‘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.



{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Rumeshka November 18, 2013 at 06:00

Made this today, took less than three hours to finish very crumb… its really really really good… With my chocoholic family, I might have to make this at least every week.
Thank you soo much for this recipe…


Rashmi October 11, 2013 at 11:48

Made this for my husband’s birthday. Cheated by buying store bought chocolate curls and stuff -but the cake broke as I was slicing it up -and the result was a cake that looked like it has been decorated by a two year old! Luckily -there was a store bought cake that looked pretty enough to be cut. I kept the cake I had baked on the side -in case some one wanted it. My husband took a bite -so as not to hurt my feelings -and went mmmmmmmmmmm….. And the rest of the gang pounced on the cake -and before I knew it -there were crumbs left over :). I have got repeat requests for the cake!!! And the store bought cake is languishing in the fridge!! Thanks for the recipe!! This one is a keeper !!!

Btw -the carrot cake recipe is amazing too!!my search for the perfect carrot cake recipe ends here!


Claudia July 10, 2013 at 10:52

This cake looks amazing. Thanks for the advice on making chocolate curls and buttermilk. Buttermilk isn’t easy to find where I live so that tip is appreciated. I can’t wait to try out the recipe. :)


Clint November 13, 2012 at 13:02

Your chocolate cake looks amazing!!!! I changed the flour ratio to 3:1 (more self raising) on an 8 x 3 inch baking pan, mixed cocoa powder with water instead of coffee, with the remaining recipe exactly the same and it came out purfectt for me ;). I like the sugar caramelisation crunch on the edges and the cake raised nicely… The ganache made the moist and dense cake so heavenly. This recipe is a definite keeper for all chocolate lovers!!! And yes, good chocolate must be used to get it right!! ;)


Brooke and Mckenzie November 18, 2011 at 14:02

What a delicious cake!

I am trying very hard to not get up and start making this right now at 10 o’clock at night without any particular reason to be making a cake.



Citrus and Candy November 22, 2011 at 23:30

But any time is a good time for cake :) If I may make a suggestion, perhaps this chocolate cake would be more suited for late night baking?


Guillermo July 31, 2011 at 23:01

I prepared this chocolate cake for my spouse’s birthday and it was a great success! Thanks! I did notice that the cake is softer and easier to eat if it is slightly warm (10-15 sec in microwave per piece)


Zahra August 8, 2010 at 14:11

ooohh this looks really good!! You have a lovely blog btw!


kathryn July 25, 2010 at 04:42

truly inspired. I'm drooling right now! I stumbled upon your blog and love it. such amazing and delicious recipes (i haven't tried any out yet myself but am planning on it for a few)

kathryn ” target=”_blank”>http://www.thedragonsfairytail.blogspot.com


bowb June 20, 2010 at 23:36

that is truly beautiful sight. onya!


vicvickvicky June 19, 2010 at 01:51

I love cakes that are rough around the edges and VERY decadent looking, chocolate dripping, mouthwateringly BEAUTIFUL. I am in love.


Kristy June 18, 2010 at 22:42

This looks AMAZING! yummmmmm


grace June 18, 2010 at 14:21

they kinda look like cinnamon sticks haha!
verrrry nice work
let me know if u ever open up a cake shop =D


Laetitia June 15, 2010 at 13:13

your cake looks so good!!!!! smooth and chocolate glazed : I can't resist ;-)


Sarah - For the Love of Food June 15, 2010 at 10:19

I first made this cake for a friend who doesn't eat wheat or dairy (mostly) and everyone loved it so much that I am asked to make it nearly every time I go to a dinner at friends houses – not that I mind, I adore this cake. I think I must have made it about a dozen times and it works every time. What an amazing thing for the frosting to actually just be the raw cake mix!!


sara @ belly rumbles June 15, 2010 at 09:54

Looks great in all that chocolate goodness. The curls would of been fun, I have never tried making them.


Monika June 10, 2010 at 20:26

your attempt was very successful, the cake looks soooo gorgeous!!!


Kenna June 10, 2010 at 16:23

My mouth is watering from your photos! I enjoy reading your blog. I was first introduced to it via Daring Bakers/Cooks. I haven't been keeping up on DB since part-time culinary school is keeping me too busy, but nevertheless, I still like seeing what all the DB'ers are up to. It's coincidental, I just put up a similar post about cake-decorating as a child… .www.mickeydculinaryadventures.blogspot.com” target=”_blank”> ” target=”_blank”>.www.mickeydculinaryadventures.blogspot.com


Valerie June 10, 2010 at 15:20

Yep, my cakes are always “rustic-style” too because I'm terrible at all the fancy decorating! Someday I'll get it right. This one looks gorgeous and delicious to me!


Linda V June 10, 2010 at 08:18

I think it looks lovely and so perfectly chocolatey. Simple decorations that taste great are the best way to go sometimes.


choco lover June 10, 2010 at 07:48

this is a treat! amazingly done. you make it as if it is really that easy. :) very nice!


Conor @ HoldtheBeef June 9, 2010 at 23:46

The best part about doing stuff like this is all the leftover chocolate. And rough as guts girls have no qualms about stuffing all the leftovers in their gob.


Steph June 9, 2010 at 15:43

Beautiful cake!


jo June 9, 2010 at 12:58

Oh wow, I've had this recipe for ages now and have not managed to get at it yet. I definitely need to now that I have seen your end result. It looks so, so good and the chocolate curls look great too.


