How many ingredients do you need to make a great chocolate cake?

Illustration for article titled How many ingredients do you need to make a great chocolate cake?
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There are some bakers who believe that the more complicated a recipe is, the better the result will be. And then there are others who prize recipes that only taste like a lot of work went into them. And finally there are those who really prize a combination of two or three ingredients that get whipped into something edible by the magic of science. But can you actually taste the difference? Or are you just working harder than you need to be?

Alvin Zhou, a scientifically minded baker, decided to find out in a video shared by BoingBoing. He made three chocolate cakes: one with 20 ingredients, one with 10, and the last with just two (plus a little water). The 20-ingredient cake was an elaborate mix of layered flavors. The 10-ingredient cake was a doctored cake mix. And the two-ingredient cake was a stunt with eggs and chocolate that I am very curious to try (especially when Passover rolls around again).

The best thing about this video, though, is how soothing it is to watch. Zhou is a very calm baker, and there’s something very satisfying about watching him spin cakes around on a cake stand as he slathers frosting on them. It’s hard to tell through the medium of video which cake actually tasted best, but when we’re allowed to have parties again, it might be a nice theme.


In the same spirit, Erika, aka The Pancake Princess, has written a series of bake offs in which she compares popular recipes to find the very best version. It, too, is soothing and addictive (though it also proves that it is impossible to anoint one chocolate chip cookie recipe the very best, but that’s okay, because it gives us a reason to keep making them). If there’s anything better to argue about than baked goods, I don’t want to know about it.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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odango atama

For me, my favorite chocolate cake has twelve ingredients for the sponge and four ingredients for the frosting. It is decadent without being over the top. An excellent birthday cake I have made for myself for the past three years (or when the mood strikes).