Chocolate cake doesn't exactly occupy a place in the annals of Chengdu cuisine, but that doesn't stop our Western-raised sweet tooths from craving the cacao every once in a while. Good for us (and those who are in contact with us), more and more chocolate-flavored desserts have appeared where there was once only an empty void. We did the difficult work of testing out a variety of the city's best reputed cakes so that you can skip the imposters and go straight to the chocolatey goodness. Mmm, chocolate. Sorry, where were we?
Charlie's "Secret Bakery"
Alley (瑞升南街) between Fangcao Jie and Ruisheng Pedestrian Street
The brownie is packaged in extra-clingy cling wrap which does little to contain all the large chunks that fall off this extra-dry clump of crumbs when it makes the journey from your hand to your mouth it. Some days this one takes the cake (yeah, we went there), but its delivery is so inconsistent in terms of size, texture, and even ingredients that it's really a hit-or-miss dessert. Walnuts are sprinkled generously throughout, but some have not been totally de-shelled. A frustrating eating experience, but at least it's pretty cheap.
Grandma's Kitchen Sunflower Café
Chocolate soufflé, RMB22
22 Renmin Nan Lu
This delectable dessert comes in a small tin. It doesn't look all that exciting from the outside—just a standard chocolate cake topped with almond slivers. But stab the top with a fork, and you'll release the chocolyptic lava that hides inside this tiny chocolate volcano. The flavor is rich in true-chocolate taste, and the gooey insides balance outside the dense outer shell. This would be close to perfection but upon close inspection (the kind that results from eating seven chocolate desserts in not as many days), the shell has some very artificial quality we can't fully endorse.
This pie-piece-shaped wedge is served with a dollop of heavy whip cream and several banana slices. Its very dense, moist texture packs a powerful punch that is complemented by the strong flavor from the bananas (chocolate purists will probably want to push the banana slices off to the side). Of the cakes we tasted this one has by far the most homemade character, which certainly is no bad thing. It also boasted the most potent dark, bitter chocolate flavor and wasn't nearly as sickly sweet as some of the others.
The presentation of this double-layered chocolate cake not surprisingly screams fancy hotel. Cocoa powder is sprinkled liberally on top in a stenciled-on geometric design that was far more memorable than any other aspect of the cake. Flavor-wise, it carries a hint of moca flavor in its frosting and lone chocolate-covered coffee bean that accompanies it. Long, curved slivers of chocolate rest peacefully atop the cake. The cake is lighter in both color and texture than most of the others on this list, but the richness in the two layers of frosting more than compensates.
This long skinny rectangular prism of a brownie is covered with a liberal dusting of powdered sugar and topped off with a single ornamental walnut. Those with an aversion to nuts will not be fond of the chopped walnuts that run throughout the brownie, and those looking for a heavy chocolate fix can probably do better elsewhere. Don't get us wrong: From the fresh-out-of-the-oven aroma emanating from the brownie to the slight crunch of its crusty edges, this is a nice dessert. But it's also slightly dry and crumbly (the words "fudge" or "gooey" definitely do not describe this brownie) and certainly more straight-up sweetness than chocolatey goodness.
Peter's Tex Mex
Chocolate Cake, RMB18
Large double-layer cake served by the slice and topped with a generous coating of gooey but slightly gritty chocolate frosting and chocolate shavings on top of that. The frosting continues beyond the decorative perimeter lining, down the side and between the two layers. That's a heck of a lot of chocolate. Both the frosting and the cake are deep, dark brown in color, and the cake's firm, spongey texture supports the weightiness of the frosting. This one's probably best shared between two mostly empty stomach—it's heavy, heavy, heavy.
Chocolate Pyramid, RMB15
22 Tongzilin Dong Lu
This aptly named dessert really is shaped like a pyramid and covered in a dusting of cocoa powder. Break it open to find a chocolate mousse atop a layer of "chocolate-light" cake, all housed in a thin chocolate shell. The mousse is tasty, if you're into that sort of thing, but the cake part is quite dry and slightly stale-tasting, leaving the lasting impression of a bad romance: It goes from great to good to ho-hum to get-me-out-of-here as the layers wear on.