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Level up your chocolate cake with these expert hacks

By Guntas Sethi
Level up your chocolate cake with these expert hacks

Baking is all about precise measurement and accurate temperatures. Understand the science behind baking and you are on your way to baking the perfect chocolate cake, every single time. A chocolate cake is the way to anyone’s heart and a perfect chocolate cake recipe is the ultimate dream. There are a bajillion recipes on the internet that claim to give you the perfect chocolate cake. But are they foolproof?

Baking tips and tricks for a perfect chocolate cake

Oftentimes despite the best intentions, mistakes happen and they can prove to be a costly affair, especially when you have a cake in the oven. That is why I bring to you my best baking tips and tricks that will guarantee perfection every time. The secret is not a recipe; rather a bunch of techniques that help make a cake soft and fluffy or dense and moist. It really depends on what you are looking for. Follow these simple guidelines and thank me later!

Keep an eye on ingredients and their proportions.

Baking the perfect cake is all about the right ingredients and proportions. Always follow a tried and tested recipe from a reliable source. A good hack is to use an electronic scale to measure the ingredients. While using standard cups is an accepted practice, humidity and other factors can affect how much of an ingredient should be used. Also, it can be tricky to decide if you should heap your ingredients or pack them in the cups. For these reasons, weighing your flour, butter, and sugar can make life much easier!

Eggs are an integral part of cake-baking. But if you want to bake an eggless cake, I recommend that you follow an eggless cake recipe rather than playing the guessing game by adding in egg substitutes like buttermilk or flax eggs.

Finally, skipping on small additions like that pinch of salt or sprinkle of espresso powder can make or break perfection. They are the secret ingredients in a perfect chocolate cake recipe. Salt elevates chocolate, and it will balance the sweetness in a dessert. You get an added flavor dimension by adding coffee to your chocolate cake. A must-do, in my opinion!

Yes! There is such a thing as ideal temperature!

Most recipes will call for ingredients at room temperature. So if you forgot to take the eggs out of the refrigerator, then wait! Temperature shocks can kill your cake batter. Leaving the ingredients on the counter for a good 25–30 minutes before mixing is a golden rule that must not be broken. If your recipe calls for a preheated oven, then do it! Sticking your cake pan into a cold oven will affect your cake texture. Optimum temperature helps a cake rise, resulting in a perfectly baked cake.

Sifting and whisking your dry and wet ingredients


Caption: The crackly top on a brownie is the result of the egg-beating process. The more you beat your eggs, the more crinkly the top of your brownie will be.

Don’t forget to sift! Always sift the dry ingredients before mixing. This is to ensure that there are no leftover lumps that may have formed over the course of storage of the ingredients. Having unmixed baking powder or baking soda can ruin a perfectly good cake. It is a good idea to sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder in your mixing bowl. Use a whisk to incorporate all the elements before pouring in the wet ingredients. Another common mistake is overmixing a cake batter. Mix until everything is incorporated. Then, STOP! Overmixing will result in a dense cake, instead of an airy one.

Yes, there’s a difference: baking powder vs baking soda

As a baker, it is a good idea to know the difference between these two raising agents. While they can be substituted, you must know how they differ. A basic difference between the two is that baking soda requires acid and liquid to get activated, while baking powder just needs liquid to be activated. Baking soda also helps increase the PH levels and reduces gluten in a recipe. For every teaspoon of baking soda, you can replace it with three teaspoons of baking powder. To guarantee that a rises sufficiently, use both raising agents mindfully. It is a good practice to check the expiry dates on your baking powder and soda packets if your cakes come out flat.

Get on top of your icing game.


Caption: Fresh fruit toppings work best on a completely cooked cake

There is no better way to enjoy a chocolate cake than with a beautiful chocolate glaze. But chocolate tends to burn easily, and if you don’t use the correct techniques to make your glaze then you might just end up with a lump of burnt chocolate. To avoid this, use the double boiler method to melt your chocolate. This is the simplest way to melt chocolate using a heat-proof bowl. Always keep the flame low and let the chocolate do wonders for you.

Make sure that your cake has enough time to set and cool down before you begin glazing or frosting it. My favorite frosting for a chocolate cake is a rich and creamy buttercream, but you can use any icing of your choice. Top with freshly sliced fruits, a luxurious chocolate ganache or even dollops of whipped cream. Looking for other ideas? Check out our post on cake frosting.

Finally, here is a pro-tip: To moisten a dry chocolate loaf, try drenching your cake in chocolate milk instead of plain milk to avoid the loaf from drying out. The chocolate milk will give your cake an added boost of ‘chocolatiness’!

Common Mistakes to avoid while baking a cake

  • Avoid temperature shocks by using ingredients at room temperature. Excessively hot or cold ingredients can ruin your cake.
  • Check expiry dates for packaged ingredients like baking powder and baking soda.
  • Do not substitute ingredients unless you have a good understanding of how they affect the baking process.
  • Never frost a cake fresh out of the oven. Allow it to rest on the counter and cool down before you get artsy with the frosting.
  • Avoid opening the oven frequently as this leads to heat loss. For an evenly baked cake, you need to ensure that the ideal temperature is maintained in the oven.
  • Do not approximate or substitute ingredients unless you are a pro!
  • Avoid using a cake tin that is too small or large for your cake.
  • Remember to grease your pan or use parchment paper to line your cake tin. There is no greater heartbreak than baking a perfect cake that refuses to leave its cozy tin!

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