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Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)

Chocolate Dessert

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#61 Samaki

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 11:00 AM

Hi Wendy, I'm hoping to make the cake tonight and will report back. I'm looking forward to it.

Just a note, for when you get to the white cake, I've found that by subbing cornstarch for about 1/4 of the flour you get a much better texture.

#62 kthull

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 12:23 PM

Incidendtally, this cake makes THE BEST cupcakes. And I think I finally got my IMBC method down last night. My wife liked the combo and she's my toughest critic. I think I'll try a white chocolate IMBC next. On the sheet cake test, I also tried out a white chocolate whipped cream frosting that really surprised me when matched to this. Tasting the frosting alone seemed too heavy on the white chocolate (used RLB's recipe) but when on top of the cake, somehow that white chocolate overkill was wiped out. Nice, but I don't think it would be sturdy enough for the real cake I'll be making this weekend.

Perfect timing on the thread! And I'll also throw my 2¢ in about non-pros posting: since I'm not a pro, how else would I learn everything?! This place is so newbie/non-pro friendly. If you want to be afraid, try posting on a webmaster forum! They can be down right mean.

#63 nightscotsman

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 01:48 PM

IMBC? :huh:

OK, in a side by side tasting with Rose Levy Berenbaum's chocolate fudge cake against Wendy's fudge brownie cake, it's Wendy's on every count: taste, texture, and moistness. I will try the "All American Chocolate Butter Cake" from the Cake Bible sometime in the next week, but I'll be very surprised if it's better than this recipe.

I've got a new favorite chocolate cake - thanks Wendy! :smile:

#64 kthull

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 02:41 PM

Sorry, IMBC = Italian Meringue Buttercream :smile:

#65 Tepee

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 07:14 PM

Just a note, for when you get to the white cake, I've found that by subbing cornstarch for about 1/4 of the flour you get a much better texture.


For the flour, would that be AP Flour or Cake Flour, because the white cake recipe I use asks for cake flour, and I understand there's already cornstarch in it?



This place is so newbie/non-pro friendly. If you want to be afraid, try posting on a webmaster forum! They can be down right mean.


You can say that again! Came across that site while I was working on developing mine. Shudder, shudder.
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#66 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 07:14 PM

I just want to say something quickly. It's not MY recipe at all, it's Scott Wooley Clarks completely (and by the way his whole book is excellent on gum paste and decorating PLUS even though I've yet to try them I've read good things about his other recipes). I found out about this recipe from someone else on line who shared the tip of this good recipe to me. This is the coolest thing about the net, sharing info.!!! You find people that you trust online and network with them.....you always get back more then you give.

#67 JanKK

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 08:24 PM

Damn. No I suppose I have to admit I'm lurking over here ;)

I just always like to get the lay of the land before I make a fool of myself. So I do appreciate you're making me feel welcome here, Wendy (and all!)

And the chocolate cakes are cooling on my countertop as I write this. The smell is heavenly. And I'm actually very impressed with the way they look. I know doming and cracking was noted as a potential downful, but both of mine turned out almost perfectly level.........slight cracks, but nothing monumental.

Made one 10" round and one 7x11 rectangle. Will give y'all the taste-testing results tomorrow! (of course, I have to admit it's more than likely there will at least be a corner missing from one by then ...who cares if it's still warm?;)

#68 Samaki

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 09:46 AM

OK, here's my report. This is a fabulous cake. It came out beautifully, no doming or cracking, with a delectable, moist crumb. It's a bit on the delicate side. I wouldn't want to try to split it without partially freezing it first, but for eating purposes the texture is perfect.

There is some room for improvement in the flavor, though I'm pretty certain this is an effect of the cocoa powder I used. The cocoa is a German brand that my in-laws bring me when they visit. It's nice and rich, and even though it's NOT dutched, lacks the bitterness that many natural cocoa has. Well, usually lacks the bitterness. In this cake it did come out rather bitter. I think either a dutched or a lighter natural cocoa powder would have worked better.

Final report: texture 5, flavor 3.

It's so hard for me to envision the perfect chocolate cake, though, because there are so many types. For it's class, an ultra dark, moist cake, I don't think this recipe can be improved upon. However, there are some applications where I don't want such an assertive cake. For those occasions I'll still go with Mary Bergen's recipe. Yes, technically it's a chiffon, but it's texture is much more versatile than your average chiffon cake.

