I'm trying to create a chocolate cake recipe that will rise nicely and
have a fine moist crumb. It is to be used as a layer cake so it needs
to be sturdy as well. I've experimented with lots of recipes to find
the right flavors and now I'm trying to build up the "sturdiness
factor". I'm using traditional cake methods... beating butter and
sugar, adding eggs, etc.. The problem is that I've found I like the
taste of melted chocolate over powder. The recipe, as expected, turns
out flat because of the warmed melted chocolate melting the fat and
removing the air bubbles. I'm trying to drizzle the melted chocolate
into the flour/butter/eggs mixture, but it's still coming out
relatively flat. It tastes great and is moist but I'm looking for a
better rise. Can anyone provide any instructions?
Can't answer your question directly but what recipes have you been
using? You'll have to figure out how much fat, solids, and moisture is
in the chocolate you're using and adjust the recipe accordingly. I
believe that one square of chocolate is equal to 3 tablespoons of cocoa
powder plus 1 tablespoon shortening. For a chocolate cake I always hot
water in the recipe instead of milk. It brings out the flavor of the
chocolate more than milk does. I just dissolve the cocoa powder in the
hot water, let it cool, and then add it to the batter. A little bit of
coffee also brings out the chocolate flavor.
The simplest way to minimize loss of aeration .
Fold the melted chocolate into a quarter of amount of the total cake
batter; then fold that chocolate/batter mixture carefully into the
rest of the cake batter.
See the difference in result now....
By your description I take it you're using a creamed butter cake recipe as
opposed to a sponge recipe. Are you beating your eggs, either separated or
as whole eggs? If not this has a dramatic effect on cake volume. It's worth
noting that beating whole eggs seems to be easier, at least IME, because
folding egg whites into chocolate batter tends to result in reduced volume
because of the high density of the chocolate batter portion.
Now, for your particular problem there are steps you can take to minimise
deflation. First, make sure *everything* is chilled - flour, butter, eggs.
Since the butter mixture is going to be creamed it's not critical that the
butter be chilled pre-creaming, but rather post-creaming. You cream the
butter then put it in the fridge. I assume the recipe calls for creaming
the butter with the sugar.
Next, after melting the chocolate, let it cool. Chocolate stays fluid until
about 88F/31C. Get it down close to that temperature.
What happens next depends a lot on what the order of incorporation is. If
you're separating the eggs, you can (usually) stir the yolks into the
chocolate - and this will both cool the mix (assuming the yolks are at
refrigerator temperature) and emulsify the chocolate for slightly easier
incorporation. Mixing melted chocolate with beaten whole eggs, OTOH, seems
to result in poorer homogenisation of the chocolate.
If the creamed butter has been fully chilled you can quickly beat the
melted chocolate into the creamed butter. Use an electric mixer for this
task - the result will be pretty stiff because you will be aerating the
chocolate as well as the butter. After that, mix in your eggs (usually one-
at-a-time is slightly better) which should cool things down to a safe zone,
as long as you work quickly. Then you can mix in the flour which again is
best cold. The mix will be very stiff done this way - at least if you have
a high chocolate proportion - it won't be a batter so much as almost a
dough - the difference being that it's not as high density as what
typically gets called dough. The consistency ends up being pasty.
If you're folding in beaten egg whites, you will certainly want to stir
some of the egg white into the chocolate part of the mixture before folding
in the rest of the egg white. With this approach, you also need to keep the
chocolate mixture from actually solidifying. What I would do in this
situation is: Cream butter and sugar, mix in flour, chill. Stir egg yolks
into melted chocolate. Beat egg whites. Fold egg whites into chocolate
mixture (following the procedure above), then fold this mix into creamed
butter/flour mix. The flour should buffer the butter, and the egg whites
should reduce the density of the chocolate mixture enough to incorporate
into the flour/butter mix.
Another trick is to use unsweetened chocolate instead of semi-sweet or
bittersweet. Because it's got more concentrated flavour, you can have a
smaller mass and volume of melted chocolate for the same flavour intensity
and this also helps combat the melting problem. Be sure to use a quality
unsweetened chocolate - at least Ghirardelli, or better still Domori or
Be aware too that high cocoa butter ratios (which you will get by using
chocolate instead of cocoa) create a relatively drier texture. Thus to the
extent that you want a "moist crumb", using chocolate instead of cocoa
makes for more complex adjustment of ratios in order to achieve the
necessary result. You may want to do quite a bit of experimentation.
One poster recommended using baking soda as well as baking powder. This can
increase rise slightly if the chocolate you're using is un-Dutched, but if
it's based on Dutch-process cocoa, then using baking soda has little
impact. Dutch-process cocoa(and chocolate) is easy to recognise by its
extremely dark, almost black, colour. Natural-process cocoa, and chocolate,
has a much redder colour. I note for reference that the Ghirardelli,
Domori, and Cluizel unsweetened chocolates are all natural-process. Still,
using baking soda is at best a tweak.
BTW, I agree with you that chocolate gives a fuller, rounder flavour than
cocoa when used in cakes. There are times when it doesn't work as well -
e.g. in sponge or genoise cakes where the chocolate density inevitably
causes volume loss, but in a butter cake, it's IMHO the preferable choice.