I've been making the same scratch chocolate cake for a year now, and twice in the last two months customers have called me to say they didn't like it, but couldn't put their finger on the problem. Obviously, this presents a problem for me--I have no clue where to start to correct the situation. But with two similar complaints, it seems that it is time to do some sleuthing. The one thing their complaints have had in common is that the cake is "flat" or "off". I've sold a lot of these cakes with no previous complaints, and some people have raved over them and placed repeat orders, so it is a little puzzling. Anyway, I'm thinking maybe the amount of salt needs to be increased a bit.
Any other suggestions to offset a "flat" taste in chocolate cake? I thought about the cocoa, but I use a good quality and haven't changed that in the entire time I have made this cake. I have compared my recipe to others, and it did seem like the salt was a bit less in mine. I would rather fix this recipe, if possible, than start all over looking for another chocolate recipe. This one holds up great to torting and stacking into tiers, so it has some definite good points.
Any and all suggestions are welcome! I know someone will be able to solve this mystery.
Overbaking? Does it have oil or butter? Do you chill them??
I don't think the cakes are overbaked. They aren't crumbly or falling apart. And the complaint hasn't been that they are dry. I do bake with butter and refrigerate the cakes (my buttercream requires refrigeration). However, I make sure the cakes come to room temperature before being served. I usually deliver them warmed up to room temp, or know that they are not being served until they will get to the proper temperature.
Try adding some expresso or a pinch of powder chilli pepper, they will pump your cakes without over powering the flavor but it will make people ask "what was that?, can't really put my finger on it but tastes good!"
I won't ask for the recipe, but how much flour and how much salt.. that will give a rough idea of the ratio.
If I bake a recipe and I like the general flavor, but it seems a bit flat.. more salt usually does the trick. If a recipe has 2-ish cups of flour and calls for 1/2 tsp of salt.. I will go ahead and add a full tsp. It makes a difference for sure.
I find that adding melted chocolate to the batter often improves the taste a lot! Also, using butter and not the margarine or shortening.
If you are willing to try a new recipe, I'd recommend the one by Dede Wilson for Essential Chocolate Cake (from her book Wedding Cakes You Can Make). The cake is wonerfull and she gives you the proportions for all size cakes too.
I add hot strong coffee to mine. The coffee helps to bring out the chocolate flavor. I agree with jkalman about the salt. I follow Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake recipe and it is 1 3/4 cup flour and1 tsp salt.
Thanks for the ideas. It does seem that salt may be the issue. Tastefullysweet, I do have Dede Wilson's book, and I may experiment with her recipe. Thanks for the info on that one. I make my cakes in three inch pans, so I might have some extra batter when I make her recipes--but that always makes for good cupcakes, doesn't it!? Thanks to everyone for the responses. CC members always come to the rescue!