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Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)

Chocolate Dessert

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597 replies to this topic

#31 mkfradin

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 06:58 PM

I've been working with a cake that sounds a little like the Woolley cake--it's an oil based cocoa cake with buttermilk and coffee (or water) for the liquid. It is NOT my favorite cake--I don't think the oil brings out the chocolate flavor as much as butter would, but it was a decisive favorite among my customers. It's a very very moist, sweet cake, and it always domes up!! It's not a problem to frost--just slice off the domes--but the waste drives me crazy! I don't have the recipe right here, but I think I got it on epicurious in the recipe swap. It's called the Million Dollar Chocolate Cake. I did tweak it a little (it had way too much baking soda in it, even for using natural cocoa, and I make it with Dutch process anyway). If anyone wants my recipe, let me know and I'll post.

For the record, the winner of my personal contest for best chocolate cake is Lauren Chattman's recipe in Mom's Book of Baking for the Devil's Food Cake. In a side-by-side tasting against Purdy's Buttermilk Cake, it wins, hands down. I also love the mixing method--the high-ratio method--that makes it so easy to throw together. Unfortunately, many people perceive the finer crumb and lighter texture as dry, so I'm pretty much resigned to offering the oil based cake in the near future. At least it's more cost effective!

Wendy, I'd be really interested to hear what your favorite banana and carrot cakes are. I made a carrot cake today that I wasn't thrilled with, and am curious about yours. I'm not trying to change the subject (I could talk about chocolate cake all day!), but if your's is so amazing, it will be hard for me to wait!

Marjorie

#32 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 23 April 2004 - 04:22 AM

Marjorie, if you've got a great choc. cake recipe I'm interested! Any chance you can take a moment and try the one I posted to use that as a reference point?

I'd like to start a seperate thread on other flavors for easy future reference, so look for those, o.k.

#33 lorea

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Posted 23 April 2004 - 03:39 PM

Alright, I'm back to share some more experiences with this cake. On the night I made the 2 cakes, I had wrapped both cakes in plastic wrap and left one out and put the other in the freezer. The one I gave a review on was the one I left out.

Last night, I went to a dinner party and plated up the previously frozen one. It was much better/moister than the one left out, and wasn't as crumbly as the one that was left out. I got really good reviews about the cake from my friends....about how rich it was. :smile:

#34 Tepee

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Posted 23 April 2004 - 07:50 PM

I'd like to participate in this too. I've Scott Woolley's book but have only tried his vegetarian eggless milkless banana cake recipe (very good). Will try this one as soon as I can. Would appreciate if you could recommend a good non-shortening based filling to go with this chocolate cake. This would go down much much better and faster with my guinea pigs - my kids and DH.

Thank you. Glad this thread got started.

Edited by TP(M'sia), 23 April 2004 - 08:40 PM.

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#35 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 24 April 2004 - 05:25 AM

So Lorea, whats your final number 1-5 and do you have a chocolate cake recipe that is better then this one for us to test?

TP, fillings.........wow I feel like I've pared this cake with about every filling known to man. But everyone has their own favorite taste combos. The quickest and laziest route would be pour a layer of ganche on top. Bring to a boil 1 c. heavy cream with 2 tsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. butter. After the sugar has disolved and the mixture comes to a boil, dump 12 oz. of chocolate into your pot. Stir from the center out, creating an emulsion. Pour on top of room temp or colder cake, let it set/chill down before cutting.

I'm hoping many of you will get a chance to bake this weekend. I look forward to your results.

#36 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 05:52 AM

Did anyone get a chance to bake this recipe over the weekend?

#37 Ladybug

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 07:00 AM

I baked it but I haven't eaten it yet. It's still in the freezer. Actually, to be completely aboveboard here, I did taste a piece fresh out of the oven (I baked a separate, smaller pan besides two 9" rounds) but since it hadn't been steamed and then frozen I don't think it counts as a representative example of what you produced. I'm furiously busy this week, but hope to thaw the cake and frost/fill it next weekend.

