Chocolate cake is a classic dessert that can take many forms from cupcakes to flourless cakes and even multi-layer cakes. While there are hundreds of different chocolate cake recipes out there, I tried my hand at three different recipes from some of my favorite celebrity chefs.
After making a huge mess in my kitchen with flour, cocoa powder, and large amounts of chocolate chunks, I found a winner for the best celebrity chef chocolate cake recipe out of the three I tried from Christina Tosi, Ina Garten, and Guy Fieri. To figure out which one was the best, I had a formula to follow: how easy the recipe was to follow and make, how easy the ingredients were to acquire, the look of the cake once it was assembled and frosted, and the overall taste.
Here are the recipes I tested, ranked from good to best. And for more, don’t miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.
Christina Tosi is known around the world as the queen of sugar and baked goods. Her imaginative cakes and cookies bring joy to just about everyone who eats them. After trying my hand at her German chocolate cupcakes, I have to say this recipe is not for the average home baker.
How easy was the recipe to follow and make? This recipe is fairly difficult. There are three parts to it: the cupcake, the crack pie frosting, and the pecan crunch. You’ll need more than just basic knowledge for this recipe, and while Tosi does explain things well in the directions, there’s a lot of room to make mistakes.
One thing I didn’t like about the recipe was how temperamental the “crack pie” frosting was. Just a few seconds too long in the oven can result in a burnt filling that is unusable. I ended up making two different crack pie fillings and the one I actually used took a lot of babysitting in the oven to make sure it didn’t overcook and turn hard like toffee.
How easy are the ingredients to acquire? Ingredients in this recipe ranged from basics like flour, sugar, and eggs to things that are much harder to find, like corn powder and feuilletine cookies. You will need to scour the internet for these few ingredients.
The look of the cake once it was assembled and frosted: The German chocolate cupcakes were not the prettiest of the cakes I tried out, but they still did look tempting. One thing to be aware of is that the cupcakes can sink in the middle if the batter is overmixed or if you take the baked cupcakes out of the tin too early, so be sure to follow the directions carefully.
Overall thoughts: The Tosi cupcakes were too sweet for my taste, but people who have a major sweet tooth will love these, especially the “crack pie” frosting. This is an all-day baking project, so be sure to set enough time aside to make everything, or make the cupcakes one day ahead and pop them in the freezer, then make the frosting and pecan crunch another day and assemble.
Ina Garten recipes are some of my favorites because of how easy they are, with almost-guaranteed results and easy-to-find ingredients. This chocolate cake is one that you can whip up super quickly on a weeknight and is so dense it’s almost brownie-like.
How easy was the recipe to follow and make? The recipe was super-easy to follow and make. The directions are clear and don’t use culinary terms the average home baker wouldn’t know. You will need some special equipment in the form of a springform pan, but those are easy to find on the internet and are relatively inexpensive. If you don’t have a springform pan and don’t want to wait for one to be delivered, consider using a round cake pan, but know your cake may be harder to slice and serve.
How easy are the ingredients to acquire? The list of ingredients for this cake is fairly small and includes very basic ingredients. The only thing that may be hard to find is bittersweet chocolate in bar form, which will melt more evenly than chips for this recipe. Just like cooking with wine, only pick chocolate that you would eat by itself. It really will make a difference in this recipe.
The look of the cake once it was assembled and frosted: There is no frosting on this cake, but I did serve it with some homemade whipped cream as was suggested in the book. The cake was dense and gooey and was almost a mix of a brownie and a molten lava cake. A little slice of this is enough to curb any sweet cravings you might have.
Overall thoughts: This was the easiest of the three cakes to make and to get all of the ingredients. The chocolate cake had a deep, rich chocolate flavor that went well with the whipped cream. Next time I make it, I’d likely serve some strawberries with it to help cut how rich the cake is. Overall, this was a major win for me and my family for a weeknight treat.
The mayor of Flavortown not only knows how to find some of the best restaurants but also knows how to make a killer cake. This cake is not for kids because of the whiskey that’s not been cooked out, but for adults, this is a cake you’ll crave for every birthday party from now on.
How easy was the recipe to follow and make? The recipe was moderately easy to follow and make. There are four different parts to the recipe, and some do involve knowing some more intermediate kitchen skills like using a double boiler and tempering eggs. Because the recipe has so many parts, you’ll likely need to set aside a whole day to do it, but it will be worth it in the end. Just be sure to read the directions carefully before starting so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
One thing I didn’t like about the recipe was the whiskey anglaise. It was temperamental and required quite a bit of work, even when the cake didn’t need anything extra like this to take it over the top.
How easy are the ingredients to acquire? Each of the ingredients can be found at a well-stocked grocery store. One thing to note is to use what type of whiskey you like to drink. Guy suggests Jack Daniels, but I like Garrison Brothers, so that’s what I used. You will need a lot of chocolate for this recipe, so I suggest getting the Pound Plus bars from Trader Joe’s and chopping the chocolate yourself. You’ll save some money buying these rather than chips, and the bars will stretch farther in the recipe than chips will.
The look of the cake once it was assembled and frosted: Honestly, this was the best-looking cake of the three. The chocolate ganache on the outside cascaded over the layers of the cake and made it look very enticing. Once I cut into the cake the layers were distinct with cake and frosting showing through.
Overall thoughts: After spending an entire afternoon making this cake, I can understand why Guy is the mayor of Flavortown. The cake was moist, had a big chocolate flavor, and was a decadent treat. Even if I just made the frosting, I would eat it by the spoonful, it was so good. After serving this to my family, they all agreed they wanted this as their next birthday cake.