If you were to do an online recipe search for “Robert Redford Cake”, what you’d get would be recipes that are called “Better than Robert Redford Cake”, or sometimes, “Better than Sex Cake”. Back in the day, Robert Redford was such a big star and sex symbol, and so these cakes are supposed to be better than all that! That was their gimmick!
These recipes are usually easy-to-prepare cakes or pies that utilize instant pudding and cake mixes, sweetened condensed milk, and frozen whipped toppings.
I want to say that there is nothing wrong with these recipes, if that is what you like. They are easy to make, and the results can be crowd pleasing.
There was actually another cake that was called “The Robert Redford Cake” that was served sometime in the 70s and early 80s, at a New York City restaurant called Hisae, which is now closed.
I found the recipe in Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts, which was published in 1982. She explains all about it in her book.
The cake was a flourless chocolate cake sweetened with honey instead of sugar, and made with eggs, and a meal from ground hazelnuts or almonds. Apparently Robert Redford liked this cake, and so it was named after him.
What I find fascinating is that there are a whole bunch of recipes that have not made the jump from book to online, that are quite good, that most people never make as much as they used to, if at all.
It is now all too easy to find recipes simply by searching online, and don’t get me wrong, I love how easy that is, but at the same time, it’s interesting to me how some recipes get lost and become obscure, even though they may have been popular at some point in time. And so this is partly why I decided to make this. I think it’s a little better than those “better than” cake recipes online.
I was surprised that the cake is not overly sweet and also does not have a strong chocolate flavor. I suspect one can use a stronger bittersweet chocolate for that, but then the question becomes whether that would overpower the subtle honey flavor.
And I know you’re probably thinking, well, why make it, then? Initially I was surprised by this, but the next day when I ate a slice, it was just right. Like many things, it sort of needed a day or two to meld its ingredients together. The honey is not easily recognizable, but it’s definitely something that adds to the mystery and uniqueness of the cake. It is also incredibly soft and moist without being too delicate. I will definitely make this again.
I kind of like how flourless chocolate cakes sort of have a landscape of small hills and crevices on their tops, and this one is no different. This one definitely settles down from the moment it leaves the oven.
Part of what Maida Heatter describes in her book is using a chocolate ganache to cover the cake, and also to flip the cake if the sides sort of fall inward. And I thought, why not just leave it like it is? There’s something very homey about its ugliness. So I just dusted it lightly with confectioner’s sugar. But feel free to add the ganache, since that is what the recipe calls for, anyway. The next time I make this, I might try it with the ganache recipe just so I can compare it with this, but for now, I’m leaning towards the dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
Aside from not using the ganache, I also made it a half-recipe using a 7-inch springform pan for a more intimate size shared with a few people at most. I made it smaller partly because I was running low on some of the ingredients, but also because I think it’s more enjoyable in this smaller size. Of course, the original called for a 10-inch springform pan, so if you prefer that, just double the recipe below.
Chocolate Honey Cake, a.k.a.The Robert Redford Cake
(for 7-inch springform)
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing the pan
3.25 ounces (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) blanched hazelnuts or almonds, ground finely
6 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
1/4 cup honey
5 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar, enough for dusting
for chocolate ganache topping:
3/8 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 7-by-3-inch springform cake pan. I used nonstick baking spray with flour, and only sprayed the pan right at the last minute before pouring batter in pan.
2. Grind nuts to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.
3. Chop chocolate into small pieces and melt in the top of a double boiler over shallow, warm water on moderate heat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
4. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a mixer, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter until soft. Gradually add honey; beat until smooth. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until mixed after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add nuts and cooled chocolate, and blend; do not overmix.
5. In another bowl, beat egg whites with salt until whites until stiff peaks form when slowly raising the beaters. Fold egg whites into chocolate in three batches. Pour into pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes more, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (I baked the cake on 350 degrees for 50 minutes). Remove and let cool on rack for an hour. Remove from pan.
6. With a sieve, dust top of cake (when cooled) with confectioner’s sugar right before serving.
Or, chop up chocolate into small pieces and place in a small/medium bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring cream until it almost starts boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate, Transfer to a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes, then sitr with a whisk until smooth and slightly thick. Pour ganache over cake and smooth top and sides until covered. Serve immediately, or store at room temperature overnight.
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