Darkness on the Delta: Cool Bittersweet Dessert

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake Recipe

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

LC Darkness On The Delta Note

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?

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 6 H, 25 M
  • Serves 8


  • 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


  • 1. Put the chocolate in a large bowl.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. When ready to serve, invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove the plastic wrap. Dust with cocoa and confectioners’ sugar.


  • 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.
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