieved…the almost miraculous feat of being rich and bold, but not heavy”.  Here is the recipe followed by a few more Dorie Greenspan classics from Chewing The Fat. And here’s a link to Dorie’s magnificent cookbook collection that you really ought to have in your own cookbook library https://amzn.to/4bCTJUb


Dorie Greenspan's Lisbon Chocolate Cake

December 5, 2019
: About 10 from 1-9 inch cake
: Moderate

This is pure chocolate heaven with amazing chocolate flavor and texture in every bite


  • For the cake:
  • ½ cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into chunks, plus more for greasing the pan
  • ⅓ cup/30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 ounces/140 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, chilled
  • For the ganache
  • 1 ¾ cups/420 milliliters heavy cream
  • 6 ounces/170 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • For the topping
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Step 1 Make the cake: Center a rack in the oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
  • Step 2 Sift together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend.
  • Step 3 Put the 1/2 cup butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Scatter the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate on top, and heat, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Remove the bowl from the pan, and stir in the sugar. One by one, energetically stir in the eggs, beating for 1 minute after the last egg is added. The mixture will look like pudding. Stir in the dry ingredients. Scrape the mixture into the cake pan, and give the pan a couple of good raps against the counter to settle the batter.
  • Step 4 Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (or with only a tiny streak of chocolate). Transfer to a rack, cool for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake. Peel off the paper, invert the cake, and cool to room temperature. Wash and dry the cake pan.
  • Step 5 Make the ganache: Pour 1 1/4 cups cream into a small saucepan. Refrigerate the rest. Scald the cream over medium heat, turn off the heat, and stir in the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate until fully incorporated. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate the ganache for 10 minutes, whisk it, then refrigerate again for 10 minutes. Repeat the chilling and whisking steps until the ganache is thick enough to make tracks when you stir, for 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Step 6 Cut two 3-by-16-inch pieces of parchment or foil, and crisscross them in the cake pan. Carefully return the cake to the pan. (The mousse layer is too soft to stand on its own until it’s chilled. It needs the support of the pan sides.)
  • Step 7 Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream until it holds medium peaks.
  • Step 8 Using a whisk, gently beat the ganache until it’s soft and spreadable. With a spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Spread over the cake, and refrigerate for 2 hours (or cover and keep for up to 2 days). The cake is best served cool or at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.
  • Step 9 To finish, put the cocoa powder in a fine-mesh strainer, and shake it over the top of the cake. Run a table knife along the sides of the pan. Using the parchment or foil handles, carefully lift the cake out of the pan and onto a serving plate. Discard the strips. Cut the cake using a long knife that has been run under hot water and wiped dry between each cut.

Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Fruit Tart

Dorie Greenspan’s Bakewell Tart


Best Christmas Cookie Ever! Dorie Greenspan’s Beurre et Sel Jammers and a review of "Dorie’s Cookies"


13 thoughts on “Dorie Greenspan’s Lisbon Chocolate Cake”

  • Thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve been cooking for 40 years with desserts being my favourite thing to cook and this cake was the single best dessert I’ve ever done. It was a fabulous end to dinner and 2019. Thanks again.

    • Dear Geoff, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. And it was very kind of you to take the time to write. It is a wonderful recipe and a fitting ending to any year or meal for that matter. If you are chocolate lover I doubt there’s a recipe that does more for chocolate than this one. A very Happy 2020 to you and I hope you will come back and use the recipes I collect here. My best to you, Monte

    • I’ve been the lucky recipient of Geoff’ Watt’s rendition of this cake. Have to agree with Geoff, this is the single best dessert he’s made and that I’ve had the privilege of enjoying.

      • Thanks for writing Sue. This incomparable cake is one of the best read posts on the entire site. Having had the original in Lisbon, I think Dorie’s is even better. Bon Appetit!

    • Dear Mary, I am so sorry. I just checking the recipe and I see 1/2 cup of butter and it all goes into the batter. Am I missing something here?

    • Dear Stephanie, thanks for dropping by. Andrew, who does all the baking on Chewing The Fat recommends that you refrigerate the cake for up to a week. Be sure to take it out of the fridge 30 to 45 minutes before you plan to serve it. Happy Easter!

  • Hi Monte, thanks for sharing this recipe. I had trouble with the ganache, it wouldn’t set even after hours of being in the refrigerator. I used the 1 1/4 c. heavy cream when I scalded it and the amount of chocolate chips it called for in the ganache. Do you have any advice? Should I use less heavy cream in that step? Or should I let it sit overnight? Thank you.

    • Dear Julie Ann, I consulted Andrew, who does the baking and he came back with this “Not sure, but it could be the difference that Julie Ann used chips and I cut up bittersweet chocolate. The chips have stabilizers in it so it keeps the chips from melting as quickly.” This is all pretty Greek to me but I hope it helps. This is one of the most popular posts this year. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. Stay safe!

  • Hello Monte and Andrew
    In step 4 step I’m confused by, why do you need to take the cake out of it’s mold, when you have to put the cake back into mold again in step nr 7,could the cake not be chilled enough by chilling the outside of the cake tin(like an ice bath)?

    • Dear Hannah. So sorry for any confusion. The reason you have to take the cake out of the mold is to be able to create the parchment ‘harness’ as described in Step 7. That way you can lift the cake out because you cannot flip it because the mousse is now on top of the cake layer. We hope that explains why the two steps are necessary. Andrew and Monte.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.