28 Feb2007


We had a very small and relaxed Post Anti-Valentine’s, Valentine’s Dinner last week. We had humongous platters of Wagyu Osso Buco a la Milanese (the meat was surprisingly tough, despite two plus hours in the oven – back to veal next time), a large green salad with a shallot choc3vinaigrette, a superb bottle of 1995 Burgundy brought by our guests and these luscious chocolate cakes served with strawberries. I have always, always struggled to make a decent chocolate cake. When I was much younger, they always turned out too dry, too boring and usually lacking that bakeshop-like chocolate-y flavor. I wonder now if poor quality cocoa was partially to blame for the mediocre cakes of yore. But nevertheless, I NEVER got it right. As the years went on, I decided it was just too much trouble to figure it out so I took to buying our chocolate cakes instead…there were tons of great ones on the market from home bakers including the Yulo chocolate cake from Forbes, the cake from the Magallanes gas station, etc. so there was never any reason for me to really learn how to do it myself. And despite whisperings of secret recipes that would result in the ultimate moist chocolate cake, including the addition of vinegar, mayonnaise and other ways to inject fat into the equation, I avoided making my own chocolate cake, period.

That is, until, my daughter called me one afternoon two weeks ago as I was about to board a plane from Cebu to Manila and asked if we could “please, please, please make a chocolate cake” that choc2evening for a despedida party she and her classmates were giving for a teacher at their school. Yikes! By the time I got home, it was about 7 pm and the pressure was on to come up with a decent (my daughter said it “must be really good”) cake by the next morning… I searched through several chocolate cookbooks, then dessert books, and most of the recipes either included ingredients I didn’t have on hand or just smacked of potential Marketman failure… I first decided on an icing, a simple chocolate and butter ganache like concoction that sounded way easy and yet looked superb…I figured if the icing was good, the cake quality would matter less… Then I spied a fairly simple sounding Devil’s Food Cake recipe in Maida Heatter’s “Book of Great Desserts,” for which we had almost all the ingredients in the house.

To make, pre-heat oven to 375 F. Butter two 8 to 9 inch cake pans and coat or dust with fine breadcrumbs. Melt 4 ounces (original recipe calls for 3 ounces) of unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler and set aside. Sift 2.5 cups of sifted all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons choc5of baking soda and ½ teaspoon of salt into a bowl. In your mixer bowl, beat ¼ pound of butter (1 stick, though I used 1.5 sticks) until softened. Add 2 teaspoons of good vanilla and 2.5 cups of dark brown sugar (I used muscovado), packed down and mix for about two minutes at medium speed. Add in three eggs, one at a time until fully blended. Beat another two minutes. Add the melted chocolate and mix. On the lowest speed, add half the flour mixture, then ¼ cup of buttermilk (I used milk), the other half of flour mixture and another ¼ cup of buttermilk. Then gradually beat in 1 whole cup of boiling water. Yes, that last step sounds odd. But it works. The batter will be really thin.

Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake on a flat cookie sheet in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until the tops are dryish and spring back when pushed against with your forefinger. Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 5 minutes, use a knife to separate the cakes from the sides of the pan and turn these over onto a plate or rack to cool completely. You may want to cut off any “pregnant” or “buntis” effect of the cakes – in other words, if you want a really neat and flat cake, cut off the bulges… Once cool, I covered these with foil and left them out on the kitchen counter until the next morning so I could frost them a few hours before they left for the “party.”

The icing was SUPER easy to make as well. It is now by far, one of my favorite two-ingredient miracle recipes of the year… I found the recipe in Fran Bigelow’s terrific book “Pure Chocolate” and choc6since I have a surplus of chocolate, this was the perfect way to use some of it… In a double boiler, melt 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 65%) in a double boiler. It’s best to first chop the chocolate finely so it melts more evenly. Then when it is all nearly melted and smooth when stirred, take it off the boiling water and turn off the stove. Slowly mix in 1/2 pound (two sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature that has been cut up into small blocks. The butter cannot be too cold or the glaze will seize up (if that happens, place it over the hot water very briefly), nor too hot or it will liquefy. Keep stirring until the butter is melted and you have a smooth chocolate glaze. Ideally, the mixture should be at 80-85 degrees F at this point. It is ready to be poured on the cake immediately…

