Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream - The Science behind a Moist Cake

Not blogging for months does not mean that I lost my passion for food. Oh no! Not in a million of years. In fact, I have been a bit more active on my second blog, Montreal Food Pictures, launched at the beginning of this year. Since a lot of restaurant food pictures are piling up on my laptop, I might as well showcase those too. Here is a glance of pictures of my new website.

As a scientist, I enjoy analysing, I enjoy breaking down problems into smaller pieces, understanding each part individually and solving them. I also do the same for recipes. Have you ever ask yourself why a recipe uses these ingredients, or are all these ingredients necessarily for this recipe? How about... why do you have to mix these ingredients in this order? What happened if you mix up the order? I do ask myself these questions, and sometimes I can tell if the recipe will turn out to be a disaster by simply reading it... Maybe because of my cooking experience and my knowledge in food science that I know...or simply instincts...

A few months back, I wanted to produce the moistest cake ever for my good friend Jorge. I have bake several cakes in the past for my friends' birthday although I always desired a moister cake. Now, I'm quite confident that this is THE moistest cake that I have ever made. How? Let me go through with you the secrets behind this chocolate cake recipe. Once you grasp them, you can apply these little tips to any other cake recipes. Don't be afraid to tweak any cake recipe, even mine!

It is all about knowing your ingredients, what is the central role for each ingredient? Also, it is important to know your basics. Have a look at the list of ingredients for this chocolate cake recipe below, three components are key to make a cake moist:

1. Fats like butter, yoghurt and oil are considered as tenderizers. They coat the proteins of the flour to prevent them from binding with water to form gluten. Developing a gluten network leads to a bread-like texture. A weak gluten network is the trick to make the cake soft.

2. Cake flour is a key ingredient, it has less proteins than all-purpose flour, and less gluten forms when mixing with the batter. You can make your own cake flour by mixing 7 parts all-purpose flour with 1 part cornstarch.

3. Cream of tartar and baking soda is a killer combination. Baking soda requires an acid for its activation. Any acid such as cream of tartar, buttermilk, vinegar, chocolate, honey, and/or molasses would do the job. The reaction forms bubbles of carbon dioxide in the batter making the cake lighter and puffier.

Make sense? The next time that you make a cake, consider applying all these tips. Let me know how it turns out.

Makes 2 11-inch cake
Preparation Time: 20 mins
Baking Time: 25 mins


2 cups boiling water
1 cup cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grease 2 11-inch round cake pans.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth. Let mixture cool.

4. Sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (like a whipping cream texture). Beat in one egg at a time, then add in vanilla.

6. Incorporate flour mix with cocoa mixture alternatively into the butter mix.

7. Spread batter evenly between two pans. Bake for 25 mins.

8. Meanwhile, prepare the Chocolate Buttercream Icing. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cocoa butter until creamy. Whisk in milk and icing sugar alternatively until it reaches a frosting consistency.

9. Remove cake from oven. Cool completely before releasing the cake. Frost génoise with chocolate buttercream.


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