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Simphiwe Zondi and the science of making chocolate cake

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist

For sure if luxury had a taste it would taste just like chocolate. This delightful food has millions of fans and can be served up in pastries, eaten in slabs or drank, like the most notorious liker of things of all time Marie Antoinette.

Today is World Chocolate Day or International Chocolate Day.  Sowetan spoke to someone who is well versed in the ways of chocolate, pastry chef and business owner Simphiwe Zondi.

Eshowe-born and Joburg-raised, Zondi has created cakes for Mzansi A-listers such as Connie and Shona Ferguson, Basetsana Kumalo and Bonang Matheba, among others.

"One of the highlights of owning my own business is getting to make cakes for people who I grew up watching on TV and little did I know that one day I'd be making Connie Ferguson's 50th birthday cake.

"Also, getting to know them better, that's just one of the things I love about my job. Yes, it's very long hours, it's very tiring, but it's very rewarding seeing someone receive what you have made for them, seeing a bride break down in tears or a child smile and coming to give you a hug because of what you've made for them."

During his work experience in Dubai, he learnt a few things about working with chocolate.

"An important tip when working with chocolate is temperature. Make sure your temperature is correct when tempering the chocolate. You need to work on a clean surface and the one thing that should not be done even by mistake is to get a drop of water into your chocolate.

"The water causes the chocolate to seize," he says.

This reason is why even when making a drip cake using chocolate that is coloured one should use a powder colouring instead of gel.

The Capsicum Culinary Studio alumni says his other objective is to inform people that pastry is a lot more complicated than throwing "eggs and milk into a bowl".

"It's almost like a science. I try to educate my clients on what goes into the cake, tell them how it was done and try to give them facts on nutrition, hence I now have vegan options just to accommodate everyone," he says.

Connie Ferguson's birthday cake.
Connie Ferguson's birthday cake.
Image: Supplied

There's been a high demand for his vegan options, which he says has caused his business to expand and made him move closer to incorporate going green.

Zondi's favourite chocolate dessert is chocolate mousse. I tell him that I've had an avocado chocolate mousse before, he vows to make me an avocado chocolate cake.

"Chocolate is such a big part of my work, because there are so many chocolate lovers out there. Even if the chocolate is not in the cake, most people will be like 'could you please add a piece of chocolate here and there.'"

He keeps the ingredient at hand as he always gets a request for chocolate. His business Chef Zondi and Co, a patisserie and dessert dar is found in the heart of Johannesburg and has been open since 2017. Zondi employs two people, a driver and a cooking assistant.

"The one challenge I do have because I am not at a stage where I can hire more people is trying to keep good communication flow with my client while still trying to make the product. Because what I do is very demanding and I spend all of my time in the kitchen and I have to answer to clients, do invoices and quotes. And sometimes I get clients who [get frustrated] by that. I'll say that's my only challenge at the moment."

Classic truffle recipe by Elmarie Berry for Roodeberg

Red wine and chocolate are a decadent pairing.
Red wine and chocolate are a decadent pairing.

Wine and chocolate are an excellent pairing. Roodeberg's Elmarie Berry provides a truffle recipe that can be enjoyed with their wine.

Makes 30-40 truffles depending on the size


400g good-quality dark chocolate

1 cup cream

110g butter


Finely chop the chocolate - a serrated knife will do this quickly and efficiently. Transfer the chocolate to a medium bowl.

Microwave the cream and butter on high until hot but not boiling, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Alternatively, heat the cream and butter over low heat in a small saucepan until steaming. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and set aside for five minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate together until smooth and shiny.

Pour the ganache into a shallow pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Scoop and roll the truffles.

Use a tablespoon or small cookie scoop to portion the ganache into bite size balls. Roll the balls between gloved hands until smooth. Refrigerate for a few minutes before rolling the truffles into the topping of choice for each of the Roodeberg wines and place on a plate.

Storage and serving:

These truffles are best kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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