Charles Dickens once noted that, “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate”. Inspired authors often have a knack for speaking truth in a way that no one else can. Surely all of us have great memories of sitting with our best friend, or friends, sharing laughs over a deliciously decadent slice (or two!) of our go-to chocolate cake.
Whether a cherry topped and richly textured Black Forest gâteaux or an exquisitely fluffy and deep crimson Red Velvet cake (the name alone says so much), chocolate flavoured confectioneries are no mere indulgence: instead, for many of us, they are a fundamental part of our lives. From childhood birthday parties to kitchen teas to baby showers to family gatherings over the holidays, there are very few important life events that exclude the appearance of a cake. And why not?
In the spirit of the deliciously indulgent, let’s take a look at some things that make chocolate cakes, simply put, wonderful.
1. Cacao vs Cocoa
Aficionados make quite a point of distinguishing between these two, especially because they have different health benefits and produce different flavours. Both cocoa and cacao come from the beans removed from the seed pods of the Cacao tree. When these beans are heated at a low temperature after being dried and fermented, cacao butter separates from the beans. These beans are then milled into a dark fine powder – cacao powder. When the dried and fermented cacao beans are roasted at a high temperature, and then milled, we have cocoa powder. As it stands, cacao is regarded as having many exceptional health benefits – so don’t feel guilty about giving into temptation…
2. The beginnings of the chocolate cake phenomenon
Until the mid-1800s, chocolate was primarily a beverage for those who could afford it. However, several inventive chocolate lovers developed methods that made the extraction of cacao and cocoa powder relatively inexpensive, thereby bringing chocolate to a wider market (and fortunately so). In 1879, my very favourite chocolatier, Rudolf Lindt, pioneered a process called conching to produce a smoother and more silky chocolate that could be used for baking. Thank-you Mr Lindt. This transformed “chocolate cakes” from white or yellow cakes to be eaten whilst sipping a chocolate beverage into the gorgeous items we know today.
3. German’s chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany
German’s chocolate cake is an absolute favourite the world over, and this is certainly understandable given its custard-based coconut and pecan filling (and frosting, for that matter). The occasional addition of delectable Maraschino cherries is also most welcome. The cake itself is from the United States, and bears the name of Samuel German. German developed a formulation for the dark baking chocolate used in his cake. Hey, most people didn’t know this either.