This was, after all, my first home-baked chocolate cake in decades, so I must say I was out of practice. I thought I could wing it and not shave off the pregnant lumps in the cake and just cover the blemishes with icing… In other words, I had huge air gaps between the top layer of cake and the bottom layer. I poured the icing on the top of the cake and slowly brought it to the edge and had it flow down the sides. The top looked utterly brilliant. A smoother, silkier and shinier icing I had never made before. But the sides were turning into an utter disaster…kind of like the burial caves at Sagada where you could see into the sides of the cake. The icing was too thin to cover huge gaps. Quick thinking and a package of jet-fresh broas from Bohol provided the quick solution. I stuck broas all along the edge of the cake and it looked totally hotel-bakeshop-like. Add some squares of thick Lindt dark chocolate impaled into the top of the cake and I was amazed by the results… totally amazed. And better yet, The Kid said the cake tasted great and no one noticed the “cover-up” job!

So a week or so later, when we were trying to come up with a dessert for choc4the Anti-Valentine’s Dinner, we decided to make the same chocolate cake again to see if we had just been extremely lucky. Nope, it work brilliantly again the second time around. And this time I just let the icing drip down the sides and decorated the platters with fresh strawberries and served this all with a heavy cream. Yum. The oval cake with sugar sprinkled on top and berries all over was completely decorated by The Kid as she had her own guests over for Anti-Valentine’s dinner as well… Ah, all’s well that ends well. Super easy cake to make, it was light, chocolatey and moist. The icing was to die for. Oh, and don’t store this cake in the fridge before serving it for the first time as the cold air “dulls” the gloss of the luscious icing… And one final tip – if your strawberries are not the finest and sweetest, just put them in a bowl cleaned 9halve the larger ones) and sprinkle a scant one or two teaspoons of sugar on them and store in the fridge for 1-2 hours before eating. That tiny amount of sugar somehow draws liquid out of the berries and intensifies the flavor. The second photo above includes these “treated” strawberries. Don’t OVERDO the sugar, you just want to get the process going with a few grains of it… Perfect with the cream! And yes, the upside down heart straberry in the first photo was intentional…it was an Anti-Valentine’s Valentine’s Dinner after all… :)




  1. edee says:

    hi mm, this looks good! ….might try this weekend, question: this recipe make two cakes? (you used 2 cake pans), can i halved the recipe to make one?


    Feb 28, 2007 | 8:37 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    edee, its best to make both cakes, they are rather thin, and they are meant to be layered on top of each other…sorry, I should have stated that in the main text. You can also put more icing in between… or maybe a raspberry jam concoction… But best to have several layers for lightness. Actually, the original recipe called for three thin layers…

    Feb 28, 2007 | 9:01 pm

  4. sister says:

    Your oven temp. was too high, hence the bulges. For a perfectly flat cake wrap a long piece of folded aluminum foil around the outside of the cake pan, or buy a strip made for this purpose. Bake cake at 325F on the center rack and it will rise more evenly. To make buttermilk just add a tsp. of non-flavoured vinegar to the milk, it will counteract the alkalinity of the chocolate and make it rise.
    Easy gananche bring 1 c. of heavy cream to a boil and add 1 lb. chopped semi-sweet chocolate.Add 2 tbsp. butter. Remove from heat and stir until smooth, add 1 tsp. of vanilla. Cool until thick enough to coat top and sides of cake. I suggest putting seedless raspberry jam in between the layers of cake.

    Feb 28, 2007 | 9:06 pm

  5. millet says:

    sweet and scrumptious-looking! serendipity, c/o The Kid!

    Feb 28, 2007 | 9:11 pm

  6. edee says:

    thanks mm, that was what i’m thinking, “maybe he layered/sandwhich them”, just want to make sure…..salamat!

    Feb 28, 2007 | 10:09 pm

  7. Maria Clara says:

    Great cakes and well job done both you and The Kid! I love chocolates cakes in any form and substance but I cannot stand ultra sweet cakes. Dulce de leche is good filling for chocolate cake and goes well with the fruits too and makes great addition on icing too. I intentionally under baked my chocolate cake to keep them moist like 8-7 minutes of the suggested baking time. I take them out of the oven when there is still a speck of batter clinging onto the wooden skewer or cake tester instead of a clean skewer. Another 1-2-3 trick I do – I brush the sliced cake with simple syrup before assembling them for filling and icing.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 1:24 am

  8. kaye says:

    ooh.. love chocolate cake… i’ve never really tried my hand on it though… can you give me info on how to make dulce de leche since am scared to place a can of condensed milk inside a pot of boiling water hence it explodes and destroys the kitchen.. thanks in advance!!

