On a whim last month, I decided to try the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa container for their “Perfectly Chocolate”™ Chocolate Cake. Much to my own surprise, I followed the recipe as written. I won’t disagree that it was chocolaty; but I can’t agree that “perfect” is accurate for the cake in general. The texture was slightly gummy and although moist cake is preferable to dry, this was a bit too moist/oily. Yes, the recipe used oil – no butter. The other thing that may have contributed to the texture was the mixing method of essentially dumping all of the wet ingredients into the dry and then mixing. Since I thought the recipe had potential, I set about determining some revisions for a second attempt.
I knew the revised version had to use butter instead of oil. However, in baking it’s not a matter of simply substituting one for the other. The oil is 100% fat; butter is only about 75 – 85% fat (depending on the butter). Several years ago I had read an interview with Richard Palm, pastry chef at the American Club in Kohler, who only uses butter in his pastries. He gave a rough formula for substituting butter for another fat: use the same amount of butter, but decrease the amount of flour in the recipe by 10 – 15%. I chose to split the difference and use 12.5%. I also decided that since I was decreasing the flour by 12.5%, I would also consider the water content of the butter and reduce the water in the recipe by the same percentage.
The other thing I knew I would change was the mixing method. My version was going to go with creaming the butter and sugar then alternately adding dry and wet ingredients. The intent of this was to aerate the batter more to lighten the texture of the cake. The problem with my mixing method was the butter to sugar ratio made creaming just about impossible, and the usual dry/wet additions of a third of the flour; half of the liquid; repeat and end with flour didn’t work out so well either, but it came together in the end. The batter of the original recipe is very thin; my batter was thicker and more like batters I’m accustomed to working with.
Standard baking time for the recipe from Hershey’s is 30 – 35 minutes. I pulled my cakes at 37 minutes, and I think they could/should have stayed in awhile longer. The pans set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, but I got distracted and it was more like 15. Did that contribute to the bottoms of the cakes being extremely sticky? Out of the pans finally, I left the cakes to cool.
My plan was to cut them into thin layers (like 1/4-inch thin) and put the cake together with alternating layers of mocha and pumpkin buttercream. Cutting into the first cake, I had a feeling all was not well. The cake felt seriously dense in the center. Despite all indications that the cakes were done (tester coming out clean, pulling away from the sides of the pan), it became readily apparent that the cakes had not baked long enough. The beautiful layered cake I had imagined was not to be from this cake wreck. Since I already have another chocolate cake recipe I’m happy with, I doubt I’ll give this another go. I'll probably be busy making cake balls instead.