“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot
for a lot of people; it does for me.”
Today, January 27th, is National Chocolate Cake day! I thought it would be nice to have a little history lesson on this decadent dessert. I will be celebrating to the fullest extent that my clothing will allow. Yum!
The history of chocolate cake goes back to 1764, when Dr. James Baker discovered how to make chocolate by grinding cocoa beans between two massive circular millstones.
In 1828, Conrad Van Houten of the Netherlands developed a mechanical extraction method for extracting the fat from cacao liquor resulting in cacao butter and the partly defatted cacao, a compacted mass of solids that could be sold as it was “rock cacao” or ground into powder.
The processes transformed chocolate from an exclusive luxury to an inexpensive daily snack. A process for making silkier and smoother chocolate called conching was developed in 1879 by Swiss Rodolphe Lindt and made it easier to bake with chocolate as it amalgamates smoothly and completely with cake batters. Until 1890 to 1900, chocolate recipes were mostly for drinks.
The Duff Company of Pittsburgh, a molasses manufacturer, introduced Devil’s food chocolate cake mixes in the mid 1930s, but introduction was put on hold during World War II. Duncan Hines introduced a “Three Star Special” (because a white, yellow or chocolate cake could be made from the same mix) was introduced three years after cake mixes from General Mills.
In the U.S., “chocolate decadence” cakes were popular in the 1980s; in the 1990s, single-serving molten chocolate cakes with liquid chocolate centers and infused chocolates with exotic flavors such as tea, curry, red pepper, passion fruit, and champagne” were popular. Chocolate lounges and artisinal chocolate makers were popular in the 2000s. Rich, flourless, all-but-flourless chocolate cakes are now standard in the modern pâtisserie,” according to The New Taste of Chocolate.
Here is a recipe for chocolate cake from the modern master of chocolate, Jacques Torres!
Jacques’ Easy Chocolate Cake
- 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 1/2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 Cup plus 3 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar (6 ounces)
- 2/3 Cup of water (5 ounces)
- 6 ounces of softened butter
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 Cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar (3 ounces)
- 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, melted, optional
- 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat a 10-inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a 10-inch parchment paper circle. Coat the top of the parchment paper circle with vegetable cooking spray.
- Place both chopped chocolates in a bowl and melt over a double boiler. Combine the sugar and water in a 1-quart saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil until all of the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot syrup into the bowl of melted chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is homogenous. Add the butter and whisk until well mixed.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Be careful to mix gently.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place a baking sheet with 1-inch sides in the oven. Place the filled cake pan on the baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with water so the water covers the bottom inch of the cake pan. Bake until the cake surface appears dull and taut when pressed in the middle, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the cake pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Turn off the oven and let the baking sheet and water cool before you attempt to remove them.
- Decoration: If you would like to decorate this cake, you can make chocolate fans or shave a block of chocolate with an apple peeler. To make chocolate fans, stir the vegetable oil into the melted chocolate. Spread a thick layer of the chocolate mixture onto a marble or granite surface (or use the back of a cold baking sheet). Using a triangle, push across the chocolate surface in a curving motion. Place your thumb on one corner of the triangle as you push to catch the chocolate. The result should resemble a chocolate fan. This takes a little practice and not every fan you make will be usable. Have fun with it!
“Let them eat cake.”