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Welcome to the Cake Decorators Q&A

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asked September 24th 2012

What makes the ultimate chocolate cake?

Ive had many a discussion on forums and chatting to fellow bakers and still cant get my head around using just cocoa powder. I have tried dutched and undutched and I cant notice any difference. Using very expensive cocoa against green & blacks. But still think that a cake containing melted chocolate gives it the depth of flavour & moist. I have tried these sky high cakes containing cocoa but they taste of raw butter (can somebody answer why a chocolate cake with cocoa has that strange taste) . I am perplexed that some bakers take a victoria sponge and add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and rave about it (yuk). Some recipes contain cream, buttermilk, add salt etc but wonder if there is a guide on what makes a ‘proper chocolate cake’. I think adding coffee adds the extra dimension.

Then this opens the question what is the best chocolate to use – I use a mix of Barry Callubets, Aldi cooking (54%), sainsburys value (also 50%) again, if there much difference I see top bakers (eg masie fantasie) uses a very expensive brand.

I have baked endless chocolate cakes looking for the answer, read loads of US blogs (eg smitten kitchen) but have to say Lindys cakes – fudge cake, BBC goodfood Utlimate, BBC chocolate cakes various just cant be beat.

Unless, you have the ultimate cocoa powder chocolate cake that I havent yet read?

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The ultimate chocolate cake is what anyone wants it to be. One person’s pallet may rave about chocolate cakes made with coco powder and another may say ‘yuk’! There is no accounting for different people’s tastes. I think as long as a good quality chocolate is used along side other fresh ingredients, the recipe followed to a degree of accuracy, then one would hope the end product is pleasing in taste and texture. Like you, I’ve tried a host of coco powders and chocolate. I have to admit the Belgium brands do seem to have the edge, but really as long as chocolate has a reasonable coco content and doesn’t taste bitter, the chances of producing a totally inedible cake are highly unlikely. Modern cakes are so full of different flavoured fillings and syrups, does anyone really eat nude cakes? One of my most favourite chocolate recipe is that from Jane Hornby’s wedding cakes collection, BBC Good Food. However, since baking up Paul’s moist chocolate cake recipe, this now stands along side. I have hundreds of chocolate cake recipes, I find them all much of a muchness. Look at the recipes, there are not many differences in ingredients or even in the way they are baked. A few adaptations and suddenly they are hailed as the best recipe ever! Perhaps thinking about it too much is like chasing the unattainable dream, or the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end!! Just bake and enjoy.

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I’ll second Madeitwithlove’s favourite recipe, I only really use Jane Hornby’s Chocolate cake recipe, in fact, I also use her Easy Vanilla cake one too. Everyone loves them.

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One of my bedrooms has been converted into a baking books library. Despite this, I still return to tried and trusted recipes. I wonder why I bother with hording so many books, some of which haven’t been opened or caressed in years. Still, I suppose they are a point of reference, and some of them are almost as ancient as myself.

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I agree with MIWL. I think it is most def a matter of taste. I am not a great chocolate cake fan but I like both Paul’s and Jane Hornby’s recipes. I have got to say though, and I don’t know why this is, but I have more success with Jane’s recipe. The problem that I have is finding Buttermilk. My local supermarket has stopped stocking it so I use soured cream instead and there is no difference in the final result. I use Asda’s or Tesco’s plain chocolate bars but if I could charge top bakers prices I would use expensive brands instead!! I did use Lidl’s for a while but always thought that it looked a bit grainy when melted. If I remember correctly I don’t think Jane’s recipe contains cocoa powder, but she does include vanilla extract. Next time I bake it I am going to leave out the vanilla just to see what the difference in taste is.

On the other hand a friend of mine, who is a baker, loves Lindy’s fudge cake recipe!

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