    Mar 1, 2007 | 3:39 am

  9. Marketman says:

    kaye, I posted my shortcut dulce de leche recipe here. Yes, it is the condensed milk in a can submerged in water version and we have made it at least 15 times without incident…

    Mar 1, 2007 | 7:22 am

  10. asunta says:

    i love baking chocolate cake for my kids and have been the official baker for my sibling’s kids as well. my recipe calls for strong coffee. i brew 1 cup of strong coffee in place of the 1 cup boiling water. cuts the sweetness.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 7:49 am

  11. joey says:

    Thanks for posting this MM! I am a total disaster when it comes to baking light and fluffy chocolate cakes, which is why I stick to the more dense “flourless” types. But that is not to say I don’t try! I have gone through so many recipes, sometimes I think I may just have a heavy hand :( My helper at home once said, when tasting one of my chocolate cake attempts, “Ang sarap naman ng ube pie mo Jo!” Waaah :(

    Anyhoo, I will try this one! Sounds great and I hope I don’t massacre this recipe!

    Mar 1, 2007 | 10:49 am

  12. Chris says:

    MM, for the strawberries, a drop or two of balsamic vinegar with the sugar helps too. It adds a little bit of complex acidity to the sweetness provided by the sugar. Most people must have heard of this tip numerous times before- it’s almost “gasgas” in foreign culinary publications- but surprisingly, here in the land of tasteless, waterlogged strawberries, i don’t see it being done as often as i see it in magazines and cookbooks. The trick is to put just a few drops that will barely moisten the sugar (don’t make pickled berries! hehe).

    Mar 1, 2007 | 11:11 am

  13. lori says:

    MM, even though I’m an avid homebaker, I have never made a decent chocolate cake. Hard to believe, even though it’s not for wont of trying. There’s a certain kind of chocolate cake “taste” that I look for, and the ones I bake just don’t have it. Unlike my cheesecake, I think that everybody else’s chocolate cake is better than mine. Kudos on your cake! I better start boning up on this dessert. Boo will soon ask me to make her a homamde chocolate cake.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 4:06 pm

  14. Joy says:

    did u just happen to stumble of a heartshaped strawberry coz that’s just wild! haha very nice pic MM.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 9:36 pm

  15. Joy says:

    the of in my sentence meant to be “over” as in stumble over a heartshaped strawberry…. haha. sorry. my fingers type faster before i finish thinking.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 10:00 pm

  16. fruityoaty says:

    Whoah, two of my favourite foods – strawberries and chocolate! Incidentally, my last blog entry was on strawberries too.

    Mar 1, 2007 | 11:27 pm

  17. SimplePleasures says:

    MM, your cake look gorgous I’m a big sucker for chocolate cakes and might I add I love the heart shaped strawberry! It looks so yummy!

    Mar 2, 2007 | 8:46 am

  18. edee says:

    did this cake last weekend and it’s a success!, followed sister’s suggested oven temp and i didn’t have any “buntis” effect…had your chicken inasal as well, even if it was just grilled under the broiler it was still great!….so thank you again and thanks to sister as well :)

    Mar 5, 2007 | 6:01 pm

  19. wenchie says:

    hi marketman, i couldnt sleep thinking about those chocolate cakes. looks so yummy…

    Apr 30, 2007 | 11:09 pm

  20. angie says:

    hi mm! this looks delicious…will try this one.. your inasal chicken was superb.my siblings love it.

    May 6, 2007 | 8:09 am

  21. anna says:

    Hello. Where can I get Callebaut 65%? ALso how do you store your chocolate? I’ve placed mine in the fridge which made the outside whitish.

    Jun 12, 2008 | 4:54 pm

  22. Marketman says:

    anna, you might try cook’s exchange in the malls, or the baking shop wholesalers in mandaluyong, check my archives for “Baking Ingredients 101” and go read the comments that list several different stores you might try. Chocolate stored in the fridge does tend to turn white, I don’t know the exact science to it but the oils separate and solidify differently. If you will bake with it, the flavor should be fine. I store large blocks of chocolate in the pantry, without refrigeration. But this isn’t the eating chocolate.

    Jun 13, 2008 | 2:26 am

  23. Pauline says:

    What exactly is baking flour?? Is it different from all-purpoase flour or cake flour?

    Aug 5, 2008 | 4:18 am

  24. Marketman says:

    Pauline, good catch, I think I meant all-purpose flour. Though cake flour would make a lighter cake. I think the typo is related to the next ingredient, baking powder. Sorry for the confusion. I have corrected the main post. Thanks!

    Aug 5, 2008 | 10:00 am


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