Welcome to the Cake Decorators Q&A

asked July 17th 2012

‘Paul’s moist chocolate cake’ My feed back

Recently Paul posted his chocolate cake recipe for us all to try. Many members have had various difficulties baking it up. The most predominant ‘failing’ is that the cake sinks in the middle. We’ve all at some point answered with feed back and suggestions as to why this may be happening, sooo with great trepidation I baked ‘The Cake’ this morning. My cake was scaled down to 8″ square, using my hubby’s conversion chart, which is posted on the site under ‘ingrediants’ (spelled this way to find in search). I baked in a dark heavy duty tin, greased and floured fairly generously then lined with parchment paper, exactly as shown on the cake tutorial. I have a fan assisted oven which I set at 135c. Once the mixture was in the tin I reduced the heat to 130c and baked for a complete two hours.  After an hour, through the oven glass door, I could see that the cake had risen but, had also become wrinkly, like elephant skin,towards the middle. I realised this was the prelude to the ‘sink’! However, I just continued baking for a further hour, then opened the oven part way to check the cake for doneness, which it was, thoroughly. The cake had sunk slightly, and formed a hard crust only around the outer rim which resembled ginger snap biscuits. After the cake had cooled completely I turned it out,  to find a beautiful deep, moist cake with no hint of the dip present on the other side. This evening at 10.30 we cut the cake ‘proof of the pudding’ style and have enjoyed a very pleasant dessert. Prior to turning the cake out,and quite soon after removing it from the oven, I prematurely posted under ‘Paul’s chocolate cake, timing’ (in search), that I had doubts whether this cake would hold up to carving and stacking. Having cut, inspected for structure and sampled it, I can conclude that it definitely will to both.

I hope this feed back will help members who may want to attempt baking the cake again. Finally, Jayess has posted many times to try and solve the concundrum of ‘the chocolate cake sinking in the middle’. She has raised a salient point about the amount of sugar used in the recipe which may, or may not be a contributory factor to some of the problems experienced, although on tasting, sweetness is not excessive, and baking science is some thing I understand not! Happy baking folks x


Hi all, I’ve made Paul’s 8″ size choc cake several times and each time it sunk (slightly) in the middle and looks like elephant skin on the top. I am now attempting to make the teddy bear cake and needed an 8×10 tin and after searching the internet I purchased one from Jane Asher (£17.99). It arrived today and it is quite a bit heavier than my so called heavy duty 8″ tin. I’ve baked the cake today and it is lovely and deep and no sinking in the middle or shrinking at the sides. It is still like elephant skin on the top but I can cut that bit off and because the cake is lovely and deep it won’t be a problem.  So as Paul says in his tutorial you really do need a really good heavy duty tin. I’m so pleased as I really do love this chocolate cake.


I too have had problems with this recipe,however I found an idea on another cake website ,someone suggested completely covering the tin with another larger tin so that it is completely sealed.I have just tried this and I am delighted to say that I have an absolutely flat cake with no elephant skin or sink.It is brilliant and I will be baking it like this in future .


hi ive been wanting to try your chocolate cake recipe for ages and finally got the change this weekend .I was abit worried when it came out the oven and cooled when I cut into it to start decorating it I paniced abit thinking it wasn’t baked enough .I didn’t have to worry my customer for the cake rang me and everybody loved it ive now got orders for two more so would just like to say thankyou


Hi haamna

Great to read your positive feedback! All the member feedbacks have been so helpful as you’ve already found for yourself. This is a lovely cake which no one should miss out on, so thanks for your input too!


I’m glad it worked for some one else too madeitwithlove. It’s good to hear this feedback!

I had a go at making the cake for my boyfriend’s mum’s birthday. I was making a small handbag cake to go along with a bunch of cupcakes I’d just made, so i halved the quantities given in the recipe, and used smaller tins.

I had the tins in my fan assissted oven for just over an hour at 130 and my sponges were similar; slightly crispy round the outside egde but did not taste or smell burnt at all. Before beginning my carving for the hangbag cake, I leveled off the sponge, only very slighty & for peace of mind as it was as near to a flat, even surface as i could have hoped.

AND on cutting the cake, everyone seemed to really enjoy it with many people asking for 2nds… I maybe shouldn’t have halved the quantities and made a giant handbag!


