Category Archives: chocolate cake

Wise Sons Chocolate Babka

What makes for an exquisitely delicious chocolate Babka? To start, the flavors and proportion of chocolate to dough have to be perfectly balanced. Not too sweet, not too bready; not simply a dense mass of chocolate, but enough to sate your cravings.

Over the past holiday season I let it be known I was on the hunt for a great chocolate Babka and my family did not disappoint. I will not name all the loaves I tried in the vain hope of finding something reminiscent of my grandmother’s sublime version. Suffice it to say: Nine of the ten I sampled shall remain nameless.

One stood out high above the rest: Wise Sons of San Francisco. The ingredients alone tell you how fabulous this Babka will be: organic wheat flour, chocolate, milk, butter, sugar, cage-free eggs, brown sugar, water, cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. The loaf is beautifully adorned with a streusel topping that is somehow not too sweet. The interior is marbled with deep fissures of dark chocolate. The dough is like a breadier brioche, but that description doesn’t do it justice. My daughter, who went to culinary school, thought it was like a combination of brioche and puff pastry. Indescribable? Perhaps. But definitely capable of satisfying the most jaded Babka palate.

When I was growing up in NYC I used to have a hard time limiting my Babka intake as I found it very addicting. Probably because it was too sweet and I was a kid. This version is so satisfying that a modest portion is enough to sate even a major Babka jones.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near the Wise Sons bakery you can mail order this through It’s definitely a splurge, but each Babka will give you tons of gustatory joy and it freezes beautifully.


Aldi’s Tear and Share Chocolate Lover’s Brioche from France

I don’t usually buy pastry as it is typically too sweet for me; however, this Chocolate Brioche from Aldi ($2.99) had been calling my name for a while and I finally succumbed. Lucky me. This is really delicious, even though it looks more chocolatey than it tastes, the texture is divinely chewy and satisfying. For a commercial product it is remarkably free of junky ingredients. There are palm and canola oils, but no trans fats. Every ingredient is a recognizable substance, like creme fraiche, eggs, flour, etc. One serving, 50 grams or 1/8th of the cake, contains 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 14 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of fiber. Definitely not a health food, but for a decadent treat at least it contains real ingredients.

I have also tried the chocolate chip brioche and did not like it nearly as much as the chocolate swirl variety because its chocolate presence was barely noticeable. On the other hand, it has 1/3 less sugar and a lovely, eggy brioche texture. Could make a great base for your favorite raw chocolate hazelnut spread, or some excellent jam.

They also offer cinnamon and vanilla cream versions.

Michel Cluizel opens Chocolatrium in New Jersey

I thought this press release might be of interest.

This year, Michel Cluizel has decided to unveil the secrets of chocolate and open his facilities to the public. After the French Chocolatrium opened a few years ago in Normandy, it was high time to offer this opportunity to American chocolate lovers. Based in West Berlin (NJ), the Museum, outlet store and café create a chocolate environment for the delight of all.

Michel Cluizel is one of the few Cacaoféviers (processing beans into chocolate) in the world. For more than 15 years, Michel Cluizel Premium chocolate has been sold in the USA. In August 2004, Michel Cluizel opened Noble Ingredients, the American branch of the company now based in West Berlin (NJ). A Kosher Parve (OU certified) line of chocolate and pastries locally produced was launched last year to answer a growing demand. Eager to share his vast knowledge and his love of chocolate, the Chocolatrium is Michel Cluizel’s latest project for U.S. chocolate lovers.

The Museum, created as a 3-step exhibition, is an initiation to chocolate making. Visitors start by getting acquainted with Michel Cluizel’s family-owned company through a panel gallery and learn about the amazing history of chocolate from Aztecs to Europeans. Within the Gallery, a surprise welcomes visitors: behind a big rectangular window the Pastry Chef is working, cooking, baking to create pastries and chocolate right before your eyes.

Now aware of the history of chocolate, visitors go into the creation of chocolate “From Beans to Bars.” From the harvesting to the pressing and the conching, they experience every step of this marvelous transformation through a series of explanations, but most of all by tasting, touching and looking at the machines. Cocoa beans are roasted, and crushed, cocoa paste is pressed and mixed.

Last but not least, the tasting. Loving chocolate is necessary but not enough to be considered as a chocolate connoisseur! Learning to taste chocolate, discover its flavors, its first and second hints, its texture by letting the chocolate melt slowly on one’s tongue, is the last step of this chocolate initiation. The “Premiers Crus de Plantation” (“Single Estate Chocolate”) coming from all over the world amaze by their differences and the richness of their flavors of olives, exotic fruits or caramel.

A family-friendly museum, the exhibition is created as an interactive visit for adults as well as for children. All 5 senses are required to fully experience this initiation: looking at the process, touching the pods, listening to explanations, recognizing the smell of cocoa, tasting the chocolates. Fun activity booklets designed according to children’s ages are available on request to accompany them through this journey.

Thought of as the epitome of the initiatory route of chocolate making, the Café is open to visitors and others to discover more flavors from Michel Cluizel. The hot beverage of the typically French Café Gourmand and Chocolat Gourmand reveal the delicacy of flavors of assorted chocolate truffles. Those more turned on by cakes and pastries are seduced by the warm chocolate or hazelnut cakes whose melted heart makes theirs melt.

After the Store on the Fifth Avenue in New York, a new one is now opened as the last part of this Chocolatrium. Michel Cluizel’s selection of handcrafted French Pastries as well as chocolate creations is presented at Outlet Prices. Macaroons, éclairs, Opéra, chocolate bars from around the world, and a rotating weekly selection of products are now available–perfect for Thanksgiving and Holiday presents!