My impressions on the piece I ate (that shouldn't count) is that it sliced nicely, was pleasantly cocoa-ey and almost undersweetened. I think I'll use a frosting that's on the sweet side when I pull the cake from the freezer. My first impression was that the cake had been seriously mis-named - nothing about it made me think of fudge or a brownie, although what I ate was pleasant. I think Hershey's Best Chocolate Cake had a better taste but not a better texture - it's fallen apart on me when I've used it for a layer cake recipe. In the interests of accuracy, I think I shouldn't compare it to another cake simply from memory and I'd like to wait to thaw these cakes until I can bake another variety so I can compare them better.

Take all my comments with a grain of salt, remembering that I'm not a professional baker and that I've probably only baked about 20 chocolate cakes in my whole life. :smile:

#38 kthull

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:38 AM

I have the test cake, plus my standard cake both thawing in the fridge and I'll slice it up and have a series of unfrosted taste tests with the family and neighbors this afternoon/tomorrow. I'll definitely have some feedback. I have to say the batter was a dream to work with, but I was nervous...I doubled it and it was a bit dicey in my 6qt KA. I baked both cakes as 12x18x1 sheets (edit: both gave enough for an additional 9" square, basically the same height as the sheet) and froze both for the most equal comparison.

The winner will move on to become my niece's communion cake and my daughter's birthday cake. This is fun!

Edited by kthull, 26 April 2004 - 08:39 AM.


#39 celenes

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 11:12 AM

I would like to participate as well. Just let me know how.

This will also benefit my customer base who are always looking for something new or old (stuff that they can't get from the grocery or local bakery shop)

For example, I have a customer who loves rhubarb and I made him a cake recently with rhubarb filling and he literally ate the whole thing by himself. I now have a recipe for fresh rhubarb pie that is from a very dear friend of mine and I can't wait to try it.
Believe, Laugh, Love
Lydia (aka celenes)

#40 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 01:39 PM

Celenes please particapate. To do so, you need to make the recipe I posted trying to follow my dirrections......-sorry you do need to read through the whole thread because people brought up questions and issues I forgot to cover in the post that has the recipe.

Where is your bakery located Celenes?

#41 lorea

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 01:43 PM

So Lorea, whats your final number 1-5 and do you have a chocolate cake recipe that is better then this one for us to test?

I would still say it's a 4.5 (can I do that?? :wacko: ) The reason why it's not a 5 is because it doesn't make me crave to eat more after I've had my share....and I've had some cakes that have made me do that.

I think the cake I was actually thinking about from the Cake Bible was the All-American Chocolate Butter Cake. This recipe makes 2 9-inch cakes.

(Adapted from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum)

Unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa
½ cup + 3 tablespoons, lightly spooned
2.25 oz.
63 g

Boiling water
1 liquid cup
8.25 oz
236 g

3 large eggs
Scant 5 fluid oz
5.25 oz (without shells)
150 g (without shells)

Vanilla
2 ¼ teaspoons
9 g

Sifted cake flour
2 ¼ cups + 2 T
8.25 oz
235 g

Sugar
1 ½ cups
10.5 oz
300 g

Baking powder
1 T
15 g

Salt
¾ teaspoon
5 g

Unsalted butter, softened
1 cup
8 oz
227 g

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the cocoa and boiling water. Cool.

Mix eggs, 1/4 of cocoa mixture, & vanilla.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add butter and remaining cocoa. Beat for 1 1/2 minutes to develop the cakes's structure. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes.

#42 Ladybug

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 02:24 PM

Slight change of plan - my 6 year old son snuck into the freezer today and hacked off a piece of the cake and ate it, still frozen rock solid. It only took him a minute because he snuck outside to eat it so I wouldn't see him. I was NOT happy. But, since the cake was all hacked up anyway, I hacked another piece off and microwaved it for 30 seconds to thaw it. It was much improved! I don't have time to get into details, but it seemed fluffier somehow and also more chocolate-y. The texture was very similar to a box mix cake, with a fine crumb. I like it. I'd give it a 4.5, to leave room in the event I find something better in the future.

