From an expert: lessons on baking the ultimate chocolate cake

Chocolate cake is everybody's favorite dessert, and cooking teacher Pamella Asquith has brought together her own innovative recipes for an astonishing range of chocolate creations in ''The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Book'' (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, $16.95).

Ms. Asquith begins with a simple genoise, the classic sponge cake, described as being ''simple, subtle, and sublime.'' This cake is the basis for many recipes throughout the book.

From there she goes through a veritable chocolate cake wonderland which includes a buttermilk chocolate cake, an old-fashioned chocolate malt cake, two honey chocolate cakes, a sour cream chocolate cake, and a cornucopia of chocolate fruit and nut cakes.

And for those who enjoy baking more complicated cakes, there are recipes for some decorative molded cakes: a holiday Buche de Noel, Croquembouch au Chocolate , and the spectacular Gateau St. Honore.

Ms. Asquith's straightforward style and clear directions will allow even the beginning cook to turn out beautiful chocolate cakes.

The chapter on professional tips and secrets will help the home cook avoid problems with the more delicate cakes and achieve a more professional look with any kind of cake. There is also a wealth of advice on selecting tools, equipment , and ingredients.

Here is Ms. Asquith's recipe for Genoise Simple. The recipe is for two cakes because Ms. Asquith feels it is difficult to beat the eggs properly in small batches. But, shesays, the cake can be successfully frozen for 1 to 2 weeks if wrapped securely. Genoise Simple 1 cup (4 to 5 large) eggs 2/3 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted Chocolate Glaze

Butter two 8-inch round pans, or any pans holding 4 cups of water each. Line them with wax paper, butter the paper, and flour the pans.

Whisk eggs and sugar in heavy mixing bowl, set over simmering but not boiling water, until mixture is too hot to keep your finger in for more than a second ( 125 degrees F.). Remove from heat and beat at high speed with electric mixer until mixture is thick and ribbonlike, 5 to 10 minutes.

Fold in flour, a third at a time, while trickling in the butter. Do this as quickly as possible. Mix only until smooth. Do not overmix.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake in 325-degree F. oven, until cakes are dry on top and start to shrink away from sides of pans, about 25 minutes. Cool 2 minutes in pans, then gently invert onto rack. Chocolate Glaze 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Method 1:

In top of double boiler, over hot but not simmering water, melt chocolate and cream. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Method 2:

Bring cream and butter to boil and immediately pour over chocolate. Stir like mad to make sure chocolate does not burn before it is melted.

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