Darkness on the Delta

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

The lyrics to “Darkness on the Delta” are painted on the risers of the stairs that come down into my home kitchen. The wall next to the old barrel-house piano off the living room is papered with faded copies of sheet music for the song. If this flood plain had an anthem, this song would be it. As the song drifts to a conclusion, it trails off with the aspiration, “When it’s darkness on the delta, let me linger ‘neath the shelter of the night.” This deep, dark-as-night fudgy dessert is a cool ending to a dinner party on a starry evening.–Martha Hall Foose


This bittersweet chocolate cake sure as hell means darkness on the delta to us. Heck, who needs the lyrics to that song when you know the ingredients to this dessert?

Darkness on the Delta

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
This deep, dark-as-night fudgy dessert is a cool ending to a dinner party on a starry evening.
Martha Hall Foose

Prep 25 mins
Freeze 6 hrs
Total 6 hrs 25 mins
8 servings
401 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for serving
  • Confectioners’ sugar for serving


  • Put the chocolate in a large bowl.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and a little nutmeg to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Slowly whisk in half of the milk mixture. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Do not boil.
  • Pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the butter, a little at a time, and then add the vanilla and bourbon. Whisk until the mixture is very smooth.
  • Spray a 6-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line with plastic wrap. Scrape the mixture into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours.
  • When ready to serve, invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove the plastic wrap. Dust with cocoa and confectioners’ sugar.
Print RecipeBuy the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea cookbook

Want it? Click it.


I like to stencil sugar stars across this cake, using a piece of cardboard with a cutout in it as a guide.
Be aware that egg yolks should not sit in sugar too long. The sugar will sort of “cook” the yolk and make it grainy.
This dessert can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 401kcal (20%)Carbohydrates: 22g (7%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 34g (52%)Saturated Fat: 21g (131%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 88mg (29%)Sodium: 16mg (1%)Potassium: 178mg (5%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 19g (21%)Vitamin A: 785IU (16%)Calcium: 48mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Wow! What a heavenly dessert that melted in your mouth like a divine chocolate truffle! My husband and guests couldn’t quit raving about this chocolate cake. I made it a week before our dinner party, froze it and it was perfect. The instructions were very easy to follow and I would definitely make this again and again.

WOW! This chocolate cake was simple to make, had a beautiful presentation, and was deadly rich and delicious. Definitely a keeper. I served it with a small dollop of whipped cream. It’s a perfect way to end a special meal—everyone asked for the recipe. Next time I might substitute rum or chocolate liqueur for the bourbon but bourbon is very Southern.

I love chocolate desserts, and this one didn’t disappoint. It helped to let the “cake” sit at room temperature for a little while, to make serving and eating a bit easier. I served it with whipped cream and a sprinkle of grated nutmeg on the cream. Definitely rich, definitely satisfying. And perfect for parties because it can sit in the freezer ahead of time! Although, I’m tempted to serve it in small cups as a warm pudding-like dish, too.

This bittersweet chocolate cake recipe is pure chocolate sin. It’s very easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly as stated. I’m not sure why the nutmeg is there since there was no hint of its taste, and I’m not sure it is important you include it in the recipe. It took me 15 minutes, not about 5 minutes as stated in the recipe, for my mixture to start to thicken. Your butter must be at room temperature because it won’t all melt if it is the least bit cool. The taste of bourbon is not overpowering. In fact it’s just the right touch. This is a perfect dessert to serve when you want to make a big impression or when you are just serving your family.

Originally published July 21, 2008


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