Congratulations madeitwithlove and Paula, I can’t see what I did different to madeitwithlove.  Mine had sunk quite a lot in the centre and the cake could not be described as deep.  Did taste great though.  Might try once more but not for a while.  This time I am going to put a cover of brown paper with a hole in the centre on top of the cake.  It works with a fruit cake to stop being too ‘done’ on top.  Not sure whether I will reduce sugar as I agree with madeitwithlove that it didn’t taste too sweet.  Will post results.



Virtually every cake using real chocolate I have baked has behaved in this way.  It’s a very molten mix so I guess it takes it’s time,  I’m just pleased the cake came good. When I next bake it I will reduce the sugar as suggested by Jayess to see whether it makes any difference to the crusting.  I know Paul won’t mind if we tweek his recipe, after all that’s how recipes evolve.


Well you must all be doing something wrong….i am not a good cake maker but this is THE best cake i have ever made. I have a well known restaurant next door to me and the chef and staff were very impressed. Amazing cake i am told! This is not beginners luck as i have made same receipe 4 times now and 2×8″ round cakes…SUPERB!!!


Hi miwl, just wondering, how does Paul’s choc cake recipe compare with Jane Hornby’s choc cake?


Hi jennie, please post exactly what you did.  Maybe we can work out what we are doing wrong. Can you post how many eggs you used (we can work out the rest), the tin size, depth and shape, the oven temperature and whether this was tested with a thermometer.  Do you have gas or electric?  Fan oven? Did you put a newspaper band or strips around it?  How did you heat the cream and melt the chocolate.  How long was the baking? Anything else you can think of?  Sorry it’s a lot to ask but some of us are baffled!

many thanks Jx


Hi Susan, Paul’s recipe compares quite well with Jane Hornby’s chocolate wedding cake. Jane’s cake is slightly more dense because it doesn’t have oil, the brown sugar gives it a more caramel taste while Paul’s cake has golden caster sugar which I think gives it a tang. The cakes are similar but they should be merited for their individual qualities. Taking nothing away from Paul’s recipe, I did find Jane’s recipe to be more straightforward because she uses plain flour and leavening, rather than a combination of S/R and plain. I didn’t have the crusting problem with Jane’s and wonder whether the brown sugar makes a difference. Perhaps Jennie will give us some feed back too, it all helps. Btw, I didn’t fill my cake, it’s so good without, but a splash of liquer enhances it even more.


Yes Susan, I also would like to know how it compares to Jane Hornby’s cake, I have made Jane’s cake before and it was perfect.

Many many thanks for all your great guidance!




Thanks for that miwl.   I liked the caramel taste from Jane’s recipe and got to say that I’m all for straight forward recipes!  lol.


Hi everyone

I have made paul’s  cake and it’s fab every time i don’t do anything but follow the recipe

But i use a good high quality  heat conductive anodised alloy cake pan [silverwood]  which cook’s  perfect every time


Hi lesleya,  so glad your cake turned out well. I’ve got some small silverwood pans which I keep meaning to use so thanks for the extra feed back.


you’r welcome miwl


I just made another chocolate cake with Jane Hornby’s recipe but this time the cake sort of peeled off around the sides when I removed it from the tin.


Also, forgot to ask, has anyone tried Lindy Smith’s chocolate cake recipe?



I tried Lindy Smith’s chocolate cake recipe.

It looked really nice. No sinking or crust and nice texture. I covered it in chocolate ganache and then sugarpaste and it covered really well. The only thing I found wrong with it was that it was very dry and not moist.

I have only just started baking cakes so it could have been something i done wrong. Was trying to find a nice chocolate recipe for my first wedding cake im making in September.


Thanks for that.  I’ll stick to Jane’s recipe then.  If you google Jane Hornby Chocolate Wedding cake you’ll find a great recipe.  The ingredients listed are for a 12″ cake I think.


As a rule I don’t get along too well with the Lindy recipes, but I will give her choc cake a go. I’m just thrilled that I do have two good ones in Jane’s and Paul’s. They are slightly different so I can choose the event for which each would be more suitable. I’ve never had the sides peeling from Jane’s recipe, however, I find if I leave a cake too long before turning out this does happen. I wouldn’t class myself as a particularly good baker, that’s why I just stick to what I know works for me (gets a bit boring!), at least that way I have an end product,  I’m not in business so I don’t have to have a wide repertoire.

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