The best chocolate cake?

Joined Mar 3, 2002
What's your favorite chocolate cake?

I'm planning to make a dense moist chocolate cake that's only a couple inches high rather than the American style 4 mile high type. I plan to fill between the layers with jam (probably cherry) and sprinkle the top with confectioners' rather than icing it, so the cake has to be a star. I'll serve it with whipped cream (or creme fraiche) and cherries.
Joined Oct 10, 2002
My all-time favorite chocolate cake is Mom's mashed potato-mayonnaise cake. This cake rarely gets frosted as I love to eat the cake warm with vanilla ice cream... and maybe a little chocolate sauce!
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Hi Alexia!

Merry Christmas

In the last issue of Cooks Illustrated there was an article under the title the best chocolate cake
It was not a big typical american cake. I can copy the recipe for you if you wish :)
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Casper I havn't thought about a mayo choc cake in forever....
I've heard of potato; I've heard of mayo but the combo is new to me.
Texas sheet cake is rich and the poured on hot icing just makes it that much better. No layers though.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
I would love the recipe Athenaeus! One can never have too many chocolate cake recipe. ;)
Joined Mar 3, 2002
My most recent chocolate cake wasn't what I'd call the best. Ok, but not the best. It was an dense almond chocolate (flourless) with a cherry compote. And a bit too dense. So when Athenaeus posts the CI chocolate, I'm up for it, too.

I think part of the problem may be my Cuisinart. The almonds didn't seem to be ground fine enough. Do those blades wear out?
Joined Dec 4, 2001
Rose Levy (why can't I remember her last name:confused: ) in the Cake Bible has what she calls a Domingo cake, named for Placido Domingo. This cake is very chocolaty and melts in the mouth. It is rich enough that it needs no adornments (except maybe a little powdered sugar on top :) )

Joined Mar 3, 2002
Funny you should mention the Cake Bible, Jock. I was about to order a copy of that when a flurry of posts slammed it for recipes that didn't work, so I ordered Fleming's Last Course instead.

What's your overall experience with the Cake Bible? I like her Pie Bible because she gives so much specific info about ingredients and techniques which have helped me perfect my pate brisee. But to tell the truth, I've never followed any of her recipes exactly, so can't comment on the recipes themselves.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
I'm sure you'll love The Last Course. This said I feel I have to say I never had any problems with The Cake Bible or any other of Rose Levy Beranbaum books. I actually really enjoy reading her. Everything I tried turned out great. Ok so there is one chocolate cake in the Cake Bible that I didn't like not the recipe didn't work, I just didn't care for the texture of that cake.
Joined Mar 3, 2002
Hmmm, Well maybe I'll add the Cake Bible on my new list. I certainly like the Pie Bible.

I just got my recent book order which included Herme's Chocolate. It has a very tempting chocolate pound cake that I'm going to try soon. Reading through it today I realized that on my recent chocolate almond cake I may simply not have let the almonds process long enough. Herme calls for grinding the almonds 3 minutes, but, not having yet read this, I was fearful of making almond butter, and didn't do it that long -- which made the cake a little more gritty than it should have been.

Oh well, it still tasted Very Good, so I'll post it. Also, making it again, I'd contrive to make a slightly more syrupy compote.

(may be made a day in advance)
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds (4 oz), toasted lightly, cooled
½ cup sugar
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened
4 large eggs, separated
½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tbs kirsch
6 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), in pieces and ground fine in processor
confectioners' sugar
sweetened whipped cream
sour cherry compote (below)

Preheat oven to 350f. Line bottom of buttered 9" cake pan (2" deep) or springform pan with a round of wax paper. Butter paper and dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

In food processor pulse almonds with 1 Tbs sugar til just ground fine. Do not release oil.

In electric mixer, cream butter and 1/4 cup sugar til light and fluffy. Beat in yolks, 1 x 1, beating well after each; beat in zest and kirsch. Stir almond sugar and chocolate into yolk mixture which will be very thick. In another bowl, beat whites til foamy and add a pinch salt and remaining 3 Tbs sugar in a stream beating til whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold 1/3 whites into yolk mixture to lighten and fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake torte in middle of oven 45 - 55 minutes, or til it begins to pull away from side of pan. Torte will fall slightly and continue to set as it cools. Cool torte in pan on a rack and remove from pan. Torte may be made 1 day in advance and chilled, covered. Let it come to room temperature before serving.

