Nothing will make somebody's eyes light up more than a big fat chocolate cake. But adding chocolate to a cake can change the texture. There's a risk of it being dry, too light or just not tasting of chocolate. And if we're going to eat chocolate cake, we want a big chocolate hit!
Whether chocolate fudge cake or a choc-loaded gateaux with fresh berries is more your style, this is how to make sure your chocolate cake is a hit every time.
1. You need more than cocoa
Many recipes adapt a standard Victoria sponge cake recipe into a chocolate cake by simply adding cocoa with the flour. But because cocoa soaks up moisture, using cocoa alone results in a cake that produces a fairly light but often a dry sponge.
My tip is to mix your cocoa with sufficient milk to make a smooth runny paste and then incorporate this into your cake mix after the flour.
2. Get out the real chocolate
When making a chocolate cake for an adult you may want to enrich the chocolate flavour and deepen the colour (it's probably too strong for kids).
To get the best result, melt dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) with the cocoa/milk and incorporate into the recipe. The resulting mix is a smooth batter, resulting in a dark, flavoursome cake.
3. Choosing between butter and oil
There are so many recipes out there. Some use oil and some use the standard creaming method. Cakes made with oil tend to be slightly more moist, which is what you're looking for in a chocolate cake. But creaming butter and sugar together does help get air in the mixture. The way you can help a butter-base chocolate cake stay moist is by incorporating liquid chocolate and milk.
4. Get the perfect baking time
Unlike a vanilla or lemon sponge it's not possible to see a slight colouring on the sponge to know that it is baked. And an overcooked chocolate cake will mean a dry cake.
Follow your recipe but check 10 minutes before the end of the baking time. When you touch the middle of the cake you should just feel a little resistance and your finger will not leave a mark in the sponge. I always take my cakes out of the tins as soon as they are cool enough to handle because I want to avoid a crispy edge to my cake so I just want to stop the baking as soon as possible.
5. Choose the perfect flavours
I love experimenting with flavour pairings but my favourites with chocolate are vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, passion fruit and of course chocolate. You cannot beat a dark, moist chocolate cake filled with a smooth chocolate or vanilla butter cream.
6. Easy chocolate decoration test
Often the well-decorated cake is let down by a dry or tasteless sponge, while the tastiest cakes can be disappointingly decorated. If you feel you lack the piping skills or struggle to apply a smooth butter cream coating or thin, flawless fondant – try something else.
Fill your cake and sandwich the two sponges together then apply a rough coat of frosting to the top and decorate with fresh berries or a scattering of chocolate curls. Use a zester and a block of chocolate and create your own mini curls or simply grate chocolate over your finished cake.
7. How to make lower fat butter cream
I have been working on lowering sugar and fat in frostings in my recipes and I have a lower fat version which is light and delicious. Instead of equal fat to sugar, I use 2/3 sugar to 1/3 fat.