#43 nightscotsman

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 04:02 PM

My weekend starts tomorrow, so I'll give it a try in the morning. After I get up at 3:00 am. Which for me is sleeping in. :hmmm:

Can't wait to see how this cake turns out. I've got bananas ripening too, so I'll be making the other cake soon.

#44 Tepee

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 07:31 PM

Eek! Help! I was preparing the dry ingredients to bake this cake a bit later. Now, coming back to read your recipe, I found that I dumped in baking powder instead of soda. Should I say goodbye to the dry mixture? :sad:
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#45 kthull

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:03 PM

Wendy, I was so happy with my current chocolate cake that I was hoping to bring some competition to this thread. But respectfully, I concede. This cake has a fine crumb, super moist (I've saved some to test tomorrow too) and a nicely chocolate flavor. As mentioned by someone else, it's not overly sweet, which to me is a plus since it'll be frosted.

The cake I've been using was, what I thought, the richest chocolate tasting cake I've had. Its down side was its stickiness. Very difficult to work with. By contrast, this cake slices up rather cleanly and it has a smoothness of flavor, whereas my other cake had a sharpness/tanginess to it in comparison which I hadn't noticed before.

I give this one a 5. For those of you who claim to have better, please ante up.

Edit: forgot to add time and temp: 55 minutes at 275 for the 12x18x1.

Edited by kthull, 27 April 2004 - 05:08 AM.


#46 Tepee

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 12:25 AM

OK, I went ahead and made the cake after adding 1 1/2 tsp baking soda. Although I'm sure I'm forfeited for adding the wrong raising agent, I'll still put in my 2 sen anyway. I'm not usually so careless, but my 2 yr old was fussing a lot from her flu yadda yadda yadda.

Baked in two 9-inch tins for 30 mins @ 150 deg C, and 10 mins @ 130 deg C. There was very minimal doming, and happily, no cracks. In fact, on cooling the dome settled down nicely to form a perfectly level cake. After 5 minutes out, I wrapped it up and it's now cooling, but not before I sliced out a little to taste (the call of the cake was too great!). It cut very well, no crumbs at all. And I suppose Woolley named it Fudge Brownie cake because of its density. Yes, I too found it "under-sweet" which is perfect, as most Malaysians don't like their cake too sweet. I'm going to freeze it for 6 hours and serve it tonight drenched in choc ganache. Yummy!

Last month I tried one of Colette Peter's chocolate cake, tweaked a little. I thought that was very moist and good, but, the structure was a bit fragile. I do cake sculpturing and that one required some freezing for better handling. I tried to move a cake layer without freezing and it broke into 2.
TPcal!
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#47 KarenS

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 01:23 AM

Wendy, I never spray the sides of a cake pan- I always make sure they are clean and dry, the cake will hold on and lift better.
Here is my favorite choc cake (yield is eight 9 inch rounds):

12 whole eggs
10 1/2c sugar
1/4c vanilla extract
4c (valrhona) cocoa
3# 7oz ap flour
6T baking soda
2T kosher salt
6c buttermilk
6c freshly brewed, hot coffee
4 3/4c vegetable oil

Whip sugar and eggs with vanilla until pale and thick.
Sift dry ingredients.
Combine liquids.
Add dry and wet ingredients to the egg mixture, start and end with the dry.
Pulse your mixer on and off to combine, do not leave the machine running- you will overmix.
Ladel between your parchment lined pans (make sure that the sides are clean and dry- not greasy).
Bake at 325 convection or 350 conventional until the cake springs back to touch in the center (or test with a skewer).

This is a great cake; people love it.

#48 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 06:13 AM

Karen, any chance you could find a moment to bake the one I posted and give your review and comparision to the recipe you posted?


TP(M'sia) I haven't sculpted with this cake yet. But I'm guessing it won't be what you want for that. I think this one will break up too.

Cheffette, are you in? I'd love to see your opinion.

#49 mkfradin

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 01:26 PM

I haven't had a chance to try the Wooley cake either--maybe tomorrow--but here's the cake that won the customers' taste test here (as I said, not my favorite, but it's easy, cheap, fast, moist, and popular).

