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Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)


Wendy DeBord
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Did your's come out "heavy"?

Definitely not. They were light and moist. My only minor complaint is that they were so chocolatey that they seemed to overwhelm the flavor of the buttercream. I'd use a better matched frosting next time.

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That caramel ganache looks amazing!  Can you post the recipe?

Here's the recipe.

Chocolate caramel ganache

6 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 ½ ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

combine chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set aside

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tbsp salted butter

1 cup plus 2 tbsp whipping cream

1 ½ cups unsalted butter(3 sticks)

Put one third of sugar in the bottom of heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When it starts to melt, stir with wooden spoon. Once completely melted, add another third of the sugar. Once that is melted, add the last third of sugar. Cook till amber color reached(be careful it does not burn). Add butter-careful it will foam up. Once butter is combined, add the cream. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour half of this over the chocolate and stir until smooth(the small the chocolate is chopped, the faster it will combine). Once smooth, add the rest of the cream and stir until smooth.

While the chocolate mixture cools, take the room temperature butter and with either the mixer on low speed(paddle) or with a rubber spoon, soften until it looks like mayonnaise. Do this slowly-you do not want a lot of air in the butter. It should take about 10 minutes.

Gently stir the butter into the chocolate with a rubber spatula-you don’t want a lot of air bubbles. Stir until the mixture is smooth-this can take a little while.

Let sit for an hour or so, stirring occasionally until spreadable consistency. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. I was able to pipe borders with it once it had cooled enough.

Sandra

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Have made the Epicurious recipe Ling posted several times (2/3 recipe but with reduced sugar amount) together with the icing, each time to rave reviews - it's my standard frosted chocolate cake recipe. Will try again with nightscotsman's variations this weekend and see whether the testers taste any difference.

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  • 2 weeks later...
for those of you who have made cupcakes with this recipe...... about how many cupcakes does it make? should i reduce the recipe if i don't want my house to overflow with cupcakes??

i'm making halloween cupcakes with this! :) i can't wait to decorate. any suggestions for a frosting?

thanks!

I have and I can't quite remember but I think it's somewhere between 30 - 36. A good chocolate icing recipe is from Marcy Goldman on betterbaking.com:

Icing

1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled

3/4 cup unsalted butter or unsalted margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup cocoa, measured then sifted

3-4 cups confectioner's sugar - measured then sifted

1/2 cup water or half-and-half

Combine melted chips, butter, vanilla, cocoa and 1 cup icing sugar with paddle till smooth. Add remaining icing sugar and as much milk/water as you need to get a light, fluffy consistency. Re-whip if you don't use it right away.

This makes a delicious dark icing. Enough to frost and fill 2-9"layers.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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chefpeon and nightscotsman--Thanks so much for posting your tweaks. I'll have to try the new version, and I'm sure it's better than the Epicurious recipe b/c everything makes sense on why you switched out/added the ingredients you did.  :smile:

Ling, I was curious if you had tried the tweaked version of the recipe you posted. If so, which one did you like best?

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^Yes...I did the tweaked version when I did my cocoa cake testing this week. It's hard for me to say if I could tell the difference....I mean, the tweaked version does sound like it would taste better, but because I didn't have a cake made from the original version right next to the tweaked cake, I can't say for sure if I could tell the difference. I'll have to do the tweaked cake and the original cake side-by-side. But my hunch is that the tweaked version would definitely have a better flavour. :smile:

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I gave my modfied recipe to one of my coworkers who teaches a pastry class at a local community college. She had her students make the recipe and reported that everyone loved the cake. She also said there was quite a bit of difference in the texture of the baked cake when a student whipped the eggs to a good foam before adding the dry ingredients. When the eggs weren't whipped the mix had to be whisked longer and more vigorously after adding the dry ingredients to remove the lumps - this tended to make the cake heavier with a denser crumb. Both versions were good, just different.

I just came across another interesting cake-mixing method variable. Pam Anderson (of CI fame) on her all-purpose chocolate cake in her book CookSmart (she also uses sour cream, btw):

"When I stirred the melted butter into the cocoa-water mixture, then beat the wet into the dry ingredients, the cake was coarsely textured and slightly tough. But when I beat the melted butter into the flour mixture first, before adding the cocoa-water mixture, the difference was dramatic. The cake's texture was perfect ... By coating the flour mixture with butterfat, I had prevented gluten development."

This might prevent the heavier, denser crumb problem some of those students encountered.

So I tried mixing the melted butter with the flour, and boy did I get some weird lumps. Are there supposed to be lumps? Do they go away as the cake bakes (which I truly hope, as the lumpy cake sits in the oven)?.