#69 RMR

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Posted 01 May 2004 - 07:21 AM

Wendy, I made this delicious cake last night. It has a deep chocolate flavor and is dense but delicate. Two outstanding characteristics: it is not too sweet and the butter/oil combination provides flavor plus moistness. Took not quite 45 min at 300° and domed slightly but flattened.

I made the recipe as posted with hot water, using GM AP flour, King Arthur natural cocoa (Merckens), liquid buttermilk, not dry and LOL unsalted butter, not ultra.

My only change was to cool one layer in the pan before freezing. I just couldn’t put a hot cake in plastic wrap. I left the second layer out for a later comparison. That’s not quite true, we had forks at the ready for a piece. I whipped cream left from making ganache and both were perfect with it. Later today I will compare the freezer layer with what’s left of the one left out.

Future modification. I would use Dutch processed cocoa for a bit smoother taste.

P. S. home baker, not a pro.

#70 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 01 May 2004 - 07:39 AM

Samaki, at one time used to make that chiffon cake as my all purpose chocolate cake. But it was too dense and sunken, it's density didn't work well in tortes or sheet cake form. Your correction on that going down to 1/2 c. oil makes it identical to how she does it in a cake roll, right? Well, that makes alot of sense because I liked this cake recipe in a roll, but not baked in round pans...........when I was doing the 3/4 c. oil.


So thats a good tip! I would definately need to do a side by side taste of these two Clarks and Bergens.....my gut tells me a cross between the two would be perfect. If we could have the crumb of Clarks and the richness of Bergens it would be ideal.

I have to run to work now........but maybe we should disuss how to combine both?

P.S. Jan, I'm glad you desided to post! Welcome!! Anyone else hiding, come on out and join us.

Edited by Sinclair, 01 May 2004 - 07:43 AM.


#71 RMR

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Posted 01 May 2004 - 09:35 AM

... because the white cake recipe I use asks for cake flour, and I understand there's already cornstarch in it?


AP flour with cornstarch would be a substitution for cake flour. Actual cake flour is milled from soft wheat and naturally lower in protein.

#72 Samaki

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Posted 01 May 2004 - 12:05 PM

... because the white cake recipe I use asks for cake flour, and I understand there's already cornstarch in it?


AP flour with cornstarch would be a substitution for cake flour. Actual cake flour is milled from soft wheat and naturally lower in protein.

Yes, it is. In my attempts to make a more tender white cake, though, I've actually subbed cornstarch for cake flour.

#73 JanKK

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Posted 01 May 2004 - 08:37 PM

Ok ..had the taste testing of the Fudge Brownie Cake.

I tend to shy away from chocolate cakes that use only cocoa powder. They just don't seem to be as good as the ones made with melted chocolate. That being said, I decided to put aside that notion and expand my horizons ..and was pleasantly surprised. On the 1-5 scale, I think I would give this one a "4". I used a combination of Ghiradelli Cocoa and Scharfen-Berger. Nice crumb and decent flavor. But as others have noted, it does seem a little delicate to slice and fill.

So ....I know we're probably got too many recipes out here, but I'm going to give you my favorite. I made it again last night so I could do a side-by-side comparison, and I still like this one better.

The recipe was originally my Mom's and I have no idea where she got it from. I've played with a bit over the years and made a couple more modifications last night when I baked it. Based on the Fudge Brownie Cake recipe, I decided to try lowering the oven temp to see what that would do ..and I do think it makes for a better crumb, strange as it seems. So anyway ...here's the recipe as I last made it. If anybody tries this, let me know what you think :)

Feathery Fudge Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
3 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups ice water

1 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2 Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Blend in cooled chocolate.
3 Sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with ice water, beginning and ending with flour.
4. Pour into pans and bake at 325 degrees until done.
(this will make enough for 2 -10" cakes. I did one 10"x3" and then one 8" square. Square took about 30 minutes, 10" round took about 45-50 minutes)

Edited by JanKK, 01 May 2004 - 08:38 PM.


#74 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 02 May 2004 - 01:40 PM

Great JanKK! That's the whole point, finding the best.......we needed someone to offer up a tested recipe they believe is better. O.k. testers time to check out JanKK's recipe.

Anyone else have a TRIED recipe they can offer up thats better then the Wooley recipe?

Also, if we could post photos of our work I think that would be very helpful as we compare.

#75 RMR

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 05:57 AM

Part II – Wendy, I thawed the second layer to compare with the first layer (not frozen).

