Ah, chocolate. How we love you.
Of course, the pure stuff is bliss, but chefs have been telling us for years there are all kinds of wonderful and unusual chocolate flavours out there that we’ve probably never considered.
If they’re right then that could mean some of the best chocolate cake combinations you’re ever likely to taste.
In this post we’ll walk you through the traditional and the modern for a take on chocolate cake that you might find surprising. From veg to bacon (yes, bacon!), some of the best combinations when it comes to chocolate cake may well be things you’ve never even thought of.
But first, some chocolate science.
There’s a lot to know when it comes to chocolate. The flavour can be affected by the type of cocoa beans, the quantity of milk and the process used to make it. As the beans are fermented and roasted, the flavours develop and result in the kind of delicious roasty and caramel aromas we love.
If you want the professionals opinion, apparently the important thing to work out is not just if your chocolate combination tastes good, but why it tastes good. That way you’re on your own path to all kinds of flavour takes on the much-loved chocolate cake.
The less sugar in your chocolate, the more bitter it will taste, and the more bitter it tastes, the more interesting the chocolate is for pairing with a whole host of other foods. (Did you know that Heston once paired chocolate with salty caviar?)
Bear all this in mind when it comes to creating unusual chocolate flavours in your cake baking. Unexpected ingredients could turn into a showstopping chocolate cake!
Chocolate and Fruit Combinations
Right, let’s start with a classic. No one disputes that one of the very best chocolate cake flavour combinations is fruity.
If the cake that you’re making uses white or milk chocolate and is very sweet, then something more acidic like passion fruit will work brilliantly to balance out the fat and sugar.
On the flip side, use sweeter fruits like strawberry, banana or mango with dark, bitter chocolate for nicely balanced fillings, toppings and decorations on your cake.
Herb, Spice and Chocolate Combinations
Spice lovers will find chilli chocolate easily available in the supermarket and it’s delicious if you like a sweet punch in the chops. Try adding a red chilli, cut superfine, to chocolate buttercream for a spicy chocolate cake.
Lavender’s also become a popular cake ingredient to try with chocolate. If you’d like to work a hint of it into a chocolate cake, try heating with cream before discarding and whipping the infused cream into a chocolate ganache.
Salt, in all its forms from crystal rock to bacon (we know, it’s not really a health option, but everything in moderation, no?), makes a fantastic and unusual chocolate cake combination. Chef Byron Talbottthinks he know why.
Talbott says that the sweetness of chocolate sets off positive body receptors and the same happens when we taste salt. Since we can’t store salt we often crave it, meaning that when we get both together, it’s like a double mega hit for our body. Lovely!
Nuts, Caramel and Chocolate Combinations
More classic chocolate cake flavour combinations come in the form of nuts and caramel.
We all know that the velvety texture of caramel is nothing short of dreamy when you combine it with chocolate. Our salted caramel MacDreamy cake is just the job in this department.
Peanut, almond and hazelnut are all great paired with darker chocolate and add a delicious texture dimension whether used in your cake sponge or topping.
Tea, Coffee and Chocolate Combinations
You can work coffee into all aspects of your chocolate cake - the sponge, buttercream, frosting and decoration. In fact, a little coffee in a chocolate cake or brownie batter further intensifies the chocolate flavours. And we reckon our Coffee Culture Cake is pretty hard to beat.
To be particular about tastes and coffee roasts, then for a dark chocolate cake the best coffee is a dark, bold roast. Milk chocolate is good with a medium roast like Kenyan or Colombian with a lighter roast like a Yemeni or Costa Rican ideal for white chocolate.
The Best Of The Rest
Although we came across all kinds of arguments for pairing chocolate with veg (I know!) we felt like roasted onion with chocolate cake might be a step too far.
That said, there’s plenty of suggestion out there that broccoli is great dipped in chocolate and cauli has “caramel notes” and can be very nicely dusted with cocoa.
As for us, we’ll take a glass of pinot noir with a slice of dark chocolate cake any day. We’d call that pretty much perfection.
So what do you think? What are the best chocolate cake combinations you’ve found? What would you love to try?
Notes taken from:
5 Easy Chocolate Pairings to try at home by Marie Haspeslagh
The Most Popular Chocolate Pairings by Byron Talbott