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^I'm just guessing here, but if the butter coats the flour, and the interior "ball" is just pure flour, you'd get the odd little white, hard lump in your cake.  :sad:

Yes, I concur. The cake baked with little white lumps throughout. While you may resist developing gluten by adding the butter to the flour as suggested, you may also face other unpleasant results. I'm sticking with the butter added at the cocoa/chocolate/coffee stage - pray that I'll get better results next time. .

On the other hand, I'm very happy to report that the caramel ganache was both easier to make and tastier than I imagined. I ended up not using the 3 sticks of butter at the end, and poured it on as a caramel glaze on the chocolate bundt cake. Some ended up on my hand, and some bananas, and some popcorn, which all ended up in my mouth. Man, is that stuff good. Thank you once again, Sandra - I'm adding this recipe to my regular frosting rotation.

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I made the Epicurious recipe last night as cupcakes.  They are fabulous -- moist,  slightly delicate crumb, and a rich chocolate flavor.  I used half coffee, half water because I hate coffee and didn't trust that their wouldn't be a hint of coffee peeking through.  There wasn't.  Next time I'll probably go all coffee.

I just made the creme filled Devil's Food cupcakes from Brachman's book: Cream- Filled Devil's Food Cupcakes

And they were great. I used really strong coffee and Valrhona cocoa. These were much moister then the recipe I normally use from the "Cake Bible".

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Is it too late to add to this thread?

My wife asked for a chocolate layer cake with chocolate icing for her b'day day before yesterday, so naturally I came here and did research. I settled on the Epicurious double-chocolate cake with ChefPeon'sadjustments, plus a few adjustments of my own. It turned out spectacularly :rolleyes: so I figured I' post my notes.

I didn't use butter, but I did substitute full-fat sour cream for the buttermilk. I was impressed by the discussion on this thread about sour cream essentially being buttermilk+butter. I also added ChefPeon's 1Tbs of espresso powder to 1.5 C brewed coffee, which I brought to a boil and poured into the 1.5 C cocoa powder. I used Hershey's (non-alkalized). I figured it shouldn't be dutch process because of all the baking soda in the recipe---needed the acid. I agree that the boiling liquid brings out the best in chocolate flavor from cocoa. I added a mix of chopped bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbs Irish Cream liqueur, 1.5 C brown sugar and 1.5 C white sugar. I wanted the extra flavor from brown sugar.

I also used cake flour instead of ap, but I added an extra 5 Tbs (2.75 C + 1 Tbs).

I used 3 eggs (per Epicurious, but one less than ChefPeon's) and beat them until thick. Then added sour cream, canola oil (Epicurious's suggested 3/4 C) cooled chocolate mix, and folded in the flour mixture (flour, leveners, salt).

Unfortuately, I only had 8" x 2"-high pans (sprayed and lined with parchment, and then sprayed again) rather than the 10" pans recommended. Do not make my mistake---use either 10" pans or bake the remaining batter separately. This cake rises!!

I baked without convection in a preheated 300F oven. I had agreed with ChefPeon's note that 60-70 minutes seemed too long, but when I checked at 30 minutes, it was risen but not close to done. It actually took 65 minutes (my oven is calibrated), so Epicurious was accurate. Epicurious's recipe was ambiguous about cooling. Cool completely in the pan. If you don't, the cakes will crumble. With that much sugar and so little protein, they are very fragile. Turn them out on cake rounds. Because my cakes rose so high (filled the 2" high pans), I cut each layer in half and made a 4-layer cake.

I used a standard sour-cream ganache frosting with some irish cream and vanilla, and garnished with crushed praline (candied pecans).

The cake was very moist, very dark color, and very rich. I might suggest cutting the total sugar from 3 C to 2.5 C next time. Definitely boil the coffee-espresso mix before adding to the cocoa. Definitely use non-dutch cocoa if with this mixture of leveners. The sour cream was a great substitute for buttermilk and butter. The day after, the cake was still very moist and chocolatey.

Thanks again to Wendy and all of you who contributed to this thread, and to ChefPeon for her suggestions.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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Definitely use non-dutch cocoa if with this mixture of leveners.

I used dutched Callebaut with this recipe, and the cake rose just fine. IIRC, Ling used Valrhona (also dutched) in her cake, and it appears to have risen fine also.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Definitely use non-dutch cocoa if with this mixture of leveners.

I used dutched Callebaut with this recipe, and the cake rose just fine. IIRC, Ling used Valrhona (also dutched) in her cake, and it appears to have risen fine also.

I've made this cake with dutched VanHouten, Droste, Ghirardelli, Dagoba, Val Rhona, Chokolag cocoas, as well as natural Scharfenberger cocoa, it makes no difference to how well it rises.

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Definitely use non-dutch cocoa if with this mixture of leveners.

