So many chocolate cakes, so little time…

6 Secrets of Successful Baking with Chocolate Revealed

Best German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Thanks for visiting Just Chocolate Cakes.  I’m Barbara, the owner of this site.  I’m also a mother, wife, baker, and a teacher.    I would like to accompany you in your search for the tastiest, moist, and just delicious recipes, share some of my family stories, and reveal some baking secrets.   Join me in my baking adventures!... more

I love chocolate, chocolate cakes, chocolate ice cream, everything chocolate.  After eating lunch or dinner, a dessert is a must in my family.   A chocolate dessert is what my kids want unanimously and depending on my baking run, they get it.   My motto is: Bake a chocolate cake (or two or three) per week and stay happy. 

Baking a chocolate cake from scratch could be very rewarding.  When you get the right recipe, your family or guests will be pleased, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like chocolate?   It’s like Will said in the “Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare - “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”  I had to laugh out loud when I read that. 


But I’m rambling.  If you are here, you obviously like chocolate.  Anyway, I hope that with my instructions and tips these homemade chocolate cake recipes will end in a wonderful and delicious cake. 

Check out these chocolate cake recipes:

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Recipe

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Recipe

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake recipe

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake

Chocolate Walnut Cake Recipe

Chocolate Walnut Cake Recipe



Finding cake recipes on the internet is easy, but sometimes the cakes you make don’t come out quite as promised.  I have collected some “secrets” that might help you with translating a cake recipe to the ingredients that you have readily available. 

6 Secrets of Successful Chocolate Cakes and Some Fun Facts

Below is some interesting reading that I compiled just for you.  It could be worth your time to quickly scan through it and pick a topic that might interest you.  Take a look!

Click for more topics on:
Measuring ingredients
Tips on how to bake a chocolate cake with no surprises
How to melt chocolate correctly
How to make cake flour
The right flour for the right cake
Understanding chocolate cakes
Fun Health Facts about dark chocolate

A word on measuring ingredients

I find baking not as forgiving as cooking.  You need to measure correctly, and the best way of doing that is with a scale, a metric scale.  A cup of flour has different weights when the flour is sifted, lightly spooned or dipped and swept.  In fact, here are the cold raw facts as described in the Cake Bible:

Cake flour                          Sifted                                  3.5 oz - 100 g

                                            Lightly spooned                4 oz – 114 g

                                            Dip and sweep                  4.5 oz – 130 g

All-purpose flour              Sifted                                  4 oz – 114 g

                                           Lightly spooned                 4.25 oz – 121 g

                                           Dip and sweep                   5 oz – 145 g

So, next time you bake a chocolate cake and the result is not what you have expected, then maybe your method of measuring was off.  I strongly suggest investing into a scale.  They are not expensive and they will save you from mishaps in the kitchen. 

How to make a chocolate cake without problems:
  • Make sure that you know your oven and that you can trust its thermometer.  Always have it preheated.  When the oven is too hot, the cake will have a peak, when the oven is not hot enough, it will have a sunken middle
  • Make sure you are using the right flour (look at the info below – link) and measure it correctly.  If not sure, use cake flour when available, or make one by adding some corn or potato starch.   Take a look below for instructions on how to make cake flour.
  • Try to use room temperature eggs and butter.  The ideal temperature of eggs and butter is 60°F and 70°F correspondingly.  When the eggs or butter is too cold resulting in cold batter, the cake will have poor volume and compact texture. 
  • Don’t use old baking powder. 
  • Chocolate cakes like to stick, so line the bottom of the baking pan with parchment paper:   Grease the bottom of the pan and line it with a round piece of baking paper.  Grease the paper and the sides of the pan. 
  •  Grease the pan with solid vegetable shortening rather than butter.   After greasing it, add some flour, tilt and shake the pan to spread the flour evenly.  If you use butter, it might leave gaps where the flour doesn’t stick but the cake batter will.   If you have access to Baker’s Joy (amazon link) use it. 
  • If you like, use baking strips (amazon) for very even layers and maximum height.
How to melt chocolate

You will find that most cook books tell you to melt chocolate in a bowl suspended over simmering water.  If you use that method you will need to watch out for couple of things:

1.       You will have to be extra careful not to get any steam into your melting chocolate, otherwise it will become lumpy.

2.       You will also need an adequate bowl or pot.  Ideally it should be copper, but who really has those?  You can use aluminum bowl lined with a non-stick surface or a heat-proof glass bowl.  I use a stainless steel bowl. 