Lynzy June 9, 2010 at 12:57

Beautiful photos! Looks delicious!!


Chocolate Shavings June 9, 2010 at 09:11

What a perfect looking chocolate cake!


Cherine June 9, 2010 at 07:36

Gorgeous cake!! Looks moist and rich!!


SimonFoodFavourite June 8, 2010 at 11:05

looks great. are you a full time cake maker and decorator now because all i see is cakes on your blog now? if you need help finishing them off you know who to call ;-)


Mark @ Cafe Campana June 8, 2010 at 10:34

Great looking cake. I would hate to see your chocolate bill :)


john@heneedsfood June 8, 2010 at 07:03

Those choc curls really make the cake. Not bad for a rough chic!


Ladybird June 8, 2010 at 04:18

There's nothing rough looking about that cake – it looks superb! :) Besides, there is perfection in imperfection, no?


MiMu June 8, 2010 at 03:54

I was just gonna bookmark your Eve Chocolate cake when i saw this!

The cake is calling out to me!

Thanks for sharing.. will be baking this real soon ;)

ps : love your blog!


Katie June 7, 2010 at 16:23

Looks divine! A very moist and rich chocolate cake and you can't go wrong with ganache!


mlle délicieuse June 7, 2010 at 14:02

I think we love you and the cake just the way you are – rough edges and all =)


Lemonpi June 7, 2010 at 10:15

It looks like a combination of wonderful and wicked at the same time. Just like you, I suspect. ;)


Emma @CakeMistress June 7, 2010 at 10:12

Thanks for the chocolate curl how-to. They look fabulous, as does this wicked choc cake.


Jacq June 7, 2010 at 09:45

you've been putting up some delicious looking chocolate cakes lately! too many for me to keep up! but i love the chocolate curls and the layering – i can never slice cakes horizontally properly =P


angie June 7, 2010 at 08:11

Pffft sif it's your first time =p Great job Karen! Yumyum!!


food.4.two June 7, 2010 at 06:48

That is one beautiful cake. And the chocolate curls just top it (literally too! :))


Betty@The HungryGirl June 7, 2010 at 06:34

This is absolutely gorgeous! You're a pro!


forager June 7, 2010 at 06:18

I know heaps of chocoholics I can send this to and have them licking their computer screens… Looks like death by chocolate


Laura June 7, 2010 at 05:30

i cant believe how stunning this looks. the curls look stunning


FFichiban June 7, 2010 at 05:16

Absolutely amazinnngg!! Very well done all nice and delicate.
But what do you mean by had a foul mouth, a dirty mind and I said what I thought :P hee hee jkjk


bake in paris June 7, 2010 at 04:17

So rich and sinful! Beautiful photographs too :-)

This month I will be the judge for DMBLGIT. Hope you could participate in this event by sending your blog photo. To enter visit… http://snacksgiving.blogspot.com/2010/06/dmblgit-


Kelly June 7, 2010 at 01:50

This is gorgeous! And it looks delicious. All I need is a big glass of cold milk. I really love the tutorial on the chocolate curls. Thanks!


linda June 6, 2010 at 23:31

Karen your ultimate cake looks incredible. I'm loving your experiences with cake decorations. I'm just started that as well and realised that it may be daunting at first, but it's quite fun to do.


Camila June 6, 2010 at 23:18

Looks wonderful! What's pouring cream? Can I use demerara sugar in spite of muscovado?


citrusandcandy June 7, 2010 at 04:17

Thanks Camila!

Pouring cream has 35% fat content and is equivalent to 'single cream' (also 35%) or 'whipping cream' (around 35-36%).

As for the sugars, soft brown sugar is the best substitute for muscovado but demerara can still be used. But since it's larger granules, you'll either have to grind the sugar in a food processor so it's finer or beat the cake more to break it down (not ideal, might affect the cake texture). Hope this all helps!


Nicolai June 6, 2010 at 23:15

Instead of bothering to melt the chocolate and spreading it on bakingsheets before making curls, i normally just get good quality chocolate in rectangular packs (dont know how chocolate is sold in you country though) and use the knife to make curls straight of the back of the chocolatebar!

and btw. moving the knife towards youself as you make curls, is way easier and not even remotely dangerous, unless you let your children do it :)



citrusandcandy June 7, 2010 at 04:05

…or me! I'm such a klutz, I'd be too scared to try the other way. But if you say it's fine, then maybe one day I'll try… eek. And good tip about the block!


Steph June 6, 2010 at 22:14

LOL 'rough-as-guts' Karen. I think that has a nice ring to it :) Hehe liking the sound of your makeshift cake turntable. The chocolate curls are perfect and the cake looks divine!


Kaitlin June 6, 2010 at 22:10

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous cake! I often find that decorating cakes is my least favorite part of baking, but I'm so damn anal that I feel like all my cakes aren't finished until they're smoothly coated in buttercream.

But lords knows that I'm anything but smooth, myself. I've got quite a mouth and am even more dirty-minded than a lot of my male friends ;)


chocolatesuze June 6, 2010 at 22:05

i think im in love..


Kristin June 6, 2010 at 21:57

The cake looks delicious and beautiful. And that's a great tutorial for chocolate curls. Thank you!


Jenny June 6, 2010 at 21:46

I think it looks great!


Maria June 6, 2010 at 20:07

This is great Karen! I'm with you in the decoration department and curls are the way to go for me too, I don't have the patience for the fiddly stuff! This cake looks so moist and delicious! Buttermilk makes cakes so soft, it's a great ingredient :)


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