Opening Hours start on Friday, November 16.
Museum – Group appointment
Store – Order by phone and come and pick it up (all products featured on their website)
Private events are now available!

For more information, contact
575 N, 73 Route, Building D,
West Berlin, 08091, NJ
Ph: (856) 486-9292

Naughty Bits Brownies

As someone who adores fudgy brownies, I swooned over Naughty Bits super-dense, rich, chocolatey squares.

Leigh, the owner and pastry chef, holds a Masters degree in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide (Australia). Cred, or no cred, she bakes a mean brownie, each of which has a catchy name.

My favorite was The Man Catcher, a classic plain brownie, though Barrista Bar with its crunchy chocolate covered espresso beans and Kahlua was a close second. While the alcohol burns off during baking, the liquor adds an extra layer of flavor.

Living in Sin is a chocolate brownie with miniature peanut butter cups and blistered peanuts.

Cabana Banana Boy is full of toasted coconut, dried bananas and salted macadamia nuts. A delicious combination for those of you who love a tropical influence.

Geisha Girl is loaded with crystalized ginger, wasabi and sesame snack bits.

The Shiksa has maple-smoked bacon and toffee bits, a truly inspired combination of sweet, smokey, salty, and crunchy. As ubiquitous as the bacon-chocolate duo is these days, this was a new experience for me, and one I would love to repeat.

If baking isn’t your forte, you can sate all those brownie cravings with Naughty Bits. What’s even better is Leigh’s website allows you to customize your order with whichever flavors you like best.

Green’s Chocolate Babka and Rugelach

My grandmother made the most fantastic chocolate babka on earth. Ever since my teen years, I have tried to replicate it, but with no success. Though the craving never abated, I despaired at ever enjoying this treat again. Yes, I have optimistically ordered chocolate babkas from other New York bakeries only to find they contained hydrogenated oils. Recently, I came across Green’s bakery in Brooklyn. They bake a wide assortment of babkas, rugelach, rainbow cookies, seven layer cake, marble cake, and other traditional Kosher sweets. Of course, my attention immediately went to the babka.

Their version is visually appealing with its multitude of alternating layers of chocolate and cake. It’s rich, moist, chocolatey, and delicious. In the past, when I sampled other babkas I found them to have a very high addiction quotient. Perhaps, they had more sugar? I don’t know. All I can tell you is this cake was very satisfying, yet I had no trouble exerting some self-restriant.

I was also intrigued by how the same ingredients could taste appreciably different when made into rugelach. The major difference is the cake to chocolate ratio: the rugelach are a bit more cakey which makes them an excellent choice when you want something a little less rich, but still decadent.

These treats are baked with palm oil. Like coconut oil, which used to have a bad reputation, palm oil is beginning to be recognized as far healthier than many alternative fats. If you want more information, check out:

Last but not least, Green’s offers their baked goods at extremely reasonable prices. A 24 ounce chocolate babka is $7.99 and a 14 ounce bag of rugelach is $5.99. With a croissant selling for almost two dollars around the corner, this seems like an incredible bargain and a great gift option. Both products also come in a cinnamon version.

Guittard Semisweet and Milk Chocolate Chips

August is probably the least chocolate-centric month of the year, but the desire for a chocolate fix knows no calendar. By the end of the Summer I am yearning to bake. Fortuitously, the people at Guittard sent me some chocolate chips to sate that desire. Nature cooperated with a cool spell, and I made a batch of chocolate chip gingerbread, which was even better than I remembered it.

Typically, I don’t buy chocolate chips because I cut up whatever chocolate is lying around and make my own little chunks. Guittard’s milk chocolate chips are more than twice as large as their semisweet cousins, and they have only one more gram of sugar. Both varieties are made with real vanilla, and are delicious; though, uncharacteristically, I was more smitten with the milk chips. There was something so luxuriously decadent about them, and they were perfect in the gingerbread, my adaptation of Alice Medrich’s recipe. It’s an unusual gingerbread as it calls for half a cup of freshly grated ginger. The oven mellows the spiciness and the rich milk chocolate chips are an incredible riff on a very classic treat. (Here’s a link to the recipe:

Guittard’s semisweet chips were a step up from the typical brand and are wonderful in trail mix, cookies, or strewn through brownies. Both bags had very appealing recipes for Pots de Creme, Shortbread Rounds, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Molten Chocolate Cookies.

Amy’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

Frankly, I have had such awful gluten free products (one bread stands in my memory as absolutely abysmal) that when Amy’s offered to have me try their gluten free chocolate cake I almost said no. Almost. After all, it is chocolate, and it comes from an excellent company.

This is probably the best gluten free cake I have ever had. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but it isn’t. The flavor is deep and dark, the texture a little chewy and dense. I have had baked goods with organic rice flour before and they were grainy. This has an excellent almost brownie-like texture. You would never guess it was gluten free. There are 17 grams of sugar in a portion (six decent sized slices in one loaf), which makes it a bit sweet, but not cloying. Add a jigger of rum and a scoop of soy ice cream and you have a very decadent dessert.

(Ingredients: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic soy milk, filtered water, organic high oleic safflower and/sunflower oil, organic whole grain brown rice flour, organic unsweetened cocoa powder, tapioca starch, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, organic apple cider vinegar, whole grain sweet sorghum flour, fava bean flour, organic vanilla extract, baking soda, sea salt, xanthan gum.)