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Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)


Wendy DeBord
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I just wanted to chime in on the cocoa powder discussion. I believe that Dutch process (alkalized) or (regular) non-alkalized will affect the leavening power if you are using baking soda in the recipe. You should use the type that the recipe calls for. I would also comment that I do think the brand of cocoa powder will also affect the taste.

I'd amend this to say that the type (dutched versus natural) *can* affect the structure, but in practice (at least in my experience) usually doesn't, especially if there is another acid in the batter, for example, buttermilk.

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The taste in both is of rich chocolate and I feel the possible off taste that some tasters experienced in my version of Wendy's cake may have been due to either the use of natural cocoa instead of dutched or an additive in the buttermilk (non organic) or to much baking soda (as Wendy suggested). I personally did not detect the off taste.

It may have been the oil you used, I was getting an off taste in my chocolate cakes made with vegetable oil when I used canola oil. Then I came across an egullet thread on the subject and started using safflower or corn oil.

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I made the Fudge Brownie cake again using Dutch processed cocoa (King Arthur Van Leer) this time. As expected the taste was a bit less assertive and mellower.

Wendy, is the recipe from S. C. Woolley’s book? The recipe doesn’t specify cocoa type although it may be correct to assume natural unless DP is stated. Is there any cocoa discussion in an introductory portion of his book?

This cake is so good no ganache or frosting is needed. Next is JanKK’s Feathery Fudge Cake.

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Home baker. Followed the Woolley recipe to the T and baked them in two 8-inch square pans. They domed up high and there were several pretty big cracks. The domes subsided and flattened once the caked cooled down.

Had to cool the cakes in the pans covered with a piece of foil as I had a bit trouble removing it from the pan - was in a rush and forgot to line the bottom of the pans with parchment after spraying with cooking spray. One was taken to the office and eaten while still warm. The other was left to steam in the pan and eaten at a dinner with friends.

The texture when eaten warm was completely different from when it had cooled completely. It was very light and fluffy when eaten warm and became a lot stickier and fudgier later. There was quite a bit crumb when cutting it warm or when it had cooled.

Most of testers adored it as it's moist and not too sweet. One asked for the recipe immediately. The only exception was a super-fussy friend who immediately spotted that it had been made with baking soda cake as she said she could taste the baking soda on the tip of her tongue. (Am not sure whether it was dutch or natural processed cocoa as I got it from my local baking supplies shop and it's just labelled as cocoa powder.)

The ratings were between 3.5 to 4.

Am planning to make the cake again as there was no chance to freeze them in the first round. My other critical tester who does not like cocoa-based chocolate cakes / brownies was not around either.

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(Am not sure whether it was dutch or natural processed cocoa as I got it from my local baking supplies shop and it's just labelled as cocoa powder.)

Hi Shewie,

I am also from KL (sortof). I assume you used the re-packed cocoa powder from the baking supplies store?

I've tried many of those (from different shops) and also the likes of Nona, Kian Hin, etc .... and IMO they don't come close to the ones in the tin like Van Houten or Vochelle. I think the best 'local' one is Van Houten which has a higher cocoa butter content than Vochelle. My Mom said (and I agree) that the Van Houten cocoa is even better than Hershey's. But for baking chocolate, I find that Vochelle is better tasting. I bought Baker's a few times, but it's not worth the cost. For chocolate chips, I still go with either Nestle's or Hershey's.

We can only dream of the kinds of chocolates and cocoa these people talk about eh? :biggrin:

I am waiting for the more fancy chocolate chips to make an appearance here. Peanut Butter Chips .. yumm yum!! I wish Cold Storage would import them. I went to the one at Ikano Power Center and they have the Butterscotch ones.

Do share your thoughts.

edited to add : Sorry I digressed from the thread topic. Just excited to see another fellow Malaysian. Please PM me Shewie or I might get a topic violation warning! :raz:

Edited by kew (log)
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RMR, yes the recipe is from his book. I own it but can't say I've studied it that closely..........I don't recall him writing much about ingredients-but I can't be certain with-out looking again. This book is definately more of a " cake decorators" book then a formula/recipe baking book, even though he's got some good recipes there's not alot of them.

Really as I think about it, cocoa powder sort of deserves it's own thread, which we should tie back into this thread a little later since you all tell me it has alot of impact on flavor. I'm definately a novice on this topic. I've never had any of the finer brands to work with (and I don't bake at home if I can avoid it). If anyone has some knowledge/experience with brands and or comparisions other then the basics I'd love the education, please start a thread on it.

