Chocolate cake: deconstructed
I never really know what to expect when someone offers me a chocolate cake. My idea of a chocolate cake could be someone elseâ€™s brownie, a bakeryâ€™s flourless chocolate cake, or still another home bakerâ€™s sponge cake.
Iâ€™ve tasted many chocolate cakes that would be more correctly described as sponge cakes, soufflÃ©s, thick mousse with icing, and pudding in cake form. I have nothing against any of these, but they donâ€™t fit my definition of what a chocolate cake should be.
For me, a chocolate cake has to have structure â€“ it shouldnâ€™t be one big fudgy brownie slathered in icing. The cake should have â€œbite,â€ and a consistent crumb. The cake should be moist, an indication that it was mixed well, baked properly, and most importantly, not a week old. Iâ€™m not fond of eating cakes that are so dry it feels like my throat is being scrubbed with every swallow. Lastly, a good chocolate cake should have enough icing: ganache, marshmallow frosting, 7-minute icing, or simply the instant stuff from a can â€“ whatever it may be, there should be enough of it. A cake that lacks icing is like eating kare-kare without bagoong or peanut butter without bread. Sure, it tastes good enough, but why settle for good enough?
As long as itâ€™s a chocolate cake that I find difficult to stop eating, it doesnâ€™t matter to me what sort of â€œsecretâ€ ingredients go into it. Iâ€™ve seen recipes that call for really strange stuff like sauerkraut, beets, and even beer. Hey, if it rocks, then more power to the baker.
Iâ€™ve been working for a few months now on a quest to find the best chocolate cakes Manila has to offer. These cakes to me, define what a chocolate cake should be. Most importantly, these are the chocolate cakes that with one bite, made me weak. Flung into a state of chocolate cake-induced rapture, I ate a slice of each (though not all at the same time!) not caring, not sharing, eating the results with eyes shut tight to enjoy so delectable a moment undisturbed. Here they are in no particular order:
Irish Deep Dark
Chocolate Cakes from Chocolat
This little store in Quezon City is perhaps the best-kept secret of hard-core chocoholics. Called Chocolat: the Chocolate Bakerâ€™s Store, itâ€™s a tiny place that sells a mishmash of baking equipment and surprisingly, wines too. There appears to be no order to the clutter here, which gives the place a somewhat homey feel that I like.
All is forgotten however, once I lay eyes on the two chillers displaying the chocolate cakes. Obviously the star of the store, these are simple cakes, wet in their chocolate magnificence and enrobed in glistening fudge frosting. There are four kinds available, each differentiated by various sprinklings (chocolate chips, nuts, etc.): Classic, Kahlua, Irish, and Baileyâ€™s. You can buy the cakes in slices, six-inch and nine-inch rounds (P250-P360).
When I visited Chocolat, a woman was sitting at the lone table in the room generously icing individual cake slices, an enormous pot of ganache sitting beside her. So deep and inviting was this ganache that I had to physically restrain myself from dipping my finger into the pot while the girlâ€™s back was turned.
Despite the cakesâ€™ alcoholic names, the alcohol is barely detectable, so have no worries about feeding these chocolate delights to children or non-drinkers like me. Frankly, itâ€™s difficult to imagine a more honestly rendered chocolate cake.
Chocolate Cake from Starbucks
Alright, laugh if you must, but I unabashedly declare that Starbucks has some very good pastries, two of them being the butterscotch fudge bar and this chocolate cake.
What I like most about this cake — aside from its dense yet soft crumb, velvety icing, and intoxicating chocolate fragrance — is that I can have it any time I want since Starbucks is literally, everywhere. This is the cake I send my Bin out to get when everything else is closed and I have a cake craving that wonâ€™t let me sleep.
Available at all Starbucks outlets.
Callebaut Chocolate Ganache Cake from Dulcelin
Iâ€™ve recently waxed romantic about this cake — a cake that I nibbled and savored, the silky Callebaut chocolate filling smoldering my tongue. This cake defines my mouthâ€™s imagination at work.
Dulcelin also offers a simpler chocolate cake, the chocolate decadent cake with caramel sauce (P360/P650). A shinier, denser frosting playfully topped with whole walnuts is the perfect accent to the caramel sauce that you can serve on the side or as I do, douse on the cake.
36 Times Street, West Triangle, Quezon City
374-2165 or 67
Chocolate Ganache Cake from Karen Young
I first saw this cake (P550 / 9â€) on Antonâ€™s website almost two months ago but only got to try it last night for my sisterâ€™s birthday. The cakeâ€™s frosting is visually arresting, a design piped on by an intricate leaf tip â€“ veritable eye candy.
As for the cake, I might as well say, â€œHit me!â€ It packs a macho chocolate punch, all thatâ€™s missing is the leather get-up and the crack of a whip. Wah-pak! The crumb is soft, almost too soft. Completely immersed in its moistness, it has just enough structure to escape being categorized as pudding. An uninterrupted adoration at the temple of chocolate, this cake is whole and independent in its devotion.
Karen’s Kitchen (KEY Specialty Foods)
428 Adalla St. Palm Village
Chocolate Cake from Shoppersville Bakeshoppe
Unassuming in its blue and white striped box, this is a cake that sneaks up from behind and consumes you. Nestled beneath the glimmering icing is a feathery crumb and a cache of yema filling. Yema is egg yolks and milk cooked with sugar until thick, and formed into a ball. Here, itâ€™s the piece de resistance, the showpiece if you will, of the cake. Sweet and thick, it adds an unexpected flavor to the cake, and of course that delightful burst of yellow when you cut into the first slice.
This is the cake that I brought to my familyâ€™s Thanksgiving dinner. Defined by its understated deliciousness and simplicity, this cake is a winner on all counts, including its price â€“ (P260/P375 â€“ 7â€/9â€).
355 Katipunan Ave.
Loyola Heights, QC
426-1247 / 426-1246 / 920-8050