A moist, moist chocolate cake with a tender crumb and rich, decadent chocolate frosting never goes out of style. In fact, if there’s one thing I’ve learned working in Pakistani bakeries, it’s that Pakistanis love chocolate cakes and they can’t get enough of them!
Unfortunately, despite having access to hundreds of recipes on the internet, many people struggle to make a good chocolate cake at home and experience issues ranging from the dry, hard sponge to the icing that doesn’t set properly.
It certainly helps to have a good recipe to start with – and the one I’ve shared below has been my reference for many years so that I can attest to its veracity – however, there are two important principles that need to be followed to make a great cake.
Stick to Measurements and Temperatures: Many people like to think of a recipe as a guideline, and while it might work in particular baking cases, it’s crucial to do the recipe as it’s written. This is also one of the reasons I write recipes in grams (rather than cups) because it makes the measurements more accurate. It is also essential to cook at the oven temperature mentioned in the recipe. Use a scale and an oven thermometer for best results.
Making the perfect chocolate isn’t complicated if you follow the best baking practices.
Use room temperature ingredients: Cooking requires planning, which means taking your ingredients (eggs and butter in particular) out of the fridge and bringing them to room temperature before you start cooking. Cold ingredients don’t mix properly and you won’t get the same result.
50g cocoa powder
240ml boiling water or hot coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
115 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
200g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 eggs (at room temperature)
Preheat your oven to 180°C and lightly grease an 8-inch cake tin, then lay a disc of baking paper on the bottom of the tin and grease again. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder with the hot water (or hot coffee) and mix well until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt using a spoon or a whisk.
In the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the caster sugar and vanilla essence and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the cocoa mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely (I like to cover the top of the pan with a damp cloth while it cools so it doesn’t dry out).
Once the cake has cooled completely, invert the pan onto a flat plate or round flat board to remove the cake, then cover the cake with cling film and chill in the fridge for 6 hours or ideally overnight.
Chocolate ganache icing
227 g dark chocolate (or a 50/50 mix of dark and milk chocolate)
180g whipped cream
28g unsalted butter
Put the chocolate in a glass bowl and melt it either by placing the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or by microwaving in short bursts of 30 seconds until melted. it is completely melted. Combine the cream and butter in a separate sauce or bowl and heat on the stove or in the microwave.
Combine the chocolate with the cream and butter mixture and mix until completely incorporated. Refrigerate the ganache until it is firm enough to glaze the cake.
Assemble the cake
Once the cake and ganache are cooled and ready, use a sharp serrated knife to split the cake in half and sandwich the two halves with a generous dollop of ganache. Then, use an offset spatula to frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining ganache frosting.
Put the rest of the ganache in a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe a few swirls on top of your cake. Refrigerate the cake until you are ready to serve it, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
The writer is a professional chef and holds a Pastry Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, March 13, 2022