Please note that we're using a convection oven and if you have a radiant or conventional oven, bake at 350.

Cake Batter Ingredients:

2 ¼ oz Dutched cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water

7.5 oz. AP flour
14 oz white sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¼ c. buttermilk powder (1.25 oz)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup black coffee

1 tsp vanilla extract


Dissolve cocoa in hot water.

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and buttermilk powder in a mixing bowl.

Mix eggs, oil, cocoa mixture, coffee and vanilla in another bowl. Beat into dry ingredients gradually, beating between additions to minimize lumping.

Beat with an electric mixer set at medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan or 2 9” round pans.

Bake in pre-heated 325°F oven for 40 minutes or until the cake tests done.

Marjorie

#50 kthull

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 05:59 PM

I don't know if any cakes made it to day two or not, but I managed to keep mine around long enough to taste it 48 hrs after defrost and it's roughly the same as yesterday. Seems like it's starting to lose just a hint of moistness.

#51 kthull

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 08:44 PM

Ok, so my daughter just sprung this on me: she wants to bring cupcakes to school in 2 days for her birthday. Wendy, have you ever done this recipe as cupcakes? I have 36 in the oven as I type this and will start testing for doneness at 20 minutes (still hanging around the 275 mark as close as my oven will let me).

Alongside that is an 8x3 that will serve as a cake topper to my niece's communion cake for this weekend. Same question: have you baked cakes this deep with this recipe?

#52 KarenS

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 08:58 PM

Wendy, Sure, I'll try baking your recipe! I love new things to try. I have been searching for the "perfect" vanilla cake for years! :smile:

#53 KarenS

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 09:24 PM

I have a few comments. Technique is very important in making a cake. Letting the mixer run will create tunneling. After adding a hot liquid to a batter with baking soda, it must be put instantly in the oven (Wendy, the hot liquid is to activate your levening). How you add your dry and wet ingredients can toughen the cake. A too hot oven will make your cake dome. Average cocoa will make an average cake. Cheap vegetable oil will make a heavy cake. Low protein flour will make a more tender cake.
This is very similar to what we did in the "Baker's Dozen" group that I belong to. While the book was being made we would all take one recipe and bring in the results. ALL were different. (I can't remember how many differences we had in 1c of brown sugar- it was astounding).

#54 kthull

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 10:38 PM

As far as times went, cupcakes were done at 24 minutes. The 8x3 round went a full hour and a half. I'm guessing that one is a goner. :shock:

#55 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 05:51 AM

Karen, I was planning on tackling white/vanila cake next. I've yet to find that "perfect" recipe (I've got one thats decent, but not perfect). It's alot more illlusive! I wanted to work out the bugs of how to do this testing and group consenses on line first, before we get into white-which will be alot more technical. Do want to lead/start that testing thread? I think your experience with the bakers dozen would be very valueable to everyone. I'd love to learn more about what you learned in that experience and I'm most curious how we can use that knowledge right now as we're testing? Any advice?


I still want to keep this thread on track. Has anyone else baked my base recipe and if so will you rank it 1-5? Please, only offer up a recipe after you've baked the base recipe and you KNOW that yours IS better. Common you guys we need to find "THE BEST", I'd love to find a recipe better then what I posted, if you've got it please anti-up?

#56 nightscotsman

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 08:45 AM

OK, I baked up Wendy's recipe yesterday morning. Actually, I baked two half batches as I wanted to test a different mixing method. Here are the notes:

First batch made following the recipe and directions as closely as possible:
- cocoa: Hershie's non-dutched
- butter: Plugra
- hot water instead of coffee
- measured using cups and spoons
- the finished batter was creamy, but liquid enough to pour
- used 1 8"x2" round aluminum pan, no spray or butter, just round of parchment on bottom
- baked at 300 F (though I lost my oven thermometer, so I can't verify, and this is the first thing I've baked in the unfamiliar oven in my new apartment)
- took 55 minutes to fully bake, so I think my oven runs a bit cool
- the cake actualy rose quite a bit (about 1/3 the height of batter) and was almost too much batter for the pan
- top was domed a bit and cracked, but leveled some as is cooled.
- let cool exactly 5 minutes before unmolding and wrapping in plastic
- when cool, I cut the cake in two and froze half

