How do I get a rich, moist, moist chocolate cake that Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda would be proud of?
Katie, London N17
“The key to most moist cakes is adding oil,” says Phil Khoury, author of A New Way to Bake. This could come, he says, by replacing “up to 50 percent” of the butter in a recipe with neutral oil or substituting it entirely, the reason being that “oils are liquid at both the temperature of the refrigerator and at room temperature, while butter must be above 25°C for it to take on the attributes you associate with a moist cake. Plus, as butter starts to solidify, it has a drying effect on cakes, so having a little oil in it will help soften things, Khoury adds.
There is, of course, no butter involved in Khoury’s vegan take on the theme. “I use olive oil, but not a lot, especially when you don’t use eggs.” As a general rule, “it takes a lot of fat to soften the gelling effect of eggs and flour, so if you don’t have eggs to deal with, you can use up to 60% less fat “. To lighten things up, he includes apple cider vinegar: “It activates the bicarb and gives it that pre-bake effect, then the baking powder does the rest of the leavening in the oven.” »
Georgina Hayden, author of Nistisima, adds yogurt and milk to her oil-based sponge. “It comes from red velvet cake, which traditionally uses buttermilk,” she explains, although this is not as readily available in the UK. “The yogurt imparts acidity and reacts with the leavening agent to help the cake stay moist.”
Few things are more disappointing than a chocolate cake that doesn’t taste like chocolate, but luckily you can guard against such a tragedy. Firstly, cocoa powder is essential for Khoury, Hayden and Guardian columnist Ravneet Gill, while Tarunima Sinha of My Little Cake Tin bakery also adds melted chocolate: “If a recipe uses 200g of flour, I melt 200 g of chocolate with my butter.”
You’ll then want to add dark brown sugar or muscovado sugar to the mixture — “This deepens the flavor,” says Khoury — and coffee mixed with boiling water “to help enhance that chocolate flavor,” says Gill, whose the new book, Baking for Pleasure, comes out in December. Sinha also suggests considering baking time: “Just like brownies, if you bake a chocolate cake for five to seven minutes, depending on your oven and how long you cook it, then it will be moist. »
A ganache frosting, on the other hand, never fails to make you abandon all dignity and start squishing the cake in your mouth Bogtrotter style. Hayden heats 200ml of cream “until it is very hot but not bubbling”, while Gill also adds malt extract or molasses to “give more elasticity to the texture and enhance the taste “. Hayden then pours the cream over 200g chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and leaves it undisturbed for a minute. Starting from the middle, she stirs in one direction, “until the chocolate is melted and shiny,” then lets it sit for 30 minutes to thicken a bit. “It will then contain nuggets,” says Hayden, ever sensible. These were sorely lacking when Cookie was created at Crunchem Hall.