How to Make the Easiest, Most Impressive Chocolate Cake
Let professional baker and cake decorator Liz Shim show you how, even though you certainly don’t need to be either one to make this simple dessert.
Step 1: Bake the Cake
Making the cake could not be easier, and it all comes together in one bowl.
This cake starts with the main ingredient — chocolate. Semisweet chocolate, either chopped from a bar or chocolate chips, gets melted with butter to form the base of the cake. You can melt the chocolate in a double boiler or heat-safe bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, or you can take the easy route like Liz, and use the microwave. Simply zap the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments until thoroughly melted, making sure to stir in between increments.
And save that butter wrapper! It’s the perfect way to grease your cake pan so that your cake doesn’t stick. For extra security, dust a little cocoa powder in your pan after greasing to ensure no cake will stick to those edges and corners.
Then it’s back to the bowl to finish the cake batter.
Allow the chocolate-butter mixture to cool slightly — ideally while you’re greasing your cake pan — before adding the eggs so that they don’t scramble or curdle in the batter. A little sugar, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder, and the batter is done.
Don’t fret if it looks a little funky; it’s common for the mixture to slightly congeal once everything is incorporated, but just keep mixing until it smooths out. Since there’s no flour in the batter, you don’t have to worry about over-mixing.
Bake in a 300 degree F (150 degree C) oven for 30 minutes or until the top layer appears a little crackly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Step 2: Go for Ganache
While the cake is incredible on its own, Liz prefers to top hers with a simple chocolate ganache to take it over the top.
Ganache may sound fancy, but it’s just two ingredients: chocolate and heavy cream. The ratio of chocolate to cream depends on your desired thickness and intended use; a thinner ganache is great as a sauce or glaze, whereas thicker ganache is better for fudgy frosting or truffles. For this cake, Liz recommends a thicker ganache, so she uses two parts chocolate to one part heavy cream.
Just like the cake, this ganache starts with semisweet chocolate that can be melted in the microwave or a double-boiler. If using the microwave, again, zap the chocolate and cream together in 30-second increments until smooth.
Once the cake is cooled, you have two options: Transfer it to a plate if you want to spoon the ganache on like frosting, or onto a cooling rack if you want to pour the ganache on as a glaze.
Either way, using a cardboard cake round makes the process of moving the cake a whole lot easier. These cake boards can be purchased at craft or specialty cookware stores or DIY-ed by tracing the bottom of your cake pan on a piece of cardboard, then cutting it out. Since it’s a thin cake, it is delicate and can break otherwise.
Once the ganache is on the cake, use the back of a spoon or offset spatula to smooth it out and over the edges. Set the cake aside at room temperature or in the fridge until the ganache has set, then you’re ready to serve.
Step 3: The Finishing Touches
For the final flourish, Liz has a few brilliant tips to plate like a pro.
For a clean, perfect slice every time, you’ll want to have a tall glass of warm water, a sharp knife, and a clean kitchen towel on hand. Warm your knife in the water, then carefully wipe off any excess moisture before cutting into your cake.
It’s important to repeat this process and wipe off the knife after each cut, since this cake is super dense and leaves lots of crumbs on the knife. This ensures a sharp edge and perfect slice with every cut.
A sprinkle of flaky sea salt balances out the rich chocolate flavor, and a few tart berries round out the whole dessert. A little whipped cream or, Liz’s favorite, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, are the final touch to really give this dessert a fancy restaurant-style plating. Dig in and enjoy this dense and decadent cake!