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(Am not sure whether it was dutch or natural processed cocoa as I got it from my local baking supplies shop and it's just labelled as cocoa powder.)

Hi Shewie,

I am also from KL (sortof). I assume you used the re-packed cocoa powder from the baking supplies store?

M'sian #3 hijacking the thread for a sec....I, too, get my cocoa from Bake with Yen. There's 2 kinds which are sold there - one just labelled "cocoa" and the other one which I buy "imported cocoa". Don't know the brand either. Gotta try Van Houten; heard it's good too.

OK, crawling back into my curry puff shell....

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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It may have been the oil you used, I was getting an off taste in my chocolate cakes made with vegetable oil when I used canola oil. Then I came across an egullet thread on the subject and started using safflower or corn oil.

That's it, then! I used canola oil, no wonder there seemed to be an offish taste. I must try the cake again using other vegie oils.

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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Home Baker here. I made the Wooley cake. (It was posted over on Cooks Talk.) I made it in a 9 X 13 pan, with powdered buttermilk, and natural organic cocoa. (Can't remember the brand...it's not my usual kind, but it was on sale.) Steamed it by covering the pan with its metal cover, refrigerated over night (didn't freeze it).

I hate to disagree with everyone, but I didn't think it was that great of a cake - probably just a 3.5. My husband, who adores cake, bit into it and said, "eh. Tastes like cake." There was no clambering for more.

I definitely think it does achieve the "cake mix" texture and mouth feel. (Even the uncooked batter reminded me of cake mix batter.) And, it absolutely disappeared at the potluck for which it was made. (Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone there that ate it, so I didn't get additional feedback.)

The chocolate cake recipe I've used in the past was one that incorporated mayo. I don't have it on me now, and I haven't made it recently, so maybe I remember it as better than it is. But, I could post it later if anyone wants to try it.

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I'm really enjoying this. Okay, best Chocolate Cake Recipe in my opinion can be found in jewel of a cookbook by the name of Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret Fox. You would be astounded by the abuses you can deliver on this recipe and still end up with a superlative cake. She named it Amazon Chocolate Cake for some reason, it was the first recipe I tried in the book and I've never looked for another chocolate cake recipe. Ready for a confession? I even adapted it to be made with whole wheat pastry flour, maple syrup and frosted with grain sweetened chocolate chip-ganache and won first prize at the county fair! I made this adaptation for my Vegan son, as it doesn't rely on eggs or milk. It looks like the illustration from a cake mix box, it tastes better the second or even third day and, you probably have the ingredients in your pantry right now. Should anyone interested not be able to find a copy, I will be happy to transcribe the recipe here.

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I've begun testing at work so I have consistant ingredients and oven. Yesterday I made Karens cake and the RBL recipe (will post results when I completed testing all). Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I only found 7 recipes offered up.

1. Scott W.'s which I posted

2. Lorea's which she then said needed tweeking as written

3 .JanKK's recipe

4. MKFardins recipe

5 RBL's recipe

6. Illustrated bakings recipe

7. Karens recipe

I need someone to post the ILLustrated Bakings recipe, I don't have access to it, please?

But things are still open for the BEST cake. So if your holding onto that recipe please post it, I'll try to make them all.

Jodicalhoun, please post that recipe. Are you familar with egullets policies on posting copyrighted recipes? If not, you CAN list the ingredients and amounts as published by the author, but you MUST put the dirrections in your own words. Also don't forget to give the author and books name (I know you did, but I wrote that for anyone else who might post).

It's still helpful if you bake the base recipe were working from Scott Clark Wooleys FIRST, to be certain the recipe your offering up is indeed better then that one, o.k.? This will save us all time and work. Thanks!

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I finally got a chance to conduct my taste test!

I had 3 friends over for a blind taste test between the Scott W. cake and the M.Braun blackout cake which is my usual cake recipe. The first cake (Scott W) was determined to be the best for presentation and for how it sliced cleanly without crumbling. It had a consistent and soft texture and was very moist. This cake was also more bittersweet than the other. I also used canola oil and one person did detect a slight aftertaste. So, the oil thing is interesting here. For both cakes I used Cacao Barry Extra brute cocoa since that's what I always use. I also used coffee in both because there is coffee in Braun's recipe. My testers found Braun's cake to have a better rich and chocolatey flavour than the other.

