‘Ultimate’ Chocolate Cake (and the scary world of cake decorating)

June 7, 2010


Back in the day, The Father use to dub me ‘rough-as-guts’ for two reasons. One was because I had a foul mouth, a dirty mind and I said what I thought. And two, because I lacked a gentle touch and tackled things like a neanderthal without a care in the world for consequences. I have the physical battlescars to prove it.


My rough ‘n’ tumble ways were also evident in my baking particularly with cakes. I am a firm believer in the ‘bake and dump’ method – bake the cake, dump the icing on and away we go as shown in many posts of mine. I simply didn’t have the patience for decorating, which is why I never bothered until now. Because sadly, my effortless method just don’t make for pretty cakes, and if it’s for a birthday, well, that is unacceptable.

But hey, this did give me an excuse to finally try making chocolate curls for the first time. And miracle! All ten fingers survived!


I’m not the neatest girl in the world but I managed to cut out three decent layers. And because it’s just my style, I nearly broke two of them (note to self – gently girl, gently!). I also didn’t have a cake decorating turntable so I improvised with a baking tray, a swivel-friendly mixer bowl and a wire rack. I’m so innovative and brilliant I could cry.




What an awesome contraption LOL!

Technically I didn’t really ‘ice the cake’ but I did what I do best… pour. I then used a a palette knife to push the ganache to the edge so it’d spill over the sides. One coating isn’t enough to gloss over the bumps and imperfections so do a couple until you have a relatively smooth cake, allowing for time to set in between. This one was a practice run so I skipped this step (and chose to nibble on the leftover chocolate instead).


A couple more layers should smooth things over on your cake

As for my first foray into the world of chocolate-curlage? Shite, it was fun. I spreaded melted chocolate on a chopping board and chilled it outside on a cold day (Mother Nature can be so helpful sometimes). Then I took out my biggest knife and got to work. It was all trial and error from there-on but eventually, I amassed a decent pile of delectable curls.


But forget the decorating part, what of the actual torte? Not unlike a mud cake, it was a perfect choice for my needs – sturdy, dense yet still delectably moist without the need for machinery and strenous arm exercise. Just melt and stir. It may not be as rich as this cake nor as beautiful as this. But it’s reliable and easy to make with guaranteed satisfaction.


Top off with a light dusting of cocoa and voila! My first attempt into the world of decorating cakes. Granted it’s still a little rough around the edges but then again, so am I.

And always will be.



Ultimate Chocolate Cake

(adapted from Good Food Magazine)


200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
200g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
1 Tbl instant coffee granules
125ml water
85g plain flour
85g self raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
200g light brown/muscovado sugar
200g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 eggs
75ml buttermilk*

*Note – if you don’t have buttermilk, add about 10ml of white vinegar to 65ml of milk and sit for 5 minutes. Ta-da! Instant buttermilk!


Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 22cm springform tin.

In a heavy based saucepan over low heat, place the chocolate and butter. Mix the instant coffee into the water and add to the chocolate. Gently melt together and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

While chocolate is melting, sift in the two flours, bicarb, two sugars and cocoa powder and whisk it to remove lumps. In a separate bowl, gently beat the eggs with the buttermilk.

Pour into the flour bowl, the chocolate mix and the egg mix. Stir together until just combined and pour into cake tin.

Bake for 80 – 90 minutes (1.20 – 1.5 hr) until skewer comes out clean and the centre springs back when lightly touched.

Rest in tin for 5 minutes then remove springform ring cool completely on wire rack.


200g good quality dark chocolate
285ml pouring cream
2 Tbl caster sugar

Break the chocolate into pieces in a bowl and set aside. Heat up the cream and sugar in a pot and bring it to just under a boil. Pour the cream into the chocolate pieces and sit aside for a couple of minutes. When chocolate has melted, stir gently to combine into a silky ganache. Refrigerate until it has thickened but still loose enough to pour.

To assemble cake

Divide cake into 3 even layers and use some ganache to sandwich the layers together. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake and use a palette knife to push it to the edges so it’d spill over and coat the sides. Use the palette knife to smooth ganache all over the cake and leave aside to set. Pour over another layer of ganache to smooth out the cake if it’s still bumpy (you’ll need a double batch of ganache for this). Decorate the top with chocolate curls (recipe to follow) or grated chocolate and dust with cocoa powder.

Print the recipe here

Chocolate Curls

Melt 200g of chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water. When chocolate has melted, pour over a chopping board or marble slab and use palette knife to spread it in an even layer, about 5mm thickness.

Leave aside to set (do NOT refrigerate it). Chocolate is ready when it has mostly set but not completely hard and still a little pliable. A good tip is make sure the chocolate has lost all the shine off the surface.


Using a sharp cooks knife at an angle of about 30° to the chocolate (with blade facing away from you), scrape slowly along the surface (again away from you). It’ll make your life easier if you place the board against a wall opposite you to brace yourself.

Did I mention, blade facing away from you? We don’t want any knife-in-gut incidents (ouch!).


Make sure the knife is relatively flat to the chocolate as possible. If it’s angled too deep you’ll just end up scraping chunks off the board. Like I did numerous times


Oops I done it again!


Best way to hold the knife is one hand on the handle and the other along the top of the knife to guide the blade. Scrape slowly to get a nice, long layered curl. If you go too fast, you’ll end up with shrapnel… like this.


As the chocolate cools and hardens further it will get a little more difficult so you could place the chocolate in an oven at the lowest setting to warm up the chocolate a little. Just don’t think about heating the knife up in hot water because it won’t help. You’ll just end up with melted chocolate underneath your blade.

Use skewers to pick up the curls and place on the cake. Or if it’s a bloody cold winters day, you should be ok to pick it up with your hand if you’re quick. Also be gentle. You don’t want to waste your hard work.


Chocolate curls should be alright to store in an airtight container for a week or two in a cool, dark place. In summer/spring, stick it in the fridge.