Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake (with Chocolate Ganache and Shards)

The perfect chocolate cake for a birthday, not too dense, not too spongy, just perfect to be sandwiched and covered with a ganache.
chocolate cake photography
The perfect chocolate birthday cake
The perfect chocolate birthday cake

This perfect chocolate birthday cake is very chocolatey, with a texture that’s halfway between a sponge and a brownie. Perfect for icing without being too sickly.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

What is the Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake?

The perfect chocolate cake – does it exist? What is your idea of what it should be? Especially if you’re thinking of birthdays or any special occasion. Light, airy, dense, sweet, not too sweet?

I have a confession to make. Chocolate cakes are nowhere near the top of my favourite desserts list! Not even my favourite cakes list! Panna Cotta, cheesecake, apple cake, bread and butter pudding – now these are up there!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a lovely piece of chocolate cake, but to me, most of them don’t live up to expectations, being sorry sponges with icing and/or ganache to jazz up what would otherwise be a rather lackadaisical affair.

And when we do get depth, it is a little too heavy to be partied with, best eaten on its own, perhaps with a dollop or two of cream or ice cream, like Dark French Cakes.

So the idea behind this perfect chocolate cake (first made for my chocolate-loving late husband) was to find a balance between the two – a cake that’s more substantial than a lacklustre sponge but still light enough to take on icing and ganache.

I love baking with evaporated milk and decided to use it in this recipe as a starting point, along with 3 eggs.

Now, like many decorated birthday cakes, this one will take some time. For starters, you have to let the cake completely cool before decorating. I say 6 hours is enough.

Of course, in that time, you can get everything else ready, especially the chocolate shards. The actual decorating shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes but you’ll find that you’re enjoying yourself so much, you don’t want to stop!

How to make the Perfect Chocolate Cake

The first time I made it, it was still a little too light for my taste and perhaps just a touch on the dry side.

The second time, I increased the liquid and sugar content and doubled the baking powder. The result? Almost there, just the right balance between boring sponge and brownie texture but something was still missing. But what?

The third time – I decided to stick with the recipe but throw in some chopped up dark chocolate chips in the mix for texture and flavour. I was rather pleased with the outcome but my husband – not a fan of dark chocolate – not surprisingly, didn’t like the smoky, bitter aftertaste from the chocolate chips. Almost there!

Take 4 – the plan was to substitute the dark chocolate with milk chocolate but at the last minute, my then 6 year old, who was helping me weigh everything, suggested I add 3 kinds of chocolate chips, so we did! We chopped up some dark, milk and white and the result – stupendous!

We made it for my late husband’s 50th birthday, with some simple Chocolate Buttercream Icing (click for the recipe) and Milk Chocolate Ganache and my brother-in-law declared it the best chocolate cake he had ever had!

Who am I to argue?

So fancy the perfect chocolate cake? Let’s get our aprons on!

♥ If you like the recipe, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you.

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Cheers! Lin ♥

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Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

The perfect chocolate cake for a birthday, not too dense, not too spongy, just perfect to be sandwiched and covered with a ganache.
5 from 30 votes
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Course: Desserts
Cuisine: International
Keyword: cake
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 12 (12-16)
Calories: 643kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor

Equipment

  • You will need 2 x 8"/20cm cake pans

Ingredients

The Chocolate Cake

  • 160 g plain flour (all purpose)
  • 70 g good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 220 g salted butter
  • 250 g white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
  • 200 ml evaporated milk
  • 30 g dark chocolate chopped up
  • 30 g milk chocolate chopped up
  • 40 g white chocolate chopped up

Ganache and Decorations

  • ¼ portion chocolate buttercream icing click for recipe
  • milk chocolate ganache recipe below
  • chocolate shards for side of cake see below
  • 2 piping bags filled with a little dark and white chocolate in each from chocolate shards chocolate

CHOCOLATE SHARDS

  • 150 g white chocolate broken up in pieces
  • 150 g dark chocolate broken up in pieces

MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  • 300 g milk chocolate, broken up in little pieces
  • 125 ml double (thick) cream (also called whipping cream)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F and line and grease 2 x 8 ” cake pans.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  • Add the vanilla and mix.
  • Add the flour mix in 3 additions, beating gently, at the lowest speed, alternating with half of the evaporated milk, finishing with the flour, gently folding in the  last part.
  • Finally, gently stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
  • Divide the mixture up into the 2 baking tins and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Just remember that the cake will continue cooking for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, so don’t look for it to have come away from the sides of the cake pan. Just insert a skewer and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Milk Chocolate Ganache

  • Place the chocolate pieces in a large bowl.
  • Heat the cream to simmering point, then pour all over the chocolate pieces and let sit for a minute.
  • Stir the cream and chocolate together until you get a smooth mix. You could beat this ganache with electric beaters to get a shiny effect.

Chocolate Shards

  • Melt both chocolate separately. I do all this in the microwave oven. White chocolate has a tendency to burn, so I heat it at 50% power in 30-60 second bursts. My oven has a strength of 1 000 watts.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  • Pour the above chocolate on the baking paper, alternating them to create a mix. Save 2 Tbsp of each for the piping bags.
  • Spread the melted chocolate out with a spreader/knife and leave in fridge to set for 10 minutes.
  • Using a large, sharp knife, cut the chocolate up at angles as you can see in the picture.

DECORATING THE CAKE

  • Trim the chocolate cakes if you want the crusts off but I don’t bother. Spread the buttercream on one of the cakes and place the other on top.
  • Spreading the chocolate ganache – chocolate ganache hardens very quickly, so unless you are very quick, you won't get a smooth cake if using a spatula. So you have 2 choices:
    Spread the ganache the best you can.
    OR
    Heat the ganache until very runny (be careful not to overdo and burn it). Place the cake on a cake rack with a large tray lined with baking paper underneath. Then, liberally, pour the ganache all over the cake and let it run down the sides into the tray. This will give you a smooth, unlined effect.
  • Let the ganache cool and harden for about 5 minutes.

Chocolate Lines and Triangular Shards

  • Place the 2 Tbsp of melted chocolate into the piping bags and snip off a tiny opening. Then just drizzle the melted dark and white chocolate all over, to create a random criss cross effect.
  • Press the shards of chocolate to the sides of the cake.
  • The shards don’t have to be identical in height, a haphazard look is more effective.

Notes

Because of the liquid content, the cake is better baked in two pans for even cooking. 

Nutrition

Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 188mg | Potassium: 470mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 711IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 145mg | Iron: 4mg

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9 thoughts on “Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake (with Chocolate Ganache and Shards)”

  1. 5 stars
    Thankyou for making my baking life so much easier. Im really grateful that you show realism in the fact that some recipes don’t turn out just as you’d like by writing your 1st 2nd etc attempts. My husband and child love this cake. Thankyou

  2. Anita Armstrong

    Oh my goodness! This is such a gorgeous cake. I wonder if I will be able to make this. I like the sound of it, reading your thought process in making it has convinced me that I need to make this for my husband’s birthday next month!
    Are those chocolate shards easy to make?

    1. Thank you Anita. The chocolate shards are actually pretty easy. They are rather haphazard too, so it’s ok to “break” them accidentally. Let me know how it goes if you make it.

  3. I would totally love this chocolate cake for my birthday – which is next week by the way, so you better get baking LOL! You love the same desserts as my husband – cheesecake, flan, bread pudding. I’m the chocoholic. Thanks for this recipe. Now i need to find somebody to make it for me;)

  4. Hi, this is a great recipe. I thought I’d have a go at baking a chocolate cake because then I know what is in it. It was very hard at the beginning for me because I am not used to cooking but your instructions were really easy to follow. The flavour was great and the kids eat it all up so that means it must have been good! Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Jay. I’m glad you appreciated the effort I put in to writing the recipes. One of my favourite moments is watching kids eating something they love! Have a great day! x

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