I used dutched Callebaut with this recipe, and the cake rose just fine. IIRC, Ling used Valrhona (also dutched) in her cake, and it appears to have risen fine also.

In addition to the Valrhona, I've also made this cake with Bensdorp, Bernard Callebaut, an organic cocoa, and Fry's, and I think these are all dutched cocoas. The cakes all rose nicely. :smile:

The last few times I made the cake, I used cake flour and used 2.5 cups + 5 tbsp (up from 2.5 cups like the original recipe calls for)...that's 2 tbsp. less than you, Jay...I was worried about adding too much flour on my first "tweak" :smile:

I've also lowered the sugar from 3 cups to 2 cups + 14 tbsp., and I think it was OK in terms of the sweetness level, keeping in mind that my buttercream recipe calls for only 1 cup of sugar per pound of butter (as opposed to 2 cups like I've seen in many other recipes.) Also, the ganache that I use on the outside of the cake is not very sweet.

Edited by Ling (log)
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I didn't use butter, but I did substitute full-fat sour cream for the buttermilk. I was impressed by the discussion on this thread about sour cream essentially being buttermilk+butter.

Thanks again to Wendy and all of you who contributed to this thread, and to ChefPeon for her suggestions.

Okay, I'm going to take credit for one tiny portion of your cake: the sour cream=buttermilk+butter argument was mine! :raz: I also tried a version using sour cream and it was fabulous. Of course the cake was only fabulous because Wendy started the thread, Ling brought along the Epicurious recipe, chefpeon and nighscotsman tweaked it, etc. etc. And now I'm going to make the cake again this week for a friends's birthday using some of Jay's suggestions. What a team!

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I didn't use butter, but I did substitute full-fat sour cream for the buttermilk. I was impressed by the discussion on this thread about sour cream essentially being buttermilk+butter.

Thanks again to Wendy and all of you who contributed to this thread, and to ChefPeon for her suggestions.

Okay, I'm going to take credit for one tiny portion of your cake: the sour cream=buttermilk+butter argument was mine! :raz: I also tried a version using sour cream and it was fabulous. Of course the cake was only fabulous because Wendy started the thread, Ling brought along the Epicurious recipe, chefpeon and nighscotsman tweaked it, etc. etc. And now I'm going to make the cake again this week for a friends's birthday using some of Jay's suggestions. What a team!

Absolutely take credit! I apologize to all for not giving Steven his due for the recommendation. Also, several of you responded that dutch-process cocoa worked just as well (with baking soda as a levener) as non-alkalized cocoa. It may be because of all the acid in the buttermilk and/or sour cream. Do you think so?

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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Also, several of you responded that dutch-process cocoa worked just as well (with baking soda as a levener) as non-alkalized cocoa. It may be because of all the acid in the buttermilk and/or sour cream. Do you think so?

I'm not sure. I prefer dutched cocoas and use them in everything, including recipes that specify natural cocoa, and to be honest I've never had any problems.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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So, is there a consensus recipe?  One that takes the best of the various tweaks and results in the . . .  (I need a drum roll) . . . Best Chocolate Cake Ever?

Okay, well I'll start, and others can chime in with additions/corrections to both ingredients and method.

I just looked back at the original Epicurious recipe that Ling provided and it's actually quite similar after all the tweakings: We lowered the sugar by 1/2 cup (and Jay substituted brown sugar for part of the white, which I kept in); I suggested the sour cream substitution for the buttermilk (although perhaps this is still debatable?) we substituted half unsweetened for semisweet chocolate; we switched from AP to cake flour (and adjusted the amount up a quarter of a cup -- is that enough?); we increased the vanilla from 3/4 tsp to 2; and many of us have disregarded the original caveat in the recipe against using dutched cocoa. We also adjusted the mixing process -- adding the cocoa to the hot coffee -- to intensify the chocolate flavor.

Double Chocolate Cake

1½ oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1½ oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1½ cups cocoa powder (regular or Dutch process)

1½ cups hot brewed coffee

1 TB espresso powder

1½ cups white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2¾ cups cake flour

2 teasp baking soda

¾ teasp baking powder

1¼ teasp salt

3 lrg eggs

¾ cup vegetable oil

1½ cups sour cream (or buttermilk)

2 teasp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease two 9” pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper/parchment and grease paper.

2. Into a medium bowl, pour the hot coffee, mixed with the espresso powder, over chocolate and cocoa; blend till smooth. Let mixture cool slightly, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Into a large bowl sift together sugars, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a stand mixer). Slowly add oil, sour cream, vanilla. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined well.

5. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

6. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes (watch carefully--timing may vary).

7. Cool layers completely in pans on racks.

8. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper.

Ahead of time note: Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Edited by Steven Blaski (log)
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