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My Perfect Chocolate Cake Quest

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hey, all! New to the site, so bear with me, please.


I am an affirmed chocoholic. There is no cure, but the condition can be managed with cake; dark, fudgy, and moist.


My best-loved recipes turn out delicious but too heavy for a kid's birthday, which is what I get called upon to bake for most, and none of the under-12 set that I know is a gourmet-foodie type (yet). These are the most important people in my life, so I feel they deserve better than just "good enough." Hence, my quest.


My criteria for the "PERFECT" chocolate cake are:


-from scratch; I don't like all the artificial stuff and rarely buy food in boxes anymore

-chocolate-y enough to stand out from frosting, ideally not even need it

-firm enough to carve / layer / decorate, with proper support

-light enough to lift easily in a finished 2-layer 9x13 size, travels well


I suspect that the butter-coffee-buttermilk version of Hershey's perfect chocolate cake (which I've used before) would be much improved if I used better cocoa powder (suggestions for brands/kinds VERY welcome) and maybe one or two other tweaks, though I have no idea what they need to be.


I've made this cake, too, as the bottom of a vanilla-on-chocolate cake for my daughter's birthday last month:


Result: Too dense for a 2yo birthday. Probably better as a bundt cake, as in the recipe. Sinfully delicious and fudgy, didn't even need frosting IMO ... just not ... perfect. I know, I''m a lil bit obsessed. ;)


Thanks for reading and in advance for sharing your experience and wisdom with me, an experienced home baker, but by no means a pro.

post #2 of 27
Cook's Illustrated goes into wonderful detail about and recommendations without breaking the bank. Expensive is not necessarily better. HTH
post #3 of 27
Here is my goto Chocolate cajke recipe, I haven't yet found a Chocolate cake which can beat it in taste or moistness. My added secret, once it cools completely I wrap in saran wrap and leave it on the counter till I am ready to torte and fill which is usually overnight. Also when making this cake I also add two shot of espresso then add water to make total amount or alternatively add a tespoon of espresso powder to your water. Then too once you start adding dry ingredients it is important to remember do NOT over mix. I usually leave a little undermixed at end and fold a few times by hand.
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 
"Expensive is not necessarily better."

I definitely agree with that. Thank you for the direction. I can't believe I haven't thought of Cook's Illustrated, they've sorta been teahing me how to cook.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Another vote for mayo. I think it's a sign. icon_wink.gif
post #6 of 27

For light and fluffy, I go with Hershey's with modifications.  Do a search on the forum and you'll see some posts where people have adjusted the recipe.  Use their Special Dark and do the Black Magic cake and it's good.


For dense (which is what I prefer), this is my jam:

post #7 of 27
post #8 of 27

My favorite cocoa is Bensdorp...


You can read my post in the link AnnieCahill provided, the second one...


Since that time I've also tested the Hershey's cake using Valrhona & Ramstadt-Breda Rich Dark, and Bensdorp still came out on top, for me...


Last weekend I made the cake (using Bensdorp) and I added a tsp. of coconut flavoring:

I swear it tasted like a Mounds candy bar...

So, so good...

I'm going to try it again using 3/4 tsp. so the coconut could be more subtle...

post #9 of 27
Originally Posted by AnnieCahill View Post

For dense (which is what I prefer), this is my jam:


This is the recipe I have been using for YEARS!  I absolutely love it, and every single person who has ever had it grace their mouth has temporarily lost complete control of their minds because it was so good.


Extremely deep chocolate flavor.  I have used everything from Hersheys to Valrhona cocoa powder in this recipe, and quite honestly the difference in flavor is so minute it would have been extremely stupid of me to continue with the expensive stuff.  All the added flavor enhancers in the recipe really doll up the chocolate flavor, even if that chocolate is Hersheys. 

post #10 of 27
Yep I used Hershey's as well. I made it for one of my wedding tiers and filled it with Oreo IMBC. It was totally wiped out in 15 minutes.
post #11 of 27

What brand of semi-sweet chocolate do you both use for that recipe, and do you use real buttermilk or the milk/vinegar substitute?

post #12 of 27
I use Ghirardelli and real buttermilk.
post #13 of 27
I use real buttermilk, but for the chocolate I actually use 60% Trader Joes brand dark chocolate to reduce the sweetness ever so slightly.


I tend to buy all my bar chocolate at Trader Joes as they have reasonable priced 1lb bars of chocolate.  Saves me a bunch of money over the 1.5oz supermarket chocolate bars, and I don't yet need the massive 20lb bars you can get a baking surplus stores (which run for about $20 for the 20lb bar of Guittard!)

post #14 of 27

Thanks guys...

I really want to try that recipe.


(I wish I had a Trader Joe's near me, I've read about those awesome pound bars before)

post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 

You all are being so helpful, thank you! Spent a couple days focused on cakes, so I just checked in tonight. I am so grateful for all the suggestions and guidance.


I just found out there is a Trader Joe's in reasonable driving distance, so I'll have to check it out for real now. I've been curious about Whole Foods and Trader Joe's markets, so I finally have irrefutable reason to go -- chocolate!

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