Overall, they all said it was like splitting hairs to pick the one they liked best because they were both rich, moist and chocolatey so I was wondering if it would be worth switching since it seems to be more work to do the Scott W. recipe than my current one

and for such a small amount of difference. Personally I would prefer the Scott W. one because of the bittersweet edge and that it cuts beautifully which is important in plating.

So, I would give it a 4.5 score.

Now I'm wondering what about that recipe makes it a better texture than the Braun recipe?? I've always baked the Braun recipe according to her directions, but what if I baked it at the lower temp and then did the 5 min. then wrapping technique. Would it make a difference?? Perhaps I will try that next time and report back.

By the way, I've never had any trouble with Braun's recipe having holes or tunnels through it. I make sure to tap out any air bubbles before it goes in the oven so maybe that prevents it?

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Sorry its so late but here it is.

Baking Illustrated's Devil's Food Cake.

Ingredients:

4 oz unsweetened chocolate chopped

1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa

1+1/4 cups boiling water

3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup(3 oz) plain cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

16 T unsalted butter (2 sticks) and softened but still cool

1 1/2 cups packed (10 /2 oz ) dark brown sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare 2 8" pans.

chop chocolate and add cocoa and pour the boiling water over and whisk until smooth.

Combine flours soda and salt and sift.

Cream butter, add sugar, then eggs.

Add sour cream and vanilla combine.

On low speed add 1/3 flour then 1/2 chocolate. Repeat until all flour and chocolate has been added. Do not over-beat.

Divide the batter between pans.

Bake until skewer comes our clean about 20 to 35 minutes depending upon fullness of pans and the oven.

Cool cakes for 15 to 20 minutes.

Notes: For the this cake and all the cakes that I baked I used Plugra butter, Penzey's cocoa, and Cacao Barry "Caraque' unsweetened chocolate.

Edited by nightscotsman (log)

Fred Rowe

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know that everyone has gone on to other cakes by now but I wanted to let everyone know that we really did taste 5 different chocolate cakes at one setting. Here are the photos to prove it. We had two young ladies in our group and boy are their taste buds sharp maybe even sharper than some of us adults. Hope you enjoy the photos.

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Some of the folks doing the tasting.

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The colored tooth pic's help me to identify which cake is which with out letting the others know.

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Slicing up the cakes.

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The after math of judging.

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After the judging the fun begins with white chocolate ganache (melted), hazelnut milk chocolate ganache, vanilla bean ice cream, hazel nuts, and the chocolate cake of your choice.

I had a wonderful time and I think every else did too. Thanks Wendy for starting all of this. Thanks to Seawa Dave for taking the photos. Fred

Edited by FWED (log)

Fred Rowe

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That certainly looks like fun! Thanks for sharing those pics. However, in my very little piglet opinion, the cake slices look more like a meal than a tasting to me. So huge! Aaarrrgh, you're killing me with that last photo!

Can't wait for our very own Malaysian banana cake tasting next month. :smile:

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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Wow, I wish I was there FWED.........you do such a nice job of posting, thank-you for putting in that effort!

I have post my photos soon (sorry, I promise I will asap)...the thing that struck me was I could look at your photos and tell you which cake was from whom....my results really mirror yours in color and texture of these cakes. So-that means were doing good work getting consistant reliable results.

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FWED,

Thanks for posting the pics and the results. It looks like you all had a good time!

And thanks for posting the Baking Illustrated Devil's Food Cake recipe.

However, can you clarify the amount of sour cream the recipe calls for? There seems to be a typo in the recipe you posted. I'm guessing 1/2 cup?

If it's too late for you to edit the recipe, perhaps Sinclair can use her powers to make the correction.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Heres some photos and my results. I did these at work, so I didn't have any tasters besides myself. I think that between my photos and others posted here they'll help you make your decision on which cake is right for your application.

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Notes on MKfradins cake: batter extremely thin. Couldn't get lumps out of batter, but they weren't noticable after the cake was baked. Dark batter with a light foam on top. Taste:good. Moisture:good.

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Notes on Jankk's cake: batter very light in color. Lumps of flour that didn't mix in, but weren't noticable after cake was baked. Med. consistancy of batter. Taste: too bland, not enough chocolate. Moisture: fair.

i7599.jpg

This next one is Karens recipe.

