Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dan Lepard's Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake

I'll be honest with you.  I got cocky.  Having made 26 other Dan Lepard recipes, I figured I could write the best part of this blog before even attempting the cake and then just stick in some pictures when it was finished and get an early night.

To sink one is careless...
And here I am, writing it all again. Because it was a complete and utter disaster.  I was supposed to be making a special chocolate cake as a gift for an old colleague of mine.  So where better to turn than Short and Sweet, I thought?  No matter what I've made before, I've always had good results.  And even when I thought I had a good recipe beforehand (like with lemon cakes and banana cakes) when I've made a Lepard one, it's just taken the game to a whole other level (see Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake and Bare Banana Cake).  Not so with this one.

I just don't seem to have much luck with chocolate cakes.  I didn't like Nigella's chocolate cake.  I was disappointed with the Hummingbird chocolate cupcakes.  I don't want to tempt fate, but I've always had very good results with brownies.  But I can't hand on heart say that I've found a chocolate cake recipe that  does it for me.  My go-to recipe is the BBC Good Food Ultimate Chocolate Cake and I only didn't make that because of the complicated delivery method that this cake required.

There were rave reviews of the cake on Dan's forums and my lovely virtual friend Sadia of Baking Elements fame told me she'd never bake another chocolate cake after trying this one.  I didn't need convincing any further.

Because it's easier to take the iPad into the kitchen (Short and Sweet is a bit unwieldy) I found the recipe online and followed along with that.  Now, in hindsight, having just cross-referenced the book with the online recipe, I may have discovered where I went wrong...

Upside down and two slices in doesn't look so bad...
Lepard helpfully tells you in the book that the cake might sink due to the high ratio of fat and sugar to flour.  I picked this up when I read through the book version of the recipe and noted the remedy was to add two extra tablespoons of flour or an egg white.  Or both.  I added the extra flour so you can understand that I was even more disappointed when my cake still sank.  Actually that's not strictly true. I managed to sink two.  I mean one is careless, but two made me seriously doubt my ability to bake...

Because I wanted to share this nugget of information with you (the web version doesn't tell you this) I snapped a pic of the book recipe on my phone so I could have it at my side while I typed.  Then I decided to compare the ingredient list with the online one.  And it's significantly different in the flour area.

The version on the Guardian website was published in 2005.  Six years before the book.  The ingredient list looks the same at first glance until you get to the eggs.  The older recipe uses one egg rather than two and 50g less flour (before you add the extra two tablespoons recommended by the book) and the new recipe adds two teaspoons of glycerine although it unhelpfully doesn't tell you what difference this made.

With my Miss Marple skills working on overdrive,  I can only assume that with the inclusion of the codicil on saving the cake from sinking, Lepard has obviously come up with a slightly less risky version of the cake.  I picked the wrong one and ended up with not one, but two sunken loaves.

Third slice in and it just crumbled....
So my colleague will be a little gutted come Tuesday as the delivery service only happens once in a blue moon when all the stars align (if I'd posted the original blog, you would've understood that better) as I left it too late in the day to bake anything else and had no ingredients to spare.

I will write this one off as a lesson learned.  And if I'm honest, I'm not sure I'd make it again.  I cut the ends off of one of the loaves and served it with fruit and yogurt as dessert.  It was okay, but it wasn't all that in my humble opinion and didn't have the 'Wow!' factor that so many of Lepard's other recipes had.  Maybe if it hadn't sunk and I'd gone on to make the Treacle Chocolate Icing to top it with, I may have enjoyed it more.

Short and Sweet still remains my favourite go-to book of the moment.  But I would now advise caution when using some of the older online recipes.  If you own the book, it may be well worth checking for differences.


  1. I had a disaster with this one too. First of all it erupted from the tin with at least half the mix ending up on a baking tray I'd thankfully put under the loaf tin, then the remains sank - possibly because I'd stabbed them in a fairly despondent fashion to see if it was finally cooked and then tried to remove from the tin all to early. I had this failure with the Short and Sweet version. It's my first fail from the book.

  2. I am so glad it wasn't just me - I did the despondent stabbing thing too :)

    Will have to give this ago soon now this madness of mine is nearly at an end. Will let you know how I get on next time!

  3. I too had never been happy with a chocolate cake recipe, most of them dry and not chocolately enough. It was after a similar late night birthday cake disaster that I searched for 'reliable chocolate cake recipe' and this is what I found, the holy grail of chocolate cakes. Seriously. I have made it loads of times now, it is very chocolatey, can withstand lots of cutting, shaping and icing with no crumbs. It freezes beautifully. I love Dan Lepards short and sweet and have made his brown sugar choc cake but think this one is better, please give it a go and see what you think, this is my go to choc cake and have been asked for the recipe loads of times


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