Chocolate Nemesis Recipe on Food52 (2024)

5 Ingredients or Fewer

by: Food52



55 Ratings

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Serves 18

Jump to Recipe

Author Notes

Excerpted with permission from Ruth Rogers' cookbook, 'River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant': "Still the best chocolate cake ever."

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Nordic Ware Aluminum Celebration Cake Pan (Set of 3)
- Mason Cash Cane Mixing Bowls
- GIR Silicone Spatulas, Set of 2


Test Kitchen Notes

When I first booked my trip to London last fall, the first reservation I made was at The River Cafe, the storied Italian restaurant founded by Ruth ("Ruthie") Rogers and the late Rose Gray. I needed to try the legendary Chocolate Nemesis Cake (the name itself enthralls, does it not?) for myself, by hell or high water.

To no one's surprise, the entire meal was electric: From the fire-roasted Scottish langoustines to the chargrilled squid topped with chilis, to all of the incredible pastas, there was not a moment our party of four couldn't be found nodding and practically cooing over every dish.

And, of course, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, dessert came along. We had heard about it. We had planned it, actually, for months. We had been looking forward to meeting the one, the only.

At Food52, we use a lot of superlative language to describe all the wonderful dishes we get to try, but this cake actually stunned us into silence. The rich, mousse-like cake even stopped our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen in his tracks.

"My favorite childhood dessert was chocolate mousse," Josh tells me. "This cake had all the righteous deep, creamy chocolate flavor of the best chocolate mousse. But this also has structure, due to the fact that it's a cake. You can slice it. It isn't just a plop of mousse in a bowl. The thin crispy surface that forms on the top of the cake is a great textural contrast to the creaminess of the rest of the cake. Overall, it's just outrageously good—one of the most memorable desserts I've made in a long time."

Well, if that endorsem*nt isn't convincing enough, I'd urge you to try it for yourself at home. The restaurant celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, complete with a special-edition cookbook, River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant, full of time-honored classics (such as this one), as well as 30 new hits.

How could just four ingredients alchemize into a taste of heaven? How did this cake come to be? I went straight to the source to find out.

“Rose and I found a version of this cake in a magazine in 1988,” explains Ruthie. “We loved the name, but we didn’t think the recipe was quite right, so we adapted it to include more chocolate and beaten egg yolks. The high quality chocolate gives an intense flavor. It’s the perfect end to an Italian meal.”

The cake is so popular, the restaurant sells approximately 500 decadent slices per week. When I asked Ruthie if she’s taken any liberties toying around with the recipe over the years, she gave me an honest and enigmatic response: “Yes, we have….”

We’ll just leave it right there. No need to press further when talking about something as luscious as this flourless, silky beauty. Run—don’t walk—and don’t forget to report back. —Hana Asbrink

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 10 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cupsplus 2 tablespoons (575g) granulated sugar
  • 24 ounces(675g) best-quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
  • 1 pound(450g) unsalted butter, softened
  • Crème fraîche, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F (130°C). Grease a 12-inch (30cm) round cake pan that is 3 inches (7.5cm) deep, then line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the eggs with a third of the sugar with an electric mixer until the volume quadruples—this will take at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (the water should not touch the base of the bowl). Remove from the heat.
  4. Heat the remaining sugar with 9 fluid ounces (250ml) water in a small pan until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup, stirring occasionally. Gently pour the syrup into the melted chocolate, stirring.
  5. Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the warm chocolate and syrup mixture to the eggs. Increase the speed and continue beating until completely combined. The mixture will lose volume.
  6. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Put the pan into a deep baking pan on top of a dish towel to prevent the cake pan from moving. Fill the baking pan with hot water so that it comes at least two-thirds up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1½–2 hours or until set—test by placing the flat of your hand gently on the surface of the cake.
  7. Remove the cake pan from the water. Leave the cake in the pan to completely cool before turning out (don’t refrigerate it). Serve with crème fraîche.


  • Cake
  • Italian
  • Chocolate
  • Egg
  • Butter
  • 5 Ingredients or Fewer
  • Bake
  • Entertaining
  • Dinner Party
  • Valentine's Day
  • Weekend Cooking
  • Anniversary

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jocelyn McAuley

  • Lynn D

  • Theresa Lemieux

  • Kristin Watson Heintz

  • Theresa Lemieux

Popular on Food52

132 Reviews

Millymolly March 4, 2023

I’ve been making chocolate nemesis for at least 10 years for occasions from the river cafe book. But why does it always crack on the top I’ve tried lowering the heat I’ve just made 2 this morning in 2 different ovens and different tins I go by the recipe but both have cracked tops.