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Notes: thin batter (like mine), lots of air bubbles, lighter in color when raw then when baked. The edges of this cake bake faster and set before the interior of cake, regardless of which pan I used (a full sheet pan and 10") or the oven temp.. The cake remains softish even when frozen so it can be dented in the freezer. Cake remains very flexiable so it's easy to handle. Although it did have sort of a loose crumb around the edge/sides of the cake. Taste: very good. Moisture: very good. Very similar to cake from Spago's Chocolate book.

Next up is the recipe from Rose Levy B. (note I wrote her initals wrong in photo, sorry).

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Notes: Batter is beautiful consistancy. Taste: good. Moisture: dry.

Last cake is my standard from Scott Woolley.

i7607.jpg

The batter.

i7609.jpg

I wasn't able to test the Baking Illustrated Devils Food Cake yet.......I'm still waiting to get dark brown sugar in at work. I will post that one too after I'm able to bake it.

Sorry, my editing and posting skills aren't nearly as good as some of our other members.........and I didn't get a photo of each cake at each stage as I'd hoped to do (remember I was at work...)....but thats my results.

My favorite cake is still the one I offered up from Scott Wooley, I think it's the got the best taste and texture. Second pick for me was Karens cake, it was very moist, flexible and richly flavored. Third pick would be MKFradins cake which was good on all levels. Fourth I'd put Rose Levy B.'s recipe, it's got a great texture but it's dry. Fifth, I placed Jankk's recipe, because it lacked a rich chocolate flavor.

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Interesting stuff.

I'd always considered canola oil to be neutral in flavour until my third semester in cooking school, where as part of one class we taste-tested spoonsful of 10 different oils and vinegars. To my surprise, the canola oil had a profoundly musty flavour, rather like window putty. Some growers here are putting out a fancy-schmancy cold-pressed organic canola oil, which we also tried. It has a beautiful green-gold colour, and more body to it than the regular kind, and...tastes even mustier and more like window putty. <sigh>

The baking soda vs. baking powder thing interests me too. I taste the baking soda very clearly in any recipe it's used in, so I generally just avoid them. I know that people have different sensitivities (as regards flavour) and everybody's palate is different; but to me the effect of baking soda is bizarrely reminiscent of how my mouth feels after vomiting. You know, sour flavour, teeth feeling stripped?

Still gonna have to try some of these, though.

I'm enjoying these "ultimate [fill in the blank] cake" threads. When do we get to genoises? Or have I missed that one already?

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Notes on MKfradins cake: batter extremely thin. Couldn't get lumps out of batter, but they weren't noticable after the cake was baked. Dark batter with a light foam on top. Taste:good. Moisture:good.

Hey Wendy--This was a problem for me too when I first started making this cake. In case you want to make it again, here's what I do (sorry for not including it in the recipe, but it's all in my head):

1) use a whip to mix the cake, not the paddle;

2) add the liquid ingredients very slowly and scrape down constantly.

The danger zone for lumps is probably when 1/2-3/4 of the liquid ingredients are added. The batter goes from being nice and thick to thin, and if the lumps aren't gone by then, they never will be. Adding the liquid slowly at this point is crucial. It is a little freaky, and we've had cakes with white "freckles" of flour, which drives me crazy. But this cake comes together so quickly, is relatively inexpensive to make (no butter or chocolate), and people love it! Thanks for trying it.

Marjorie

(Edited by Forum Host to remove duplicated images)

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Yeah know Wendy ....I have to agree with you about my cake. I know when I posted that recipe, I said it was better ......and it always WAS. But when I took one out of the freezer a week ago or so and frosted it and brought it to work, I didn't like it :/ I thought maybe I unwrapped the wrong one ...but noooooo..that was it. Now I'm wondering if I made a mistake in the recipe......if I ever figure it out, will let y'all know.

I still have a Wooley cake in the freezer ...gonna have to take it out and frost it and re-evaluate! ;)

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ok. i am coming late to this thread. i have baked almost every chocolate cake recipe i have come across, and i would love to participate in your project. unfortunately, money and diet present huge obstacles! however, i would like to submit the following for your consideration: for a good old fashioned chocolate cake, IMO, the one on the tin of hersheys cocoa just cant be beat! (i realize that many of you will consider this heresy :wink: ) it is never-fail, always perfect and chocolate-y, and people always rave about it and are stunned when i tell them it is off that tin. so check it out if you like and i will be watching for the next great cake baking experiment!

lisa

"Animal crackers and cocoa to drink

That is the finest of suppers, I think

When I'm grown up and can have what I please,

I think I shall always insist upon these"

*Christopher Morley

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