The perfect chocolate cake – does it exist? I have a confession to make. As much as I love chocolate, chocolate cakes are nowhere near the top of my favourite desserts list! Not even my favourite cakes list! Panna Cotta, cheesecake, apple cake, bread and butter pudding – now these are up there!
However, my husband loves chocolate cakes, well, chocolate anything, I suppose. And this chocolate birthday cake has been a labour of love – in more ways than one! Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a lovely piece of chocolate cake but to me, most of them don’t live up to expectations, being sorry sponges with icing and/or ganache to jazz up what would otherwise be a rather lackadaisical affair.
And when we do get depth, it is a little too heavy to be partied with, best eaten on its own, perhaps with a dollop or two of cream or ice cream, like Dark French Cakes.
So the idea behind this Chocolate Birthday Cake was to find a balance between the two – a cake that’s more substantial than a lacklustre sponge but still light enough to take on icing and ganache. I love baking with evaporated milk and decided to use it in this recipe as a starting point, along with 3 eggs.
How to make Perfect Chocolate Cake
The first time I made it, it was still a little too light for my taste and perhaps just a touch on the dry side.
The second time, I increased the liquid & sugar content and doubled the baking powder. The result? Almost there, just the right balance between boring sponge and brownie texture but something was still missing. But what?
The third time – I decided to stick with the recipe but throw in some chopped up dark chocolate chips in the mix for texture and flavour. I was rather pleased with the outcome but my husband – not a fan of dark chocolate – not surprisingly, didn’t like the smoky, bitter aftertaste from the chocolate chips. Almost there!
Take 4 – the plan was to substitute the dark chocolate with milk chocolate but at the last minute, my 6 year old, who was helping me weigh everything, suggested I add 3 kinds of chocolate chips, so we did! We chopped up some dark, milk and white and the result – stupendous!
We made it for my husband’s birthday last weekend, with some simple Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Milk Chocolate Ganache and my brother in law declared it the best chocolate cake he had ever had! There you go!
Now, like many decorated birthday cakes, this one will take some time. For starters, you have to let the cake completely cool before decorating. I say 6 hours is enough. Of course, in that time, you can get everything else ready, especially the chocolate shards. The actual decorating shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes but you’ll find that you’re enjoying yourself so much, you don’t want to stop!
Because of the liquid content, the cake is better baked in two pans for even cooking.
- 160g flour
- 70g good quality cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 220g butter
- 250g sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
- 200ml evaporated milk
- about 100g mix of white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, chopped up as in picture
- quarter portion chocolate buttercream icing (click for recipe)
- milk chocolate ganache (recipe below)
- chocolate shards for side of cake (see below)
- 2 piping bags filled with a little dark and white chocolate in each (from chocolate shards chocolate)
- 100g white chocolate, broken up in pieces
- 100g dark chocolate, broken up in pieces
- 360g milk chocolate, broken up in little pieces
- 120g double (thick) cream
- Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F and line and grease 2 x 8 " cake pans.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
- Add the vanilla and mix.
- Add the flour mix in 3 additions, beating gently, at the lowest speed, alternating with half of the evaporated milk, finishing with the flour, gently folding in the last part.
- Finally, gently stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
- Divide the mixture up into the 2 baking tins and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Just remember that the cake will continue cooking for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, so don't look for it to have come away from the sides of the cake pan. Just insert a skewer and if it comes out clean, it's done.
- Place the chocolate pieces in a large bowl.
- Heat the cream to simmering point, then pour all over the chocolate pieces and let sit for a minute.
- Stir the cream and chocolate together until you get a smooth mix. You could beat this ganache with electric beaters to get a shiny effect.
- Melt both chocolate separately. I do all this in the microwave oven. White chocolate has a tendency to burn, so I heat it at 50% power in 30-60 second bursts. My oven has a strength of 1 000 watts.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Pour the above chocolate on the baking paper, alternating them to create a mix.
- Spread the melted chocolate out with a spreader/knife and leave in fridge to set for 10 minutes.
- Using a large, sharp knife, cut the chocolate up at angles as you can see in the picture.
- Trim the chocolate cakes if you want the crusts off but I don't bother. Spread the buttercream on one of the cakes and place the other on top.
- Spreading the chocolate ganache - chocolate ganache hardens very quickly, so unless you are very quick, you won't get a smooth cake if using a spatula. So you have 2 choices:
- --Spread the icing the best you can and drizzle melted chocolate all over so the imperfections aren't noticeable, as here.!OR
- --Heat the ganache until very runny (be careful not to overdo and burn it). Place the cake on a cake rack with a large tray lined with baking paper underneath. Then, liberally, pour the ganache all over the cake and let it run down the sides into the tray. This will give you a smooth, unlined effect.
- Let the ganache cool and harden for about 5 minutes. Then just drizzle the melted dark and white chocolate all over, to create a random criss cross effect.
- Press the shards of chocolate to the sides of the cake.
- The shards don't have to be identical in height, a haphazard look is more effective.