Beacake February 5, 2023

Question here!

Are there any other cues for knowing when the bake is done? Should there be any wobble, or should the cake be completely set through? I didn’t find the recipe very effective at describing what seems to be the most important part of the process!

Smaug February 5, 2023

Well, they tell you to put your hand on the cake, but they don't tell you what you're looking for when you do so, so that's not awfully helpful; it's going to be pretty gooey. I've made a number of nearly identical cakes (chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar)- don't remember what I did with this cake, but usually you get a little bit of a dry crust with some cracking. All baking needs to do is set the eggs- I suppose something could be done with a thermometer.

Beacake February 5, 2023

Right 😂 that’s the oddest instruction I’ve ever seen in a recipe! I think I’ll watch the video people have referenced for some visual cues.

Smaug February 5, 2023

That or just go for another recipe; one on this site that has been very popular is listed as "Richard Sax's Chocolate Cloud Cake". The attribution to Richard Sax is false but it's an excellent, dependable cake.

Smaug February 5, 2023

ps; My oddest instruction was "Get you an oogruk and boil him well", but this one is right up there.

Jborden May 19, 2023

Oh no boiled ookgruk.. just make sure it’s booked outside. I am assuming you know what an oogruk is though.

Jborden May 19, 2023

Boiled not booked

Danielle February 10, 2022

This is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It is easily scalable to half the size.

Jocelyn M. February 9, 2022

As written, this is a ridiculous set of volumes for our household size. However, the recipe reduces down quite easily to three small servings if you use a single egg as your limiting reagent: 1 egg, 57.5g sugar, 67.5 g chocolate, 45g of butter (I also subbed rum for half the water in the syrup step)... I split this amount into three cup sized mason jars and cooked in the water bath at 250F for 50 minutes.

trvlnsandy February 9, 2022

using sous vide?

Jocelyn M. February 9, 2022

no, as the recipe specifies: baked in a 250F oven in a water bath. One could sous vide the jars though

trvlnsandy February 9, 2022

been so long since I made it. Loved it, but... But now we talk about it - that would be a way to make it. I like it. ;)

Stephanie February 7, 2021

I divided it by ¾. Used a 9" pan. Baked 2 hours but still very loose so really not a cake texture. Is this right? Can't find any comments on the consistency. Certainly "mousse" more than cake. Any thoughts. Should I have baked it longer?

trvlnsandy February 7, 2021

smooth rather than cake-like. Almost like a firm-ish melted chocolate bar

tally T. February 7, 2021

You’re right! Definitely a mousse-like texture.

Lynn D. February 2, 2021

Hands down the best, most decadent, chocolate cake I've ever made....but it's so rich that I am not sure how to hold over the extra.

trvlnsandy February 2, 2021

It freezes really well. I made the whole recipe (should have halved) when it was first posted -- way over a year ago. We somehow ate half (probably had people for dinner a few times) and I froze half. Just found the last of the frozen in the freezer about a month ago and we ate (I think there were a total of 6 slivers). I would slice off what we needed when needed. Might not have been as good as original, but it was good. Forget what it tasted like originally it was so long ago.

Smaug February 3, 2021

As this type of cake (there are a lot of very similar recipes) contains almost no moisture- it's practically all stable fats- it will keep quite a while just wrapped without going stale.

Theresa L. April 18, 2020

How do I know if I overcooked it? It's a little firm to the touch.

trvlnsandy April 18, 2020

Taste it - if you like it, it was perfect. My memory is it doesn't jiggle much. Made it ages ago and froze half. Just started eating the second half ;) Still good - after being frozen about a year.

Theresa L. April 18, 2020

How do I know if I overcooked it? It's a little firm to the touch

Ann M. April 18, 2020

Simply the best chocolate cake ever

Theresa L. January 18, 2020

Okay, I'm a doofus, but my cake pan was actually floating in the bain marie. Managed to get it into the oven without getting water in the batter. Got some on the floor but now i's cleaner so well and good. I used a Fat Daddio's aluminum pan inside a regular aluminum pan - a 16" round pan. It's hard to find a bigger pan for what is already such a larger cake pan, but I had one. I'm making the bigger version because we have people coming over tonight. Anyway I don' know that the floating cake will present any problems now that it's safely in the oven butI've never had that occur before and it weirded me out.

