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Quick: it’s national Chocolate Cake Day!

IF YOU’RE HAVING a “the diet starts tomorrow” chocolate cake for tea, relax. You’re not being self-indulgent – you’re just supporting national Chocolate Cake Day.

People first began grinding cocoa beans and making cocoa powder in the mid 18th century. In the early 18th century, Conrad van Houten found a way of producing cocoa butter. Chocolate was born – and very soon it was appearing in cake, in the form of icing and fillings. The chocolate cake followed years later, after Rudolphe Lindt worked out how to include it in cake batter.

What is the most famous chocolate cake? It may be the Black Forest Gateau, which uses a filling of cherries and cream to highlight the chocolate cake. Or it may be Austrian Sachertorte, which perks up a dense chocolate cake with… more chocolate. It’s so chocolatey, it is best eaten with cream.

Chocolate fudge cake has featured on the dessert menus of many a family restaurant since the 1970s – though there are many arguments about who created it and what the essential ingredients are. There’s also the chocolate brownie – again often presented as a classic dessert and usually improved by the addition of ice cream at the point of eating.

Chocolate also features in the traditional chocolate log enjoyed at Christmas – and in a range of other basic, beloved and beautiful recipes. But don’t let that stop you experimenting.

To keep your chocolate cake moist, why not add grated courgette? That’s a variation on the theme of carrot cake, which adds grated carrot to a fruit cake.

Vary a rock cake by substituting some of the flour with cocoa powder and using chocolate chips in place of dried fruit.

Chocolate’s traditional companions are nuts, coffee and orange, all of which make delicious variations to traditional chocolate cakes. But there are unusual additions too: try coconut

For the best results when cooking at home, make sure you buy cocoa powder (which has no sugar) and not drinking chocolate powder (which is usually a mix of cocoa powder and sugar, possibly with other flavourings). You can take some flour out and put the same weight of cocoa powder back in most recipes.

Hopefully you’ve had a wonderful National Chocolate Cake day. But if by any chance you’ve missed it, you can always make up tomorrow!

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