1 cup dried sour cherries, preferably unsweetened (5 oz)
½ cup kirsch
½ cup water
3/4 cup jam or preserves (7 oz)
1 cinnamon stick broken in half
a 3" strip of orange zest
Simmer all ingredients in small saucepan, covered, 5 minutes. Off heat; stand covered 10 minutes. Remove cover and cool completely. May be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I like the Cake Bible. She gives both weight and volume measures with clear and concise instructions. For those interested she includes a breakdown of how each formula was developed. I've always had good luck with the results and I can't complain.
You know that Isa is the queen of cookbooks and a fabulous baker to boot (I have first hand experience of that) so if she says it's good, chances are it's good :D

Joined Mar 3, 2002
Well, I've made the Pierre Herme (cocoa) chocolate loaf cake (with dried apricots, stem ginger, and chunks of chocolate and can say it worked out very well: very dense, very chocolate, and not too sweet (much of the sweetness comes from the fruit).

I'm not a terribly experienced baker, but the procedure seemed a bit odd to me - particularly the omission of any salt. How typical is this ordering? Also, because this is to be eaten by children, I added only half the stem ginger, but I think it was a mistake. The ginger is far more subtle than I anticipated.

Also, were I to add a pinch of salt, what effect would that have on the cake?

a dark as midnight chocolate flavor from cocoa and small chunks of bittersweet such as Valhrona. The cake’s texture is soft and dense and, if you press a little against the roof of the mouth, melting. A classic with the addition of small cubes of dried apricots and the intensely spicy stem ginger. Sweet and chewy, tangy and hot, it’s the add ins that make this a remarkable cake.

Stem ginger should not be confused with crystallized ginger, a candy. Stem ginger, small knobs of ginger preserved and packed in heavy syrup is an expensive Chinese market, specialty store, and large supermarket delicacy. Tightly sealed it will last for months in the fridge.

Serve into thick slices for the best advantage of the varied textures of this cake.

KEEPING: Wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature, the cake will remain moist at least 5 days; wrapped airtight, it will keep in the freezer for a month.

1 1/3 cups (180g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (40g) Dutch processed cocoa, preferably Valrhona
½ tsp double acting baking powder
4 ½ oz (125g) moist, plump dried apricots, cut in chunks
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
5 oz (140g) almond paste, broken into small pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup (150g) whole milk, room temperature
2 ½ oz (70g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, cut into chunks
1 ½ oz (55g) drained stem ginger, cut into small chunks
1 ½ sticks + 1 Tbs (6 ½ oz, 180g) butter, melted, cooled

1. Center rack in oven; oven at 350f; butter 9x5x3" (28cm) loaf pan; place it on an insulated baking sheet or 2 regular sheets stacked on top of each other. Reserve.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder; set mixture aside

3. Bring 1 cup (250g) water to the boil. Add the apricots, pull the pan from the heat; soak apricots 1 minute, time enough for them to soften and plump. Drain and pat them dry between paper towels. Set aside.

4. Put sugar and almond paste in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed til the almond paste breaks up, blends with the sugar and looks sandy. If the almond paste is hard (a sign of age) and does not become sandy in the mixer, you can pulverize the paste and sugar in the processor, then transfer it to the mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition. Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment, increase the mixer speed to high; beat 8-10 minutes, til the ingredients have formed an emulsion - the batter will look like mayonnaise and the whisk will leave tracks as it spins.

5. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the milk, mixing til combined, and then the sifted dry ingredients. Continue beating on low speed til the batter is homogenous, then remove the bowl from the mixer. Working with a large rubber spatula, fold in the set aside apricots, the chocolate chunks, the ginger; then gently fold in the melted butter. (Although the recipe did not call for lightly dusting the fruit with some flour, I did so because in the accompanying photo of the cake, it looked to me as though most of the fruit was on the bottom. I also forked through the batter to bring it to the top after pouring the batter in the pan and noticing that a lot of the top batter didn't have much fruit, despite what I thought was careful folding.)

6. Turn batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 60-70 minutes til a slender knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (The cake will crack as it bakes. If you want to help it crack more evenly than it might by chance, wait til the cake just starts to develop to develop a crust, then run a dough scrapper dipped in melted butter lengthwise down the center of the cake.) If the cake appears to be baking too quickly – chocolate cakes have a tendency to darken around the edges – cover it loosely with an aluminum foil tent for the last 20-30 minutes.

7. Remove cake from oven and cool it on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding and turning it upright. Cool cake to room temperature on the rack.

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