Even though it was wrapped and frozen when slightly warm not hot (as noted in first report) the technique does result in a slightly fudgier texture. However the original layer baked Friday night was still moist on Sun night. Even unfrosted it didn’t dry out (ganache was kept separate). Following your instructions, I was careful not to bake it a second too long so perhaps this accounts for it remaining moist.

In all a first rate cake, I’d give it a 4.5. Thanks for starting this experiment.

The name is a bit misleading as is a definitely a cake not a brownie.

#76 kthull

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 06:39 AM

I look forward to testing Jan's recipe, hopefully within the next couple weeks. It has some stiff competition though. People were swooning at my niece's communion yesterday. They're all so used to the stuff that passes for an occasion cake...all looks, no taste. I used the Wooley recipe as a 2-layer half sheet with a straight vanilla pastry cream filling, frosted with white chocolate italian meringue buttercream. I was a bit nervous that the cake layer would crack when I put the second layer on...it was close, but it made it. All around great performer.

#77 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 09:41 AM

I went though the previous posts and sor far this is what we have:

Lorea: gave it a 4.5

Moopheus: baked it but didn't give it a number-will you?

Mklynch: gave it a 4.

Mkfradin: offered their favorite recipe, but did you get a chance to bake this first one we are testing? Is so, will you give it a number 1-5 please?

Ladybug: gave it a 4.5

Kthull: gives it a 5.

KarenS: offered us her recipe to try. Did you get a chance to try this first one? If so will you post your results 1-5?

Nightscotsman: gave it a 4.5.

Samaki: gives it a 4.


RMR: gave it a 4.5.

JanKK: rated it a 4, and she's the first person to anty-up with a recipe she knows beats this first one. Everyone that baked the first one-would you try Jankk's recipe when you can and rank it 1-5 too?

Everyone that baked this chocolate cake, if you have a tested known better recipe please share it "anty-up baby"? You can bake any of the other recipes posted here too...using the first one from Wooley as your base to judge up or down from that. Lets see where this takes us.

Anyone else who baked this first testing cake that I missed-please join in and give us your thoughts and rank the Wooley recipe. I'll add future rankings back in this exact post.

#78 Samaki

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 09:55 AM

Give it a 4 overall.

#79 lorea

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 12:38 PM

I made JanKK's cake last night. I was going to type up that I liked the very fine, elegant crumb, and moistness, but I thought it was a little crumbly and needed a boost in buttery flavor. I did think it had an overall roundness of flavor from the chocolate though.

But! I just realized that I used one stick (4 oz.) of butter, rather one cup! (I had 2 friends over last night that wanted to help...let's chalk it down to being distracted!) :unsure:

Based on the fact that I really enjoyed the texture and the chocolate flavor with half of the required butter, I definitely want to try this one again - I think it has great potential. The texture was, in fact, feathery, and the batter was extremely easy to work with.

#80 mkfradin

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 06:05 PM

Sorry about not giving the number--I think I'd give it a 4 or 4.25. I really really like this cake a lot--loved the fact that it wasn't too sweet and loved its fine texture without its being overly moist. I did have a few problems with it...

First, it's a high maintenance cake, and when we're in production, making 32 cakes at a time, I don't see how we could be turning out cakes and wrapping them in plastic within five minutes of their coming out of the oven. It's all we can do to get the cakes out of the oven and out of their pans before the next batch is done! Plus, think of all the plastic wrap we'd be using $$$$

Even if it worked out logistically, I was the only one who really liked this one! I know that when it comes to chocolate cake, my taste is different from "everyman's" and earlier this spring, we did a taste test with three cakes that I liked. My favorite was the least popular (most popular was the one I posted). So for this test, I used Wendy's cake, Margaret Braun's blackout cake (another favorite and crowd pleaser), and my usual cake, and once again, the very wet, very dense usual cake beat out the other two contenders. I think people confuse a tender crumb for a dry cake and overlook the subtleties in a fine butter cake in favor of the punch of the oil cake.

So when it's my birthday, I'll make Wendy's cake for myself, but when it comes to selling, it's my million dollar cake all the way--fast, easy and cheap.

Marjorie

#81 JanKK

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 06:21 PM

Well, since I only have a small freezer ...and it is now bursting forth with cake, I decided it was time to do something with it.

