A really good chocolate cake recipe is one of those staple recipes that you need to have at the ready all the time…just like that tried and true fried chicken or chocolate chip cookie recipe that you can’t live without and can make with your eyes closed. Through my recipe research, I’m always coming across great recipes for so many different things, and when I come across one for chocolate cake that claims to be the best…well, you know I just have to try it.
I happened to come across this recipe on many different sites, and each one raved about how wonderful it was, so it really piqued my interest in trying it for myself. You can’t imagine how surprised I was when I found out that it was a recipe from the Hershey chocolate company!
I was never a huge fan of using Hershey’s cocoa powder in any of my baked goods because I always felt it was so anemic looking and never yielded the rich dark color I was always after in my baked chocolate products…especially in a chocolate cake. The key for a blacker than black chocolate cake is to use a high quality cocoa powder and one that is dutch processed with a high butterfat content (at least 22-24%).
Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed out from the cocoa beans and is then processed to remove much of the coco butter. The remaining solids are processed further to make a finely textured unsweetened cocoa powder which comes in both a natural or dutch processed (also known as red dutch processed) variety.
The natural cocoa powder is very bitter but gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods. It’s ideal for brownies and cookies because it is very acidic, so the use of baking soda will neutralize it causing a leavening reaction that causes the batter to rise when placed in the oven. Some of the companies using natural cocoa powder are Hershey’s, Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger.
The dutch processed cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali that has neutralized its acid. You need to use baking powder when using this type of cocoa powder. It will not react with baking soda since that too is an alkaline substance…unless there are other acidic ingredients in the recipe that warrant its use. It has a reddish brown color, is mild in flavor and easily dissolves in liquids. Its mild flavor is perfect for cakes and pastries. Some of these are Droste, Lindt, Valrohna and Pernigotti.
Some cake recipes use both cocoa powder and melted chocolate for a more intense chocolate flavor. I also prefer using oil in a chocolate cake instead of butter…I have found that the butter based cake tends to be drier if you use just cocoa powder. If you prefer to use butter, it is better to find a recipe that uses both cocoa powder and melted chocolate or just melted chocolate (usually unsweetened or bittersweet but sometimes semisweet).
To convert a cake recipe that uses bittersweet or semisweet chocolate to one that requires just cocoa powder substitute 1 tablespoons plus 1 ¾ teaspoons (9.5 grams) of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon (14.5 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 ½ teaspoons (7 grams) unsalted butter for every ounce (28 grams) of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.
To convert a cake that uses unsweetened chocolate to one that uses only cocoa powder substitute 3 tablespoons (18 grams) cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter for every 1 ounce (28 grams) of unsweetened chocolate.
You will find that when cocoa powder is used in a cake recipe, it is very common to see the powder dissolved in a hot liquid (either hot water or hot coffee)…this is done to bring out the full flavor of the cocoa.
I tweaked the amounts of salt in addition to the baking soda and baking powder since I used a dutch processed cocoa powder…so if you are going to use a natural cocoa powder make sure to use 1 teaspoon baking powder and 2 teaspoons baking soda as is called for in the recipe link above. I also increased the amount of vanilla to 3 teaspons (1 tablespoon) plus added 1 teaspoon of coconut extract which I find enhances the chocolate flavor. Do not use the coconut extract if you are using coffee as the liquid.
Trust me you will love this cake…
Cocoa powder conversion information taken from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible
Moist & Delicious Chocolate Cake (2-9” cakes)
¾ cup dutch cocoa powder (3 oz), sifted
1 cup hot water (fl. 8 oz or 7 oz by weight) **or strong coffee
1 cup buttermilk (fl. 8 oz or 7 oz by weight)
2 cups granulated sugar (15 oz)
2 large eggs (3.6 oz)
½ cup vegetable oil (3.5 oz)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract **do not use if you are using coffee
1¾ cups flour (9 oz)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved. Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined. Add the eggs, oil and extracts and mix again. Sift together all of your dry ingredients and then whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps. The batter will be thin, so don’t worry. Pour it into 2-9” greased cake pans and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean and the cake springs back when touched in the center. Allow to completely cool before frosting. You can also make this into a no fuss bundt cake as I did for quick snack time cake at home, and because it’s so moist, icing is optional.