The best chocolate cake recipes, tested

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I love chocolate cake. I haven’t always liked him, though – I’ve found him plenty for years; Too rich, too heavy Something And although I loved the flavor, I couldn’t take more than a bite or two. I realized over time that most chocolate cakes also contain chocolate cream, and I’m simply not an ice girl. Plus, and I know that’s blasphemy for some people, it’s simply too much chocolate. There are exceptions, of course, but in general I like a nude chocolate cake.

Somehow it came to my mind that I needed to find the perfect chocolate cake for my birthday (which is tomorrow), so I spent a good portion of May and June trying different recipes. Since I was already treating it as a competition, I decided to make this a cookbook presentation and share the results here.

I set myself some ground rules for the experience. No matter what size each recipe is designed to make, I will scale it up (if needed) to bake a single layer in my 9″ springform pan. I will not do any icing/ frosting/ glaze, nor will I include any optional add-ons. And I was going to use as close to the same ingredients as possible for all the cakes, so for example I used Ghirardelli’s Baking Cocoa for the cake that calls for cocoa, because I didn’t have enough good Dutch cocoa powder for all the recipes. I’ve also followed the method in each recipe as closely as possible, even when it’s my usual habit to do slightly different things (eg one recipe calls for a wooden spoon, as I’d probably use a paddle or paddle attachment, so I used the wooden spoon).

Cakes, Anika Baranti Klein pictures

For judging, the following criteria were used:

Piece of bread: Basically, what does the fabric look like? For these purposes, this includes the mouthfeel, but I will never use that word again, thank you.
Chocolate Factor: This is kind of a judgment on how to use the chocolate cake.
Children: I chose this for alliteration, yes, but it was also convenient to have my kids (ages 12-16) make each cake.

Chocolate Church Cake

Picture of a slice of church cake
Church cake, photographed by Annika Baranti Klein
Cheryl Day Southern Baking Treasury Cover

Cheryl Day Southern Baking Cabinet by Cheryl Day

Susie Dumond, author of the Cookbook Showdown, suggested I try this Cheryl Day recipe. I borrowed it from the library, and immediately added the cookbook to my wishlist because it’s a great read and my husband’s southern roots mean I always have someone to cook Southern food for (I’m writing this long before my birthday – cross your fingers I understood).

Piece of bread: This cake is somehow dense and light, which: ??? But it works really well.

Chocolate Factor: The flavor is so rich, undeniably chocolatey—and even if I didn’t bake it, I knew there was just as much coffee here as chocolate, which in this case is unsweetened melted chocolate. I might like to balance a little more in favor of chocolate. Just a smidge.

Children: Both rated this cake 4.5/5 and after several more bites one raised it to 5/5 and the other lowered it to 4/5

My rating: 4/5

birthday cake

Picture of a birthday cake slice
Birthday cake, photographed by Annika Baranti Klein
Book cover

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson

Nigella was the first culinary idol. Twenty years ago, I watched her show Nigella Bites Almost obsessively, I look to her as a clue as I figure out what I wanted my home life to look like (ironically, at the time I was living in an apartment without an oven). When I got this book (by that time I had an oven), I adopted her birthday cake recipe as mine, and when my kids were young it was their favorite cake.

Piece of bread: This is the only cake out of the four that uses butter, resulting in density (but not Difficult) crumbs. It was on the dry side too, but I can’t be sure if that was the recipe or my fault – I think I left it in the oven for five minutes too long.

Chocolate FactorThis cake contains cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate (melted) in the mixture. One way or another, it does not particularly taste like chocolate. This is a mystery to me.

Children: one 4/5, one 3/5

My rating: 3/5

Midnight Chocolate Cake by Laurie

Picture of a midnight cake slice
Midnight cake, photographed by Annika Baranti Klein
Cover Fat Acid Fat Fat Nusrat

Fat acid salt by Samin Nusrat

I first found Samin Nosrat on TV too, and this time a Netflix docuseries Salt fatty acid temperature. Although I own the book salt fat acid heatI haven’t made any of the recipes out of it yet, use it instead as a general guide to understanding Why Certain things do and do not work in cooking. Indeed, in the introduction to this recipe, I explain that oil makes cake crumbs more airy than butter, resulting in a mouthwatering flavor that is still reminiscent of the cake mix many of us grew up on.

Piece of bread: I don’t know where I messed up this cake–maybe in calculating how much of a recipe to use in my pan? – but although the toothpick came out clean as a whistle, it obviously needed at least another five minutes as the center sank almost immediately. I thought about re-baking the cake, but I didn’t because 1) the recipe could be to blame, and 2) delicious crumbs! I can almost pretend that the Fudge Y line passing through the center is intentional. The rest of the slide has that thick, light consistency that I love.

Chocolate Factor: This uses cocoa powder and optional hot coffee (it calls for coffee or boiling water, I choose mix). It’s a proper chocolate, with a great coffee flavour.

Children: Both 4.5 / 5

my review: 3/5 with a probability of 4/5 if you go out next time

Cocoa Yogurt Cake

Photo of a slice of cocoa yogurt cake
Cocoa yogurt cake, photo by Annika Baranti Klein
Snack cake wrapper for Yossi Arifi

Snack Cake by Lucy Arifi

snack cakes Everywhere. I first heard about it on my friend Catherine’s Instagram, where she posts her baked goods regularly. The book made a sense of no copies to be found for purchase when I decided to give it a try myself. Fortunately, I have a library card, and I was able to borrow the e-book and bake this chocolate cake, which is the one on the cover.

Piece of bread: This is honestly the perfect cake texture. It is as if the brownie was somewhat less moist without losing any of its positive properties or drying in less dense, but as light as air.

Chocolate Factor: This is just the right amount of chocolate flavour, and can only be improved by including the optional add-in of chocolate chips, stirred in just before baking. I might also add a teaspoon of espresso powder to mimic the flavor that enhances the other muffins you get from your coffee.

Children: one 4.5/5, one 4/5

my review: 4.5/5 and definitely 5/5 with extra chocolate


Yossi Arifi Cocoa Yogurt Cake snack cakes He is the clear winner, with a church cake from Cheryl Day Southern Baking Cabinet In second place (and my southern husband’s favourite). The four were easy to make and although I missed baking one of them everyone loved it and would try again without hesitation. The only person I will probably never bake again is Nigella from How to eatIt surprises me!

Check out past cookbook offerings, including pineapple upside-down cake, pumpkin pie, and buttermilk biscuits.

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