Smaug January 18, 2020

That's pretty strange- sounds like maybe you had the water too deep. The batter should be a bit lighter than water, and of course if the water was deeper than the batter you'd be displacing water with air.

Lauren January 5, 2020

This was a remarkable cake, I've never had anything quite like it. I do agree with the reviews that it is TOO MUCH CAKE! Unless you are aiming to feed 12-16. Best quality chocolate is likely key here, but I am intrigued by the ideas of adding a little grand marnier or other flavor. I also like the idea of doing individual servings, which I think would showcase it well.

E. V. June 4, 2019

Flabbergasted to learn from the river cafe video after having already made the cake that this version of the chocolate nemesis cake has been doubled in size from the original recipe. Why? Why on earth would you do that? In the end, It’s such a huge cake. Seems wasteful and ill thought out.

L October 21, 2023

The recipe does specifically read that it serves 18. Easy enough to halve the recipe for a smaller cake if that's what is needed.

David May 12, 2019

This is quite a cake! Easy to make and NOT for any diabetic. It is a huge cake and would feed a good dozen. Can you scale down the recipe? Otherwise 5 stars.

Jocelyn M. February 9, 2022

I just made a version that's a touch more insulin response savvy: used 85% chocolate and an allulose blend for the sugar. When scaled down to smaller servings, it's a friendlier recipe for sure.

cascade April 18, 2019

Can I bake this 2 days in advance and refrigerate?

trvlnsandy April 18, 2019

I did. But I refrigerated. I froze half.

2Dogs January 23, 2021

Yes check out The River Cafe's video on how to make it. They use half the quantities.

Heather E. March 29, 2019

This recipe is massive in volume!!! cut it in half or your mixing bowls and cake tin will overflow. I added a couple of tablespoon of Grand Marnier, and a teaspoon of almond extract to half of the batter and that cake was far better than the plain one.

Charles W. March 10, 2019

I agree pots de cream is much easier and less time consuming. However Nemisis has a wonderful texture and rich flavor, 70% chocolate. We will try the half recipe. Thanks!

Jeanette M. March 10, 2019

I halved the recipe and used a 9 inch pan. It took an hour and 45 minutes to bake. I actually preferred the cake chilled the next day. The texture was more fudgy. I also noticed a hint of a burned chocolate taste on the top, crackly layer of the cake. I didn't love that flavor, but it didn't seem to bother anyone else. I don't think I left it in for too long, as the texture was exactly as described and it had just set. I checked frequently from 60 minutes on, as I wasn't sure how the alterations to the recipe and pan size would play out. My kids noted that it tastes like chocolate pots de creme, which I agree with (ingredients are almost identical) and the pots de creme are a bit easier (no baking or water bath) and no less impressive.

Kristin W. March 3, 2019

As an FYI for anyone, like me, who doesn't have a 20-inch round pan: this fits perfectly into a 13X9. (Thank you math geek husband!)

Food March 8, 2019

Area of a circle is =πr^2

in case others have different sized pans

Smaug March 8, 2019

I presume you mean a 12" pan; a 20" round pan would be 314 sq. in., a 13x9 is 117 sq. in., a 12" round about 113 sq. in.- you would also need to be sure the pan you use is deep enough, and find a pan that would work for the water bath unless you want to change the baking method.

Joy P. February 28, 2019

Can anyone share a fabulous brand of chocolate we Should use? A grocery store brand and a better quality chocolate as well?


trvlnsandy February 28, 2019

I used Scharffen Berger (actually, a Hershey company now, I believe) but usually use Ghiaradelli for things like this. Sometimes Lindt.

Stacey March 3, 2019

Honestly, for stuff like this I use the Pound Plus bars from Trader Joe's. The rumor is that Callebaut makes them, but it will likely never be verified.

trvlnsandy March 3, 2019

If I had a Trader Joe's within an hour, I would too! My grocery has Nestle type and then we move up to the ones I mentioned.

Smaug March 8, 2019

If you're shopping at a grocery store, Lindt is probably your best bet.

P July 24, 2020

Callebaut, Valrhona or Barry

Theresa L. February 26, 2019

When you say "don't refrigerate" does that only apply to the cooling down period? Because how else do you store it? Thought it would be nice to make a day ahead but can't imagine leaving it on the counter.

trvlnsandy February 26, 2019

It shouldn't hurt to leave out, but I did refrigerate mine. I prefer things like that cold. Actually, a good portion of it is in the freezer now (and it might actually be good that way - will have to try).

Chocolate Nemesis Recipe on Food52 (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated:

Views: 6349

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.