Chocolate cake

The ultimate treat

Chocolate cake is the monarch of desserts, bringing a smile to (almost) everyone’s face. Whether homemade, bought at a patisserie or eaten at a restaurant, it comes in all shapes and textures, but never fails to delight gourmets, young and old. With each chocolate cake we’re transported back to childhood, and the small remembered pleasure of licking the mixing spoon.

It was not until the end of the 18th century that chocolate entered the realm of cakes. For a century, it was a drink that the French court had developed a taste for when Louis XIII married Anne of Austria in 1615. In cakes, brownies, cookies, charlottes, tarts, soufflés, tiramisu, profiteroles or cupcakes, hot, semi-cooked or cold, we’re all crazy about chocolate.

A legendary dessert

The “coulant au chocolat” was invented by the chef Michel Bras in 1981. For he and no one else had the brilliant idea of ​​placing a piece of frozen ganache (a mixture of chocolate and cream) in the centre of a small iron mould lined with chocolate biscuit before putting it in the oven. Once cooked and removed from the mould, the biscuit, when broken with a spoon, lets the melted ganache flow out. The process of creating this chocolate dessert, whose simplicity borders on the sublime, was long and delicate, as the equilibrium between hot and cold is difficult to achieve every time. The coulantor fondant au chocolat remains the quintessential French chocolate cake and one of the most popular. Constantly copied, imitated and reinterpreted, because Michel Bras did not copyright the recipe that others had no problem claiming as their own.

First melt the chocolate...

All chocolate cake recipes begin with those words. According to the greatest chocolatiers, you need a quality chocolate bar, then gentle cooking in a bain-marie (double boiler) or in the microwave. Mix patiently, taking your time, until you obtain a liquid texture. The preparation must not exceed 30°C. Don’t make the mistake of adding water, because it hardens and crystallizes the chocolate.

Know your cocoa

For homemade chocolate cakes, classic chocolate bars are generally used. There are guides for cooks listing the percentages and flavours of cocoa ideal for this purpose. Which does not, of course, prevent you from taking a little bite for your pleasure. Professional French pastry chefs use only so-called “chocolat de couverture”. Made from cocoa beans, it contains twice as much sugar and cocoa butter. The requirement for making a gleaming ganache or icing. Like a good vintage wine, its flavour varies according to its origin and its environment.

A happy accident

*To obtain a ganache, cream, milk or butter – sometimes even all three – are heated and then poured boiling over the chocolate, while being constantly stirred. It’s said that a clumsy apprentice pastry chef uncovered the secret of this process by accidentally spilling boiling milk over chocolate. His boss, furious, called him a “ganache” – an idiot! The name was passed on to this gourmet preparation that serves as a base or finish for many chocolate cakes.

Did you know?

A good chocolate softens at human body temperature after about a minute, because the cocoa it contains melts at around 35°C.

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