Second batch exactly the same as the first, but using mixing method similar to Rose Levy Berenbaum's in "The Cake Bible"
- mix cocoa with boiling water and let cool
- mix 1/4 cocoa mixture with eggs and vanilla
- put all dry ingredients in bowl of mixer and add butter, oil, and buttermilk
- mix for a couple minutes to develop structure
- add egg mixture
- This batter was a bit thicker than the first batch
- didn't rise and much in the oven and the finished cake texture was much more dense and fudgy
- greatly preferred first cake following recipe
- I baked a little bit of this batter in some silicone mini savarin molds that I was using previously to test chocolate cake recipes (I was looking for one that was moist and would hold the shape of the pan well). This recipe came out the prettier by far than the ones I tried before.

Tasting notes:
Very moist with soft, fine, but still open crumb. Lighter and "spongier" than fudgy. Good dark chocolate flavor and not too sweet (most likely even better with a higher grade of cocoa and a little bit of espresso powder). Far superior to any mix cake I've had. Tends to crumb a bit when cut, but would perform better frosted, I'm sure. Like I said, half of the cake was frozen overnight. After defrosting this morning I honestly could detect no difference in texture or flavor from the half that sat at room temp.

Overall I'd give this cake a 4.5, since I still think there might be room for improvement in the texture - I would like a cake with slightly more structure and less crumby.

I just baked up a test of my previous favorite recipe - the chocolate fudge cake from the "Cake Bible" - so when that cools I'll be able to say if this recipe is superior.

Edited by nightscotsman, 28 April 2004 - 04:08 PM.


#57 lorea

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 01:56 PM

Hey Wendy....can you try out the cake I posted from the Cake Bible? see how it compares to the Woolley cake? It's posted above, and I also put it in RecipeGullet.

#58 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:14 PM

The next several days will be pretty intense for me at work- Preparing for my second Mothers Day at the second club.....so I won't be able to test out the RLB recipe until later. Hopefully Neil will cover that.

Whats your opinion Lorea?

I know I'll get boo's and hisses.........but I've not warmed up to most of RLB'S recipes (WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS!). I think she's a genious scientist, don't get me wrong-I wish I had her talents!.....but I only have 1 recipe from her I use regularly.

Also it's time for anyone who thinks that their opinion or skills aren't as good as some of us that make a living baking-STOP IT RIGHT NOW! We are all equals in this testing journey, we all have valuable opinions and insights! Some of the best baking recipes aren't published in professional pastry books and I've tasted some lousy pastries from people that called themselves professionals.

#59 Tepee

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 12:13 AM

I know I'll get boo's and hisses.........but I've not warmed up to most of RLB'S recipes (WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS!). I think she's a genious scientist, don't get me wrong-I wish I had her talents!.....but I only have 1 recipe from her I use regularly.


Also it's time for anyone who thinks that their opinion or skills aren't as good as some of us that make a living baking-STOP IT RIGHT NOW! We are all equals in this testing journey, we all have valuable opinions and insights! Some of the best baking recipes aren't published in professional pastry books and I've tasted some lousy pastries from people that called themselves professionals.

DITTO on the RLB comment.

And, about the second, thanks, Wendy. I, for one, needed that. In fact, it's taken me a loooooong time to gather up courage to post here.

I'll try the recipe again tomorrow; this time with the right raising agent!!
TPcal!
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#60 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 08:38 AM

Oh my gosh..............if theres anyone else lirking and not posting, PLEASE please please don't be shy! We are all at different levels, even among the people that are pro's, seriously- everyone is welcome to join in to ANY conversation/thread!

More then once I've cut into a thread I didn't understand to ask for help following along. They've always stopped and explained with-out making me feel dumb.





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