Chocolate cake

Throwback Thursday: Rich Dark Chocolate Cake

Chocolate started life as a luxury and became ubiquitous after a man called Coenraad van Houten in the Netherlands developed a mechanical way to extract fat from cocoa liquor, to create a solid mass that could be sold as rock cocoa or ground into a powder, a process, says Wikipedia, that “turned chocolate from an exclusive luxury into an inexpensive everyday snack.” And look at us now, unable to reach the supermarket without negotiating row after row of chocolate temptations, like nice little devils on each shoulder.

There is nothing quite like chocolate. It occupies a category in its own right. Nothing is more likely to blow up a well-meaning diet than chocolate; and it’s the first thing most of us gravitate to when we think we’ve got something sweet.

But it’s Rodolphe Lindt we have to thank for taking chocolate and making it better, inventing a process called conching in 1879 that made it smoother, silkier and more enjoyable to cook with. Until the 1880s, there was virtually no cake or chocolate cake, claims the online encyclopedia, with people having to feast on chocolate drinks or frosting for a cake made up of other things. In the 1850s, says Gastronomic LarousseChocolate production had spread around the world, and by 1886 Americans had begun adding it to cake batters.

Names like Cadbury, Suchard, Rowntree’s, Nestlé, Kohler and of course Lindt became synonymous with chocolate and immediately evoked its taste and texture, and still do.

The first recipe for chocolate cake is said to have been published in 1847, but it would have nothing to do with the ones we know now, made rich, moist and luscious by techniques such as tempering and the skillful use of toppings and toppings such as ganache and fudge that Americans love. It was the same year that James Fry invented the moldable chocolate paste, launching the chocolate bar into modern culture.

Today’s chocolate cakes – the really good ones, the ones we all dream about – are much richer than the standard chocolate cakes of the mid-20th century. We are spoiled by modern bakers, especially specialty patisseries like Charly’s in Cape Town.

But what kind of chocolate cake do you make at home? I googled a lot, read a lot of recipes, took a lot of notes, and then wrote a recipe based on the many things I had read. Then I baked it, following the recipe I had written down. Would it go well? I couldn’t know until I followed my recipe and made it, put it in the oven, took it out after a while, ice cream, and finally took a bite out of it.

First of all, it’s very rich, heavy, dense and very moist too. This is what I wanted, so if it’s a light and fluffy cake you want, you’ve come to the wrong place. It is rich in chocolate (Lindt: five 100g slabs, including ganache filling and grated chocolate to finish), contains three large eggs, a little buttermilk and sugars including black muscovado, demerara and castor oil.

You can choose to lighten these sugars if you wish. My choice to go with black muscovado and demerara which are heavier than castor combined with the egg component and all that melted chocolate results in a dense cake that had all the flavor, texture and moisture that I was looking for.

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped

200 g butter, at room temperature

1 tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 125ml water

170g cake flour

2 tsp/ 10ml baking powder (fresh, haven’t sat in the cupboard in ages)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

200g dark muscovado sugar

100g demerara sugar

100 g caster sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

80 ml/ ⅓ cup buttermilk

100g peeled chocolate shavings, to garnish

For the ganache

200g 70% dark chocolate, chopped

300ml cream

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 160℃.

Butter a deep round cake tin 20 cm in diameter and line it with parchment paper.

In a stainless steel saucepan over a slightly larger saucepan ⅓ full of water, melt 200 g of butter with 200 g of dark chocolate, broken up, over low heat. The water should not bubble. Stir with a wooden spoon as it melts and combines.

Stir the coffee beans into 125ml of cold water and stir into the melted chocolate and butter.

Still on low heat, stir as it heats and melts. Turn off the fire.

Sift the flour into a large ovenproof bowl with the baking powder and baking soda, then stir in the dark muscovado sugar and caster sugar. Train the lumps with a wooden spoon and/or a powerful whisk.

Whisk the eggs into the buttermilk and beat it, using a wooden spoon, into the dry mixture with the chocolate mixture from the saucepan. Beat until smooth and a bit runny, but don’t overwork.

Pour into the lined cake pan and bake at 160℃ for about 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove to wire rack but let cool in pan before releasing hook from springform pan.

When it is perfectly cooled to room temperature, carefully cut the cake in the middle, so as to obtain two equal slices.

For the ganache, break 200 g of 70% dark chocolate into a bowl.

Pour 300 ml of cream into a stainless steel saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar. Heat it over low heat but don’t let it boil. It should only be simmering around the edges and the demerara sugar should have completely melted into it, leaving no granules.

Pour it over the chocolate in the bowl, off the heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. It’s a delicious process because the chocolate chickens darken as you stir.

It should be cool enough to work with now. Spoon some over the top of the bottom half of the cake and spread it out with a palette knife or the back of a spoon. Don’t overdo it as you need most of the ganache for the top.

Once assembled, pour the rest over the top and let it drip down the edges, encouraged by a hot palette knife that you’ve dipped in hot water.

Using a potato peeler, peel 100 g of dark chocolate shavings to garnish a cake that will, I hope, have all the indulgence that the one in the cafe window lacked. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM store. Buy it here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond to you.

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