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Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)


Wendy DeBord
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I tried the cake today.

I started with 12 oz of sifted cake flour (4 oz per cup), 6 oz of cocoa powder (4 ozs Valhrona (dutch) and 2 oz Ghiradelli (plain)--it's what I had in the cupboard), and 6 oz butter, other measures as given in Wendy's post. I went with the coffee, figuring that would boost the chocolate flavor. With less flour and gluten in the mix, there was still a bit of a round dome, but not too bad, no worse than any other cake I've ever made, though I suppose if it were for presentation it would still need to be leveled.

Wendy didn't indicate time for cooking, and with the low temp it was hard to be sure. It's also the first time I've baked in the oven in my new apartment. The mix and baking were much as lorea described. A cake tester came out clean after 45 minutes. I did wrap them a few minutes after taking them out of the oven.

On the whole I like the cake, it's fairly chocolatey, and the number 1 failing of most chocolate cakes is lack of flavor. The crumb was fine, not too sweet, and the only real failing was it was a little dry, and did not hold together well. One of the cakes broke apart while I was assembling it.

I can see why it needs to be wrapped for cooling--it would be very dry if it were air cooled. It's possible it was a little overbaked, but it didn't look it.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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o.k. I see that I forgot something. I never use, assemble or eat a fresh cake.........I'm sorry, at work I bake in bulk and work differently then everyone does at home.

**So please if it's not too late make this adjustment. After baking and wrapping your cake once it's near room temp. put it in your freezer over night. Then defrost and use. **Another important note: since this cake domes you should cool it right side up so the flat side is down, and it's not sitting unbalanced on the dome. That will crack your cake.

Freezing in general improves most cakes (with a few exceptions). They actually become moister thru the process of defrosting. Fresh cakes are always drier in comparision. I promise! !!!!

I don't list times, sorry I've never baked by time. (this is a learning process for me to think like others, please have patience with me) But in this case it is important because it's such a low temp. baking should take a while in the oven. The recipe says, aprox. one hour! But I believe 40 minutes seems about right. Less then 30 minutes -your oven is too hot!

Test for doneness with a toothpick. It should just barely come out clean. The sides of your cake should NOT pull away from the pan. If so, your oven is too hot or you've baked too long.

P.S. Thanks for posting this in weights for me. There are plenty of charts out there as mentioned. My jobs are heating up and I will be very busy until after Mothers Day.

Edited by Sinclair (log)
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May I restate, everyone is welcome to participate! Please! The more people the better!

I'm worried that things could get confusing if we start comparing and sharing other favorites right now in our posts.

My thoughts were: everyone bakes this one cake. Think about it, compared to all the chocolate cakes you've baked in life. Then, if you have a better recipe, you should select your 1 best chocolate cake recipe and post it. Then we can work thru those recipes that you feel are better. Until we find the 1 that everyone agrees is the best.

Does that make sense-or is that too limiting?

I also had in mind a narrow focus/description for the perfect chocolate cake. I think it needs to be a regular all purpose cake. Something that can be used for a wedding cake or in any torte. I love chiffon cakes too, but using them in large wedding cakes is not simple. Opinions? Or should we define the perfect chocolate cake together as a group?

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**So please if it's not too late make this adjustment. After baking and wrapping your cake once it's near room temp. put it in your freezer over night. Then defrost and use.

Freeze it overnight? But that means planning ahead! What about my instant gratification? I want my instant gratification now!

They actually become moister thru the process of defrosting. Fresh cakes are always drier in comparision. I promise! !!!!

Actually, on day two the cake seems a little moister just from having sat under a glass cake dome overnight; it has not become dry or stale even where cut.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I made the cake yesterday, baked it about 45 minutes and followed the wraping directions. It's quite moist today. Mine didn't dome up on me badly at all. I creamed the suger (superfine) and butter for quite a while.

I'd give the cake a 4. I think I'm just spoiled because my standard chocolate cake has become the boca negra from BWJ. (It's not your birthday cake with frosting type layer cake however)

I think I prefer a cake where all the chocolate doesn't come from cocoa - there is a smoothness or creaminess lacking. Next time I do it, I'll use dutch processed cocoa instead of the natural.

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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

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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.

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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:

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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) (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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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.

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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:

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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 (log)
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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)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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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 (log)
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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!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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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.

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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.

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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

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