A Short History of Chocolate Cake

The history of chocolate cake starts as far back as 1764 when Dr. James Barker made an important discovery with cocoa beans. He worked out how to use two huge circular stones to grind the cocoa beans to powder, thereby producing an early form of chocolate. However, as you can imagine, this was a time consuming method and a lot of work went into creating just a small amount of the wonderful substance and so chocolate was considered to be a luxury item that was only available to the wealthy.
It took more than 60 years for a mechanical extraction method be developed, which was achieved in 1828 by Conrad Van Houten. His method allowed fat to be extracted from cacao liquor producing cacao butter. Partly defatted cacao, a compact mass of solids, was also produced and this could either be sold on as it was or ground down into a powder. This meant chocolate could be produced in much larger quantities and turned it into an inexpensive snack that was available to everyone, instead just being a luxury for the wealthy.In 1879 a technique called conching was developed. This produced a much smoother and silkier type of chocolate. Now this was important for the baking world because this new texture of chocolate was much easier to work into a cake batter, producing a wonderfully light cake. This meant that they were able to incorporate chocolate into many common recipes and really experiment with different types of cake. And so began our love affair with chocolate cake the world over.
Different decades have seen various types of cake come into fashion. In the 1980’s chocolate decadence cakes, a wonderfully rich but light cake, were incredibly popular. The 1990’s saw a huge demand for the individual molten chocolate cakes, which are a gorgeous squidgy chocolate sponge with a liquid chocolate center. The 1990’s was also a time for experimenting with chocolate and infusions with things like chili powder, curry, champagne and passion fruit were being trialed and tasted.
Baking techniques have improved so much over the years that there are now a multitude of varieties of chocolate cake available for us chocoholics to try. They have even managed to produce low fat cake, which seems a contradiction in terms but is actually very tasty and great for those on a diet to be able to eat and get their chocolate fix.
Although the chocolate cake is considered a timeless classic, every country will have a recipe for one that is it well known for. Some of these are very simple to make and wonderfully tasty, others will take a lot of time, patience and preparation but the end results will give your taste buds a work out. So if you are one of the millions of people that love chocolate and also love cooking, maybe you should look up some new recipes so you can experience first hand the twists that other countries add to our humble cake.