Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate is a remarkable food. It is derived from a tropical tree and is transformed from a bland seed to an exceptional product. Its consistency can range from hard, brittle, crisp to melting, creamy, dense and smooth. It can be sculpted into almost any shape with any texture.

Chocolate is a luxurious and indulgent product. If you are a Polar explorer or a mountaineer on the way to conquering Mt. Everest you may need to eat chocolate as a source of energy. How many of us are explorers and mountaineers, but despite not being explorers we can, and do, enjoy our chocolate. This may be in the form of a mass produced factory made simple bar or stick like a Kit Kat or 5 Star or Toblerone or a much more fancy, though as delightful, handmade chocolate or chocolate desert. Either way it’s an indulgence, its an aspirational product. Every mithai wants to grow up and become a chocolate.

One of the nicer indulgences is a Chocolate Cake. Everybody loves a good Chocolate Cake. What is a good Chocolate Cake? I believe it’s one that is made with decent chocolate, real eggs, real butter and cream. None of the eggless, Soda Bi Carb or Eno Fruit Salt or, horror of horrors, Coca Cola, versions please. Those are best enjoyed by the Jains, Shahs and Khandelwals. When I say decent chocolate, I meant two things. One is that it should real chocolate and not what is known as Compound Chocolate. Compound Chocolate is a less-expensive non-chocolate product replacement made from a combination of cocoa, vegetable fat, and sweeteners. This is often used in lower cost chocolate products. It costs less than chocolate, as it uses less expensive hard vegetable fats i.e. Dalda type fats and tropical fats such as Coconut and Palm oil in place of the more expensive cocoa butter as its fat source. This is quite a disgusting product, but most people in Mumbai use compound chocolate and not real chocolate. To make matters worse, they dilute this with water. The second is that as far as chocolate goes, the real chocolate, you should use a good tasting brand. In Mumbai the thoroughly decent  brand Morde which costs Rs 160/- for a ½ kg pack is an excellent choice. If you like, you could go as upmarket as you want and use the gold standard of cooking chocolate – Valrohna. This costs Rs. 1,800/- a Kg in the UK. I have no idea how much it costs here or even if it’s at all available. A decadent icing [or frosting as the Americans say] made with lashings of Rum or Brandy or even a Liqueur, say, Grand Marnier or Crème De Menthe makes the cake a bigger delight. I prefer to not use artificial flavours which are far cheaper. A layer of fruit sandwiched between two slices of cake will do nicely.

The un -adorned cake 

HRH the Queen, is a qualified patissier from Le Cordon Blue in London. We often bake the Chocolate Mousse Cake from Michel Roux’s book `Desserts’. It is a truly delightful cake, simple to make and delightful to eat. Moist, rich, intensely chocolaty and wonderfully aromatic. Being midweek, we were both a bit bored and thought why not spend a couple of hours baking a couple of cakes and give them away to some of our regular `victims’. Strawberries are in season and literally sold by the basket load, so we thought we should make two layered Chocolate Sponge Cake with a Strawberry compote in between, all covered with a rich Chocolate Mousse. I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and cost the ingredients so we used to try and figure out just how much it costs and how much profit the cake shops are making.

Armed with a pen and paper, to make a note of prices, we set out to Pali Market to buy the ingredients. It was a short list, eggs, strawberry, Morde Chocolate, cream, milk, flour [maida], sugar and cocoa powder.

The cake itself consists of 3 elements. A chocolate sponge, Chocolate Mousse and Strawberry compote. You could use oranges instead of the strawberries.

The trick with the sponge is to ensure that the cake is moist. To do this you should spread flavoured sugar syrup on the sponge while it is still warm and before the cake is assembled. We used the juices from the strawberry compote as explained in the next paragraph.

The Strawberry Compote is dead simple to make. It is basically a jam that is not fully cooked. Simply wash and hull the strawberries, half them and put them in a pan. Add some sugar and heat. Once the sugar has melted and the strawberries have released some juice you could taste the juices and adjust the sugar. If you like at this stage add some cornstarch slurry and thicken the whole thing. Or, you could drain the strawberry and use the juices to moisten the chocolate sponge. We used this strawberry syrup in addition to simple syrup of equal quantities of sugar and water to make the sponge really moist and flavourful.

The Mousse used in the cake is quite unique. It’s used a lot by the French patisseries and is intensely chocolaty. It’s a combination of equal quantities of Crème Anglais [which we call custard made with milk, sugar and eggs] whipped cream and chocolate.

750 grams of Morde Chocolate


We ended up baking 2 cakes each weighing 2.1kgs. One of these cakes was delivered to my former office. We received many ecstatic messages from my colleagues that evening while they ate the cake. The photos of the cut cake are taken on a mobile phone by one of the boys.

I am not going to burden you with the recipe. If you want it do let me know. I will happily give it to you.

No, I have not forgotten. Do you want to know how much the 4.2kgs of cake cost to make? The costs of the ingredients are below. How much do you pay per kilo when you buy a Chocolate cake? A lot, lot more isn’t it? No wonder there is so much money in Mumbai; you are giving it to a cake maker!!! And this is the costing for a cake made with the best possible ingredients. No margarine instead of butter and no compound chocolate instead of the real thing. I do not know if you can get the same assurance from most cake shops. The cost should surprise you.

Cost for 4.2 kgs of Chocolate Mousse Cake with a Strawberry Compote

Cost in Rs

Crème Anglais

500 ml
125 gm
Egg yolks


70 gm
250 gm
250 gm

Compote and Mousse

1 kg
350 gm
600 gm
Cocoa Powder
100 gm
600 gm


Cake box

Electricity Gas  


Total cost for 4.2 kgs

Rs. 950.50
Cost per kg

Rs. 227.00

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