It's Hanukkah this weekend, and my sister-in-law enjoys having a party or two during the holiday. This year it was 2 parties, one Saturday and one Sunday, and I took the opportunity to do a direct comparison of two unfrosted chocolate butter cakes that are presented back-to-back in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake is the official cake-of-the-week, and the Black Chocolate Party Cake is one Marie baked before the bake-along got started. These cakes are similar is a lot of ways: both chocolate (duh!), both on the quick and easy list, both butter cakes, both use whole eggs, and both made with cocoa. The Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake can be considered the base "chocolate butter cake", and the Black Chocolate Party Cake adds the variations: ground walnuts added to the batter, sour cream instead of water, turbinado sugar instead of superfine, and AP flour instead of cake. The last fillip for the Black Chocolate Party Cake is to brush it with a cocoa syrup while it is still hot.
I made the Black Chocolate Party Cake first. My only problems were related to using a new-to-me tube pan, a carousel pan that I think I bought because it was bundled with another one on eBay. The pan design is problematic for most baking, probably, because it produces a fairly thin edge of cake at the outer rim, guaranteed to over-bake--mine was noticeably too dark, though I didn't get any burnt taste. Then there were the issues produced by the cake-flipping called for in this recipe--the cake is turned out hot onto a plastic-wrap-lined plate so you can coat it with the cocoa syrup and not fling syrup dribbles all over your presentation plate. (Nonetheless I managed to fling syrup dribbles over myself and my counter. Maybe I should have covered more things with plastic wrap...) Once the cake is cool, the concept is that you turn the cake over onto a working plate, peel off the plastic wrap, then turn it again right-side-up onto the presentation cake plate. Alas, the carousel cake has a fairly narrow crown and a broad base. Flipping it onto the narrow crown, even for a minute or so, gave me a somewhat shorter, more compressed cake than I started with. I should have turned it back into the cake pan for support, and taken the risk of having some of the cocoa-coated cake stick to the pan.
After that, the Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake was a snap. Like several other Heavenly Cake Bakers whose blogs I've already read, I used the dramatic Heritage Bundt pan. I had intended to make the large marzipan candle (candle, Hanukkah, you get it) for an accent, but alas ran out of time before the party started. OK, I used that time productively, as I made Monica's Asparagus Tart with Prosciutto as an appetizer--it got rave reviews, too, though I rather rushed next door with it after the guests had already arrived. I do think a fat marzipan candle would look great in the center of the Heritage Bundt cake pattern.
Both chocolate cakes were well received. The folks next door, who got to taste both, preferred the cake with walnuts, as it was a little moister. Or perhaps it was the coffee cream (borrowed from the recipe for Sybil's Pecan Torte) that added just the extra it needed. I served the velvet Fudge Cake without accompaniment, see above re: running out of time. As is my nearly constant refrain, both cakes were just a touch drier than we prefer, so my brother's comment about needing Coffee Cream to go with cake #2 was not just a plea for more whipped cream.
The remainder of the two cakes went in to the office today, giving my usual cake-of-the-week testers a chance to compare and contrast. There really weren't any negative comments on the pair, and when I asked people to pick between the two I got one vote for the Velvet Fudge, two for the Party Cake, and one who refused to choose. (That was about all the Party Cake that was left, as it was served at the larger Hanukkah party. Everyone else just got Velvet Fudge Cake.) I'd vote for the Chocolate Party Cake, myself--I think it's a little moister, and the cocoa syrup maybe puts the chocolate taste more front and center. The syrup did not, on my cake at least, give glistening coating like the picture in the book. I suspect some food stylist brushed the cold cake with extra syrup for dramatic effect. <g>