What would this world be without chocolate cake? It seems like this pastry has been around as long as the cacao beverage that we now call chocolate, which dates back to, at least, the Olmec civilization, 1500-400 B.C. But after the Europeans took chocolate from the New World in 1519, it remained an expensive luxury for many years.
The 19th century was the first truly great era of the chocolate cake. And it has never gone out of fashion. It may be even more popular now.
According to most pastry cookbooks, in 1828 a man named Conrad van Houten developed the process of extracting cocoa fat from cacao liquor to create solids that could be turned into the reddish-brown powder that modern bakers know as cocoa. This made the ability to cook with chocolate much less costly. Four years later, the chef to Austria's Prince Metternich, Franz Sacher, created the dessert -- available at Kansas City's Grunauer Restaurant -- that was so intensely chocolate-y, it remains one of the most famous chocolate cakes in history.
So, in honor of National Chocolate Cake Day, we're going to suggest a few truly scrumptious options for dessert tonight.
5. Yes, it's a chain, but fans of the Overland Park branch of the Nashville-based J. Alexander's Restaurant swear by the most popular dessert served here, called without modesty "The Very Best Chocolate Cake," a slab of chocolate layer cake doused in very hot fudge sauce.
4. The upscale and expensive Capital Grille still serves one of the prettiest cakes in the city: a chocolate-hazelnut cake layered with dark-chocolate mousse and coated with a chocolate-and-hazelnut ganache.
3. When Grunauer Restaurant, in the Crossroads, first opened, it served Sachertorte (pronounced sok-ker-tort) made by the New York satellite branch of the legendary Demel Bakery in Vienna, the 18th-century bake shop approved by the royal court of Austria-Hungary. Today, the restaurant's signature dessert is created in-house by Grunauer's pastry chef, Mitaus Seyfreid.
2. The torta di cioccolatta at Jasper's Restaurant is one of the most popular chocolate cakes in the city, perhaps because it's so incredibly rich -- the layers of dark-chocolate cake are separated by thick Chantilly cream, and the dark-chocolate icing is gorgeously fudgy.
1. There are several variations on the chocolate-cake theme at Andre's Confiserie Suisse, each as pretty as a Faberge box and sinfully delicious. Featured in today's photo, from left, a chocolate heart created from chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream and enrobed in chocolate fondant; a Dobosh torte slice, layered with chocolate ganache and covered in dark chocolate; and a Black Forest cake slice with layers of chocolate cake, chocolate cream, vanilla cream, cherries and kirsch.
What are your favorite chocolate cakes on this holiday, Fat City readers?