Used the 10" chocolate cake, split into 3 layers, filled and frosted with a Jamaican Rum Cream Whipped Cream Mousse frosting. Thought I would share a picture with you :)

(Of course, I may never be able to make this again --the Jamaican Rum Cream was a gift and I'm told you can only get it in Jamaica....fat chance I'll be going there anytime soon ;)

Posted Image

And a Happy Wednesday to all :) :biggrin:

#82 Tepee

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 07:43 PM

Made the Woolley cake again. I'd give it a 4.5 as I felt that although it had a rich chocolate flavor, it lacked the buttery taste which I love in cakes. I prefer my tweaked Coletter Peters cake but I'm having a bit of problems with it doming on me, so I'm not posting the recipe until I sort that out.

Don't have a pic of the naked Woolley cake, but I'm posting what I did out of half the cake; the other half we ate up. Burp! Gosh, can the image be resized smaller? It's so humongous!


Posted Image

BTW, can I have a piece of your cake, Jan?

Edited by TP(M'sia), 05 May 2004 - 08:01 PM.

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#83 JanKK

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 07:58 PM

Your cake is gorgeous, TP!! Thanks for the pic!!

I'm new to the board and posting pictures, but I don't see any options for changing the size of pictures. I just resize mine before I upload them. Maybe someone who's been here longer will have a better idea :)

#84 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:06 PM

Absolutely lovely ladies! Thanks for including photos!!!!!!!!! I'm lagging behind everyone right now because I've very busy at work. But I promise I'll get testing asap. I took a naked picture of the Wooley cake today at work but will have to post at a later date.

Just breifly a note to mkfradin: when I make this cake in large batches I leave the cakes in the pans and put them on a sheet tray. I cover the whole sheet pan with a sheet pan cover (large plastic baggie). It's quicker then individually wrapping and does the same thing steaming them. You also can stack your sheet pans with the cakes in the pan on top of each other, that seals them up and steams them too. Doesn't take any more effort really.

I gave up on the M Braun recipe a while ago. I'd get the weirdest results even though I followed the changed recipe. It's texture was like rubber with air pockets that shot striaght up in a line...as if you had poked holes in it. I would like to know the exact science of what does that, if anyone knows?

I'm excited by how many people are participating in these tests. I think in the end we all will have a damn fine cake we all can brag about. Thanks everyone........and keep on testing and posting results, I promise I'll get back here and update the records after this weekend.

#85 Steve Klc

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 05:44 AM

One thing I'm curious about--how many of you have determined that the quality of the cocoa powder and/or chocolate/cocoa powder combination you are using affects the end result? By that I mean--can you taste the difference or detect a performance difference when you use different cocoa powders? And the only way to really tell this is to use various cocoa powders--say Hersheys, Valrhona, Cacao Barry, Michel Cluizel, De Zaan, Sharffen Berger--in the same recipe. As you continue to test these this might be something worth tracking as well.

Here's an article by Regina Schrambling advocating a renewed appreciation of cocoa powder:

http://query.nytimes...751C0A9649C8B63

Though when she writes "Step 1 of producing any cocoa powder is always the same: after cocoa butter is extracted from cacao, the pods are pressed again to make a cake with no fat, just flavor" we know cocoa powders have fat--and it is usually expressed as a percentage on the label.
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#86 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 06:01 AM

Well I agree with that point Steve, except I sort of think thats going to have more importance only when we tweek 'the best'. I believe the brand of cocoa doesn't do any drastic changes to the over-all texture, moisture, crumb perfection we're seeking.

As in mkfradins post.......her side by side taste tests have people choosing a wetter/denser cake then what I offered up.

We as a group need to do more side by side taste comparisions to determine really which cake is prefered. Baking and tasting one cake at a time will make it harder to determine your favorite. If you keep a percentage of each cake in the freezer until you accumulate several that would be ideal.

Have any of you gotten further and made a couple of the posted recipes to begin comparing between those?

#87 Samaki

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 09:19 AM

The brand of cocoa powder absolutely makes a difference. There are such huge differences between them. I'm sure that's why my test of the Wooley cake was too bitter. Not only as it not dutched, but it is a very strong cocoa. I'll bet this recipe was developed for a milder one.

#88 nightscotsman

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 02:37 PM

For these tests I've just been using Hershey's non-dutched cocoa. It's cheap and easy to find everywhere (and they won't let me bring home any of the Cocao Barry Extra Brut they use at work :sad: ). For home baking I really like Pernigotti. Though it's very expensive, it makes a huge difference in taste. I should see about ordering some Valrhona online somewhere.

#89 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 06:30 AM

Ah, I see I was wrong. So yes, can we all make a note of which brand of cocoa you were using when you post your results?

#90 kthull

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 09:34 AM

The cocoa I used in my tests was Droste Dutch-processed cocoa.





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