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The Best Chocolate Cake

The self proclaimed best ever chocolate cake from James Morton. This showstopper of a recipe embraces dark chocolate, rich espresso and a pinch of chilli.

From the book

James Morton


I couldn’t get through this chapter without including a chocolate cake, could I?

Here, I want to show you how far you can go: the amplification of flavour that results from the aggregation of marginal changes. Sure, on one end of the spectrum you can whisk a tablespoon or two of cocoa into my standard Victoria sponge recipe. Or you can, from the ground up, taking the structural and flavour characteristics of dark chocolate into account, create a customised chocolate cake recipe.

I’m not saying this is ideal, I’m saying this recipe is what I want from a chocolate cake. Which isn’t what I want from a brownie or a chocolate torte, for example. The former I want like a slab of peat, the latter like crumbly compacted compost. This is different. A cake is altogether more formal. A cake should be an occasion. Then we add everything that has been shown to make chocolate better.

Although this cake has a raspberry element, it is there for sharpness rather than flavour. Similarly with the coffee – it brings out the chocolate flavour. The chilli powder imbues the cake with a mere tingle, almost like the warmth of alcohol. The yoghurt cuts through the bitterness of the cocoa. This is a chocolate cake.

Due to the whipped cream, it doesn’t keep brilliantly at room temperature, but it doesn’t take long to build from its component parts, so do steps 1 to 7 in advance and leave step 8 until just before serving.

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250g softened, salted butter
250g caster sugar
A pinch of table salt
100g good dark chocolate
4 medium eggs
a short shot of espresso (or 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules dissolved in hot water)
½ tsp hot chilli powder, optional
1 tsp chocolate extract, optional
200g natural yoghurt
100g high-quality cocoa powder
250g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
For the whipped cream:
150ml double cream
A dash of sugar and vanilla seeds or extract
For the raspberry ganache:
130g fresh raspberries
200g dark chocolate
pinch of salt
For the mirror glaze:
2 leaves (4g) gelatine
100ml double cream
100g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder

Essential kit

You will need a blender and two 8-inch sandwich tins.


Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4. Draw around two 8-inch sandwich tins onto baking paper and use these discs to line the bottom of each tin. Grease the sides well.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt together with an electric whisk or wooden spoon until light, fluffy and almost white in colour – this will take at least 5 minutes. Whilst you’re doing this, you can melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a pan of hot water on the hob.

Add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Then gradually whisk in all the melted chocolate. At this point, add the coffee, chilli (if using), chocolate extract (if using) and yoghurt and whisk them in too. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles.

Finally, dump the cocoa, flour and baking powder on top (using your fingers to disperse the baking powder into the flour) and fold them in as gently as you can. Pour the mix into your cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes on the middle shelf, or until springy and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the tins to cool whilst you make the fillings. For the whipped cream, whisk the cold cream, sugar and vanilla in a cold bowl until just coagulated. Cover and set aside.

For the raspberry ganache, first blitz the raspberries in a blender then pass them through a sieve to remove any bits. Place this purée in a pan with the salt and bring to the boil. Whilst it’s heating, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. As soon as the raspberry purée is boiling, add in your chocolate and mix together until smooth. Cover and leave to cool to room temperature.

For the mirror glaze, soak the two leaves of gelatine in cold water. Place your cream, sugar and cocoa in a pan and heat until just about boiling, stirring all the time. Once hot, strain through a sieve into a jug, then stir in the soaked gelatine. Set aside until needed.

All steps can be done in advance, but build the cake just before serving. Place one cake (the less perfect one) upside down on a plate or cake stand. Spread with a thick layer of the raspberry ganache, making sure you can see it at the sides. Then top this with the whipped cream, again making sure it nearly reaches the sides. Finally, top gently with the other cake. Reheat your mirror glaze in a pan or in the microwave to melt it, then drizzle it over your cake so it drips down the sides.

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From the book: How Baking Works

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