Milk vs. Dark

January 15, 2009

As I have written about here, the year we lived in London, I got to take some great cooking classes. The highlight by far was the chocolate making class at Leith’s. We learned how to make hand rolled truffles, how to temper chocolate, and how to make truffles using chocolate molds. We also learned a lot about chocolate itself. One of the first things we did that day was have a tasting where the instructor passed around different chocolates with all different cocoa contents and from different areas of the world. We were told to write down our tasting notes which we then shared at the end of the tasting.

One of the chocolates we tasted was clearly milk chocolate – the rest were semi or (mostly) bittersweet. To me, the milk tasted delicious and was my favorite of the bunch. As we started to share our notes, it became clear that I was, not only the only American in the room, but the only one who liked the milk chocolate. People called it “cloyingly sweet”, “tongue coating” and other insulting things. I called it “what chocolate should taste like” but didn’t share that with the rest of the class.

So there you have it. I have outed myself. I am a milk chocolate lover. Sometimes it feels like I am in danger of having my foodie license or my chocolate-loving license revoked if I admit that, but now it’s out for the world to see. For some reason, you are supposed to like dark chocolate and the darker the better. But if I am going to eat a piece of chocolate (and because I am always watching my weight, this is rare), it is going to be milk.

Needless to say, I felt somewhat vindicated when this February’s Food and Wine featured milk chocolate. Apparently there are pastry chefs out there who share my love of the light stuff. I marked every recipe as one to cut out (except the one containing gelatin – did you know gelatin is not vegetarian?) and decided to make this cake first.

Here is the thing. It was a little sweet for me. A little cloying, a little – dare I say – milky. Don’t get me wrong. If I was having a chocolate attack and a slice of this cake was put in front of me, I would have no problem eating it. And this recipe has a lot going for it. It’s fairly quick and easy, makes a square cake (which I think looks really cool), and would be great for a kid’s birthday. But I think for me, when it comes to cake, I’m going back to the dark side.

Milk-Chocolate-Frosted-Layer Cake
Adapted from
Food and Wine
Makes one 9-inch layer cake

This cake can be made 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Make sure you bring it to room temperature for about an hour before serving, otherwise the cake will taste dry and the flavor will be muted. You can also freeze it but allow the frosting to harden in the refrigerator first.

1 1/4 cup cake flour
cup unsweetened cocoa powder
tsp. baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter

cup whole milk
6 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 pounds milk chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preaheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch square baking pans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, cocoa and baking powder. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in the milk over low heat. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

3. In a clean bowl, beat the eggw hites with the slat until soft peaks form. Grahually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat at medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy. Fold the beaten whites into the batter until no streaks remain. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25 minutes, until the cakes are springy and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and let cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream on top. Let stand for 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. (DN: If you go to whisk it and there are still large pieces of unmelted chocolate, put the bowl over the still warm burner and let the heat melt it.) Let the frosting stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread, about 1 hour.

5. Turn the cakes out of the pans and put one layer on a plate. Top with 1 cup of the frosting, spreading it to the edge. Top with the second layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cutting into squares.


  1. For me it’s dark chocolate…..although I also love milk chocolate.
    Your cake looks wonderful, If it’s chocolate, you can always count me in.

    Comment by Terry & Dennis Macri — January 15, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  2. Sorry to say it, but I don’t think anyone will ever make a milk chocolate convert of me! :P I used to love the stuff as a kid when my sweet tooth was running rampant, but I love the complex bitterness of dark. The cake does sound lovely, though, so I might have to give it a try.

    Comment by Chris — January 16, 2009 @ 2:44 am

  3. I love both, but given a choice id be partial to dark chocolate. I dont prefer milk chocolate for the exact same reason why you like it – its too sweet! I’m so jealous that you got to take those classes in London!

    Comment by veggie belly — January 18, 2009 @ 2:31 am

  4. I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion regarding chocolate. I personally prefer the dark, because it is less sweet, but in a pinch, any chocolate will do…

    Comment by Beatrice — January 18, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  5. Eugh I know…I’m sorry, but chocolate snobs just annoy me. I’ve never understood why everyone is just supposed to like dark chocolate. I like dark, milk and, yes, I even like white chocolate. But I think for cooking, dark is the best – when it’s mixed up with extra sugar, it becomes too sweet. Same goes for hot chocolate, really. I think hot chocolate should always be dark, but, each to their own!

    Comment by Vidya — November 18, 2009 @ 10:47 am

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