3.       When you place the right container on top of your simmering water, make sure that the water is not touching the upper container.  Also, the water should not exceed 140°F. 

4.       Chocolate temperature should not exceed 120°F otherwise it will lose some of its flavor.  That is why you need to cut the chocolate into small pieces and stir constantly. 

Here is the method that I use, recommended by the Cake Bible (amazon), a must read for every baker.

1.       If you have a microwave, then all you need to do is break the chocolate into pieces and place them in a bowl (not metal) and set your microwave on high and melt the chocolate for 15 seconds. 

2.       You will have to take the chocolate out and stir, melt again for 15 seconds, stir, repeat the process until the chocolate has melted. 

I have a small microwave and my highest setting is 800Watts.  I am able to melt around 300g of chocolate for a full minute, take it out and use the residual heat of the chocolate to melt the rest.  Of course, if I have less chocolate I use less time. 

You might have to figure out your best way to melt chocolate on your own, but I hope that these basic guidelines will help you. 

Melting white chocolate could be tricky.  I would use a double boiler method here since you really should be stirring white chocolate continuously.  It can lump very quickly and I have destroyed a batch or two in the microwave.  So, when melting white chocolate, you have to be patient and really watch your melting pot. 

Make your own cake flour

If you don’t have access to cake flour (like me) you can make something similar to it.  It will not be exactly the same, but it will do.  For every quantity of cake flour needed take one eight away and add one eight of corn starch or potato flour.  So if a cake recipe requires 2 cups of cake flour or 200 grams then take 1/4 of a cup (25g) away of your all-purpose flour and add 1/4 of a cup (25g) corn starch. 

The right flour for the right cake

There are a lot of different baking flours found in the world, and depending where you live you might have access to one or the other type.  Here is a chart of corresponding flours that you could use when baking:

United Kindgdom

USA

France

Italy

Germany

100% whole meal

Whole Wheat

Type 150

Integrale

Type 1700

Brown

First Clear Flour

Type 110

2

Type 1050

Light Brown

High Gluten Flour

Type 80

1

Type 812

White

All-purpose Flour

Type 55

0

Type 550

Patent White

Pastry Flour

Type 45

00

Type 405

Notice that cake flour is not on the chart as it is not readily available in all countries.  Also, cake flour has different protein content (gluten) in different countries, hence it is difficult to compare.

I live in Germany and I use Type 405 but take away 1/8 of the weight needed and replace it with corn starch to get best results.  If you have more questions on this topic then please feel free to contact me.  I’ll try to add more information if it will be needed.

Understanding Chocolate Cakes
  • Baking chocolate cakes with cocoa is better than using chocolate since cocoa has more intense chocolate flavor.  Cocoa needs to be dissolved in liquid (water) to unlock the full flavor.   To compensate the toughening effect that cocoa has, chocolate cake recipes have more baking powder in them as other cakes.  
  • Baking soda is used traditionally to neutralize the acidity found in cocoa, but if your cocoa is processed like the dutch cocoa or “processed with alkali,” you should use baking powder, since the baking soda will leave a metallic after-taste.  So, when you bake a cake using cocoa powder, make sure that you understand if it is “dutched” or not.  Let’s say you have found a great recipe, but it uses baking soda and your cacao is alkalized, then for every ¼ teaspoon of baking soda substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder instead.  Never use a one-to-one ratio. 
  • Over the years, I have found my favorite chocolate to bake with – Milka bittersweet.  It is not too bitter and not too sweet.  I know that there are plenty of articles on which chocolate is the best for baking, but I have found that it is all individual.  If you like to eat the chocolate raw (not in cakes) then it will be just fine in a cake. 
  • In my research on this topic, I have found a blind test done by epicurious.com.   They identified that the best chocolate to use in cakes is the Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar, but the Baker’s Semi-Sweet All Purpose Baking Chocolate was just as acceptable.  The Baker’s chocolate was significantly cheaper, so I guess it could be a matter of a financial decision. 
Did you know that cocoa and dark chocolate is healthy for you?
  1. Cocoa makes us happy.  It has a lot of endorphins that make us feel good and strong.
  2. Cocoa has also a lot of serotonin, which is an anti-depressant, one that makes us feel calm and stable.
  3. Chocolate has a lot of antioxidants (eight times more than strawberries), which are responsible for the reduction of inflammation and fight cancer causing cells.  Also, they keep you looking young.
  4. Important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and copper are all found in cacao.
  5. It also has several vitamins including B1, B2, D, and E.

 

 

Conclusion:  Bake a chocolate cake per week and stay happy and healthy!

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