Pleyels are rich and light little cakes, like cupcakes with a French pedigree. I like to bake them in cupcake pans, although they are much more elegant than the standard cupcake. These are adapted from La Maison du Chocolat in Paris.

Makes 12 individual cakes


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor
1 cup confectioners' sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

One 12-cavity muffin pan, lined with paper liners

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Put the butter in a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted and foams a little. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all the chocolate is submerged, and wait for the chocolate to melt, which should only take 1 minute. Whisk smooth. Scrape the mixture into a mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk in the ground almonds and the confectioners' sugar. Whisk in the yolks, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts. Fold in the flour.
  4. Put the egg whites and salt in a clean, dry mixer bowl and place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on medium speed until they are white, opaque, and beginning to hold a very soft peak. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip in the granulated sugar in a stream, continuing to whip the egg whites until they hold a soft, glossy peak.
  5. With a large rubber spatula fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.
  6. With a large spoon, spoon the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it equally among the cavities.
  7. Bake the cakes for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the cakes are well risen (they are meant to remain moist in the center), about 7 to 8 minutes.
  8. Cool the cakes in the pan on a rack.

Serving: Arrange the Pleyels on a platter. Serve them alone or as part of a more elaborate dessert with some whipped cream or ice cream and, if you are really in an indulgent mood, some chocolate sauce.

Storage: Keep the Pleyels loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are made. For longer storage, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.